Thank you to everyone that joined us this Monday evening for our gathering and discussion on Civility.  A special thanks to Emilie Mitcham for her highly thoughtful and informative remarks and the tips she shared for Escalating Civility.
We have provided below a brief summary of highlights from the presentation by Emilie Mitcham and the discussion by the participants over a shared dinner at Sherpa House.  Please note the two attachments that relate to the discussion:
  • A handout on “Tips for Escalating Civility” developed by Emilie Mitcham
  • A summary of the civility activities and options for a civility pledge that Golden United is proposing to undertake in close cooperation with the city of Golden.  The discussion noted a general preference for a revised version of the simple pledge options and identified several important improvements to the approach and pledge structured.  We will prepare a revised version soon that reflects these suggestions.  Additional feedback on the pledge approach and options is most welcome.
Please let us know (benioffron@gmail.com) if you have an interest in engaging further in the development of these civility activities.
Selected Highlights from Remarks by Emilie Mitcham (Professional Mediator and Councilwoman and Mayor Pro Tem for Mountain View, Colorado) on Escalating Civility
  • We need to go beyond recognizing the need to be civil to reaching deep and modifying our behavior to reach another level of civility – “Escalating Civility”
  • This can help us weaponize civility as a tool to stand up against divisiveness
  • We can apply a set of tips to help us in escalating civility.  Emilie shared the attached handout which summarizes these tricks
  • One of the most important tips is to devote ourselves and lean in to gain a full understanding why others hold differing views
  • It is also critical to identify areas where we may hold resentments that may be influencing how we perceive and interact with others
  • We also must be gentle and kind with ourselves – “If you are a bully to yourself, you will be a bully to others.”
  • Civility is not just about being nice, but rather about being genuine and committed to understanding others and finding common ground (where possible)
  • As a community, we should sell the idea that we want our leaders to be nice, civil people and to promote civility as a societal value
  • Civility is essential to our ability to live together in a community.  In fact the definition of civility in history springs from the need for people to adopt civil behavior as they formed villages and pursued collective tasks
Table and Full Group Discussions
 
Suggestions on Key Civility Principles
  • Let go of the need to be right and to promote your view – being a discussion with questions rather than with a point of view
  • Practice deep listening to others – the desire to be heard often impairs listening
  • Everyone in a discussion should know they will be heard – give attention to ensuring everyone has an opportunity to share their views
  • Go deeper in Golden in truly getting to know your neighbors
  • Value and seek out opinions of young people
 
Recommendations on the Civility Pledge
  • Most, but not all, participants noted that a civility pledge would have value as long as it coupled with activities that help leaders and residents understand and apply its key tenets.  Several participants expressed skepticism that the pledge would have an impact
  • There was a slight preference for the simplest form of the pledge – Option A, while others preferred B.  There was strong agreement that Option C was too complex
  • Add a preamble to explain why this pledge is needed
  • Add to option A a commitment to engage in civility dialogue to benefit all concerned
  • Rather than saying “use a” variety of news and information sources refer to “seek out” a variety of…
  • Add a commitment to ensuring that everyone is heard
  • Give more emphasis to use of non-derogatory language and to being mindful of our personal biases and limitations
  • Give examples of how the elements of the pledge could be applied in practice – e.g. examples of how it would apply in different scenarios, identify types of civility questions could be used in a conversation, what changes in behavior could one exhibit, etc.
Suggestions for How the Pledge Could be Applied
  • Encourage all city leaders (elected officials and citizens on commissions), business and non-profit leaders, and residents to sign the pledge
  • Golden United works with the city and others to demonstrate application of the civility principles in building consensus on solutions to challenging issues (e.g. housing solutions for Golden that maintain the small town character)
  • Establish the civility principles as a code of conduct for city employees and encourage other organizations to due the same
  • Launch a program of experiential learning for members of organizations (and residents in general) to learn how to apply the principles in their daily interactions
  • Promote use of the pledge by civic organizations and discussion platforms (e.g. Next Door Neighbor, etc.)
  • Create a civility index/survey to gauge how Golden is progressing with civility. Could use some of the goals identified in Option C as elements of this index
  • Create civility pins, refrigerator magnets, bumper and window stickers, other outreach to promote Golden as a town committed to civility and individual commitments also – the “Golden Rules”
  • Add learning on civility principles to Leadership Golden
We welcome your further suggestions and engagement with us as we pursue further work to make Golden a shining example of deep and genuine civility.
Thanks
The Golden United Planning Team