Time to Talk

It’s the day after the election and the dust is starting to settle. After a tumultuous campaign season with highly charged emotions and rhetoric on both sides, many are left asking: what’s next? For me, the answer is simple, let’s start thinking about returning civility to public discourse.

At Truscott Rossman, we often have the opportunity to volunteer with community groups to share our experience and expertise. At the end of October, I joined the Center for Civil Discourse to educate Grand Rapids middle school students about communicating with legislators. I talked about a lot of the mechanics of persuasive letters. These included:

  • Know who you’re talking to.
  • Establish credibility.
  • Explain the issue and best solution.
  • End with a call to action.

But, beyond that we talked about how important it is to be polite. Working on policy, and writing elected officials is like any other communication. Expressing your opinion doesn’t need to include name calling, angry words and threats. The students I talked with got it, but it’s time that others lead by example.

A recent NPR/PBS Newshour/Maris poll found that 80 percent of Americans believe that the negative tone and lack of civility in Washington will lead to an act of violence. That’s astounding. I can’t remember the last time I saw a poll where a super majority of respondents agreed.

Let’s take the approach of the students I talked with and learn how to communicate in the right way and work to restore civility in political conversations.

Find out more about the Center for Civil Discourse at