Ready to give RCD a Try?
In 2004, while on vacation in San Diego with my wife Barbara and our children, I wrote the first drafts of the RCD procedure on a note pad at a Ramada Inn. Over the years I have worked on it as diligently as possible. However, due to some extraordinary and chronic health circumstances, I have only been able to conduct one "Test Flight" of RCD on April 30, 2018. It was a workshop of the idea. We went in and out of the formal RCD Procedure. I gathered comments and feedback from the participants during the session. I taught myself Adobe Premier Pro and edited together the Participant Comments and the RCD Procedure video using footage from the Test Flight - mostly in the wee hours of the morning over the past year. I do not have any video examples of a full RCD session. I fully expected to conduct several complete RCD sessions over the past year. My intention was to have several sessions available to show as a proof of concept. That proved, to my great frustration, to again be impossible for me. So, while I will still 'press on' with arranging and recording official RCD sessions as I am able, I have decided to publish the entire RCD Procedure here on the RCD website. It is my hope that others interested in furthering civil discourse and human understanding will give it a try. It is really a very simple procedure, but, I believe it is a completely unique tool for furthering both our individual understanding of that which is important to us as well as amassing an interactive metadatabase of collective human understanding (I hope I am using the term metadatabase correctly, I am not a data scientist by any stretch of the imagination). I refer to that metadatabase of human understanding as the 'Gnosome'.
I realize that the idea of constructing a metadatabase of collective human understanding redefines the adjective 'grandiose'. My theory and deep conviction is that RCD provides a unique and wonderful means to standardize a data set of what humans "really think about" significant issues/ideas and how often humans change their minds regarding significant issues/ideas after a regulated and objectively verified conversation during which the participants try their best to adopt the opposing point of view without trying to change the other persons opinion. I don't think we have ever had data like that. RCD provides a tool to uncover such data. How exciting! We now have the technology to collect and analyze it. Our species has been pondering many of the same questions since we began to 'put our heads together'. It is time to gather the harvest of our understanding.
So let's start building the Gnosome! Unlike an individual person's genome, the Gnosome will never be fully realized until the last human contributes to it. May that day never come.
Please try out RCD following the procedure below and contact me for instructions regarding posting your session on, a soon to be created, RCD Channel. Let me know of any questions you have. Have fun!! (contact Seth here)
My intention is to maintain at least two separate RCD databases.
One will be a public, 'open', source. It is called "RCD Publica". This will be a place where anyone can give RCD a try and voluntarily submit the video recording of the session to me to post on the RCD Channel. Upon receiving the video, I will attach a review containing my assessment of how accurately the RCD protocol was followed. I will use a 1-5 Likert scale. I will attach my comments, correspond with those who join the project, and sort the submissions by topic for easy reference.
I am certain that this will become very popular once folks understand how to do it and we have a few examples to reference. It is very simple, but it is also very profound. It is always riveting to get a glimpse of 'what someone really thinks' about something. The two participants of the initial RCD "Test Flight" and I had a really fun time (thanks Leo and George)!
The other RCD database will be the Gnosome.
Here is how I plan to proceed:
As we learn from the creation and gathering of the RCD Publica, I will conduct RCD sessions, with myself as the Director, and refine the RCD protocol as needed.
This project is not about me, so, as soon as possible I will train other RCD Directors and remove myself from the process. We will need to develop a formal, Director training/certification process.
At this point, with an obvious proof of concept in place, it will be time to establish a foundation or institute to scale-up the project. That is as far as I want to speculate here. I have a LOT more ideas. I will post more regarding the long term vision of the project at a later date.
And so, without further ado, here is the full RCD procedure.
It is presented in video and full text.
Here is a video with my narration of the text of the RCD Procedure including some stills and video from the 4/30/2019 Test Flight. Thanks to Chris Thompson for the use of his amazing original music from Lot Hero (2017).
Regulated Civil Discourse (RCD)
(for RCD Publica)
Formal RCD takes place in a quiet, neutral environment. Two participants and a referee (called a Director) sit at a table with the participants facing each other and the Director between them.
The table should be large enough to accommodate each person’s notes and essential reference materials but small enough for people with normal hearing ability to hear each other whisper. If more space is needed for reference materials, side-tables may be added.
RCD is not improvised. The topic of discussion is predetermined and the participants thoroughly prepare. Only one topic is covered at a time. The Director can halt the discourse at any time to enforce the RCD protocol. Whenever possible, with the consent of the participants, RCD is recorded, documented, and cataloged for future reference or analysis in an ever-growing database.
The Director states his/her name and the current date, time and location. The Director then announces the names of the RCD participants and the nature of the issue to be discussed. He/she determines who will speak first by the toss of a coin. After the coin toss the director turns to the winner and says, “Please begin.”
During the course of the session, the Director is addressed as “Director”.
The session proceeds in three phases:
Phase I: The Introduction of the Disagreement Topic
The participant who won the coin toss (hereafter referred to as “A”) states their point of view regarding the topic as succinctly as possible.
When it appears that A is finished, the Director asks A, “Are you finished?” A replies by saying, “Yes” or “No”.
If A replies, “No”, the Director and the other participant (hereafter referred to as “B”) wait silently until A again appears to be finished at which time the Director repeats the question, “Are you finished?” The participants may indicate they are finished before being asked by the Director if they so desire. The participants should feel supported by the service of the Director. They should feel comfortable to take the time they need to silently reflect on their point of view without pressure to communicate until they are ready.
Once A replies, “Yes”, the Director says to B, “Please begin”.
Now, B states as succinctly as possible his/her point of view regarding the agreed upon topic.
When it appears that B is finished, the Director asks: “Are you finished?”
If B replies, “No”, the Director and A wait silently until B again appears to be finished at which time the Director asks again, “Are you finished?”
Once B replies, “Yes”, the Director announces, “Without objection, we will now proceed to the Understanding Phase”.
The Director turns to B and says, “Please state your understanding of (name of A)’s point of view”.
Phase II: The Understanding Phase
The purpose of the Understanding Phase is for the participants to confirm that they understand each other’s point of view.
B rephrases the point of view of A as accurately as possible. If B does not understand part of A’s point of view he/she may ask for clarification from A. Both A and B can freely converse during this phase, however, they may not introduce new topics or challenge each other’s point of view in any way.
When it appears that A and B are both satisfied that B understands A’s point of view, the Director turns to A and asks, “Do you feel that (name of B) understands your point of view?”
If A replies “No”, the Director says to A, “Please elaborate regarding what it is that you feel (B’s name) does not understand”. After A elaborates, the dialogue between A and B continues until it again appears that A and B are both satisfied that B understands A’s point of view.
The Director turns again to A and asks, “Do you feel that (name of B) understands your point of view?”
If A replies “No” the sequence repeats again until A replies “Yes”. If A continues to be unconvinced that B understands his/her point of view, this sequence will repeat until either the time allotted for the RCD session ends, or, one or both of the participants withdraw from the session.
Note - either participant can withdraw at any time during the discourse by saying: “I withdraw”. No explanation for the withdrawal is required or allowed. When a participant withdraws, the Director halts the session and says, “This Regulated Civil Discourse ended at (time) on (date) upon the withdrawal of (name of the participant who withdrew).”
The Director may also stop the discourse at any time to enforce protocol.
To halt the discourse, the Director says, “Halt” and raises one hand.
There may be other reasons for the Director to halt the discourse such as the expiration of allotted time for the session, an emergency, or the departure of a participant without explanation.
Once A states to the Director that he/she feels that B understands his/her point of view, the Director turns to A and says, “Please state your understanding of (name of B)’s point of view.” The Understanding Phase sequences repeat until either B states that he/she feels A understands his/her point of view, the session is halted by the Director, or a participant withdraws.
If both participants agree that they understand each other’s point of view the Director announces, “Without objection, we will now precede to the Disagreement Analysis Phase. Please complete your Disagreement Analysis Card.”
Phase III: The Disagreement Analysis Phase
During the Disagreement Analysis Phase, the participants silently report on the status of the disagreement by marking one of three choices listed on a Disagreement Analysis Card. The Director collects the completed cards, records the time of day on them and announces the outcome.
Note - a Disagreement Analysis Card is a checklist with the following 3 choices:
This disagreement is resolved. I have adopted my opponent’s understanding of the topic.
I want to continue this discussion at some other time.
I withdraw from this discussion.
The cards are prepared before the RCD session begins with the name of the participant who will complete the card, and the date and location of the RCD session. There is a blank line on the card for the Director to note the time of day immediately after the participants complete them. The cards have a flap or are in a binder so they can be completed out of the view of the opposing participant.
The Director announces the result of the Disagreement Analysis Phase as follows:
If only one of the participants changes his/her mind, the disagreement is resolved. The Director says, “This disagreement is resolved. This RCD session has ended.” Recording stops immediately. Time is noted on the Disagreement Analysis Card.
If either or both participants want to withdraw, the session ends. The Director says, “This RCD session has ended.” Recording stops immediately. Time is noted on the Disagreement Analysis Card.
If both of the participants want to continue the discussion, the Director assists them to determine if there is enough time remaining to continue with the current session; if so, the discourse returns to Phase I. After a new coin toss, the Director turns to the winner and says, “Please begin.” If there is not enough time remaining in the current session, The Director says “This RCD session has ended.” Recording then stops immediately. Time is noted on the Disagreement Analysis Card. A new RCD session may then be scheduled.
If one participant wants to continue the discussion and the other withdraws, the session is halted without discussion. The Director says, “This RCD session has ended.” Recording stops immediately. Time is noted on the Disagreement Analysis Card.
If both participants change their mind, a disagreement remains. The Director says, “A disagreement remains, albeit reversed. This RCD session has ended.” Recording stops immediately. Time is noted on the Disagreement Analysis Card.
After the RCD session ends, the Director should not engage either participant in any way regarding the content of the session. He or she should facilitate a civil and orderly conclusion to the session and escort the participants from the RCD session room or area. The Director remains behind to secure the recordings and leaves separately from the participants.
As a closing statement, the Director says, “Thank you for your civil discourse today”.