My Photo
Less Is More, Slow Is Beautiful and Circle of Simplicity and a founder of the Phinney Ecovillage, a project to build Sustainability and Community in her North Seattle Neighborhood. She has been a visiting scholar at Stanford University, where she received her doctorate in education, and an adjunct faculty member at Antioch University and Seattle University. A former community college administrator, she now works with community groups to explore the issue of living more simply and leisurely: how to live lives that are sustainable, just, and joyful. She is on the board of the Take Back Your Time campaign. She lives in Seattle Washington with her husband, former technology writer and current blogger Paul Andrews.

Simplicity Circle Guide

For my complete step-by-step Simplicity Circle Guide, please scroll to bottom of screen
Showing posts with label civility. Show all posts
Showing posts with label civility. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Civil Conversation

Things are really out of control. What started as just plain rudeness on the part of the Tea Party has escalated into death threats. Civil talk is on the decline. It looks like it’s up to us, the citizens, to call a halt to this, and things are happening.

Most of you have heard about the new Coffee Party, where people come together for civil conversation. To start with, people take a “civility pledge,” which says, “I pledge to conduct myself in a way that is civil, honest and respectful toward people with whom I disagree. I value people from different cultures, I value people with different ideas and I value and cherish the democratic process.”

Taking such a pledge and coming together to talk is great, but we need more.

Building social ties
Conversation has been on the decline for a long time because people just don’t take the time to talk with others. (I’m involved with the Take Back Your Time Campaign, and we’re starting Decaf Coffee Party gatherings, where people exchange ideas about how to live more slowly, savor and enjoy their lives.)

It’s so important to take the time to talk with others. Research shows amazing results when people come together and build social ties: People are healthier, happier and live longer. One study found that social isolation is as bad for you as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.

My favorite study is one that was published recently. It found that people who have substantive conversations are happier. We have certainly found this to be true in our Simplicity Circles, where we talk about ways to cut back on our consumerism, live more in harmony with nature, get involved with community, slow down and enjoy life more.

As we come together each week we essentially explore the questions, “What matters? What’s important?” Our Simplicity Circle conversations are always substantive and satisfying.

But, still, a lot of people are not having these kinds of conversations, so conversational skills are getting rusty. Stop and think about it: What do you want in a conversation? You want to be heard, to be recognized, to be accepted, to be affirmed, to be appreciated, to make in-depth contact, to be enlivened.

How to talk with others
First of all, we want others to notice that we’re there. Some people just start talking about themselves, and you feel you could just give them a mirror and walk away.

When we’re talking with others we need to make sure we pay attention to them. We need to watch their faces and make eye contact — nod, smile and notice if we’re connecting.

Next, we’d like to be heard: Conversations must be two-way. How often have you asked someone a question and he or she just starts talking, treating the interchange like an interview? Watch yourself in conversation, and make sure it’s going back and forth.

Next, we want to be recognized — that is, we like people to see our essential selves. Here’s where we need to risk being honest and authentic and drop any false poses. Don’t say things you don’t really mean; don’t echo popular sentiments you haven’t really thought about. Be forthright and honest (in a nice way, of course).

After being recognized, we want to be accepted, to not feel judged, to not feel that the other person is ranking us as a 2 on a scale of 10. Drop the games; don’t try to prove you’re superior. Respond as an equal.

Even better, people want to feel appreciated and affirmed. Let people know how much you value them, how much you appreciate their unique qualities.

But even after you have done all of this, you may not really make contact. You must reveal yourself. You must tell your stories and talk with authenticity, enthusiasm and emotion. Too many people try to conceal their true feelings instead of revealing them.

Finally, take a risk and talk about some of the big things: Talk about your values, your goals, your hopes, your worries. Make it into a substantive conversation.

Ultimately, you must enjoy yourself. Be an easy laugher — there’s nothing better than laughing together.

CECILE ANDREWS is author of “Less is More,” “Slow is Beautiful” and “Circle of Simplicity.” For information about joining a Simplicity Circle or a Decaf Coffee Party, contact Cecile at

Sunday, February 21, 2010

More civil discourse

We've been hearing too much violent talk from the right! Particularly about our president. We on the left should be speaking out about this violent talk. It's not acceptable! Of course we also need to understand it as well. Tea baggers are responding to an elitism in our country, even if they many not be aware of it. These are people who have always been treated as losers. They are not successful by the measures of success in this country: By and large, they don't have professional jobs; they are not attractive; many are overweight; most haven't gone to college, let alone ivy league colleges.

Those of us who did go to good colleges must realize that our educations taught us to sneer at these people. Our education taught us that we were superior because we were able to get good grades. We learned to look down on kids in the slow reading group.

Yes, we were children who were being trained to be elitists. But now that we're adults, we should know better. We should realize what's at the root of this anger and work to create a more equal society.

But working for equality is a long hall. We can make a difference day to day by creating situations in which people come together with affection and respect rather than anger and disrespect. We have to create situations in which people come together to laugh and enjoy each other. Keep conviviality alive! And then, maybe the angry people will sense that they're missing something and want to join in.

I think that one way we can do this is to have events with our neighbors. Even in Seattle we have conservatives in our progressive neighborhoods, but the genius of neighborhood events is that we're coming together for other reasons than political organizing, and we can avoid political divisions. Maybe it's disaster preparedness or a garden circle or learning about someone's backyard chickens. These are things we can do. Just start talking to your neighbors!

If you want ideas, take a look at the movements for sustainability and community. In Seattle check out the SCALLOPS group: Sustainable Communities All Around Puget Sound.
Nationally, and even internationally, is the Transition town network.