Regulated Civil Discourse (RCD) is a facilitated conversation between two people with opposing points of view who pledge their best effort to try, not merely to understand each other’s point of view, but to adopt it. It is not mediation or debate. In an RCD session, participants inhibit their desire to “be right” or to influence the opinion of the other person. Rather, they use each other as foils to hone their own opinions and beliefs in pursuit of clearer personal understanding while contributing to the fund of human understanding.
When faced with an interpersonal disagreement, healthy human beings have a unique ability to inhibit their habitual response of “fight or flight”; they can choose to wait for more information before acting. RCD is a formal method of discourse that engages this precious human attribute. Using RCD, two people discourse in such a way as to inhibit the natural impulse to either fight against, or flee from, the conflict of disagreeing with the other person’s point of view.
RCD can be used by both the novice and the expert. It yields exceptional and unique benefits. RCD empowers the novice to learn with minimal distraction and fear. It endows experts with the joy of engaging with the best arguments a peer has to offer. No energy is wasted in the wearisome exercise of tearing down each other’s starting assumptions. RCD reduces or eliminates ‘talking past each other’ during the discourse. RCD reduces or eliminates focus on ‘who is right and who is wrong?’ from the discourse.
RCD is a simple set of rules and guidelines that two people agree to follow, under the supervision of a facilitator, while discussing a topic upon which they disagree. If the participants consent, transcripts and recordings of the discussions are cataloged and made available for public review and analysis in an ever-growing database to increase the fund, or ‘genome’ of human understanding. I propose a term for this - Gnosome.
By adhering to a few simple rules, RCD facilitates discourse where:
a) The conflicting points of view of the participants are fully expressed.
b) Both participants agree that they understand each other’s point of view.
c) Either participant can “withdraw” from the discourse at any time without forfeit or explanation.
c) One or both of the participants changes their mind or the discourse is tabled.
This is accomplished by following a simple, comfortable protocol. The participants take turns articulating their own understanding of the topic and sincerely trying to adopt the point of view of the other person - but only if it passes their own strict personal scrutiny. In this way, one or both of the participants and, possibly, anyone who observes the discourse, may increase their understanding of the topic.
RCD participants agree to abide by three directives contained within what is called the “Primary Pattern of RCD”. In no particular order of importance, participants do their best to inhibit any desire to change each other’s minds, they fully commit to trying their best to see the disagreement from the perspective of the other participant, and they discourse with, or as if they have, a sincere willingness to adopt the opposing point of view if they become convinced it reflects a clearer understanding of the topic.
There is a facilitator present, referred to as “Director”, to ensure that the conversation stays within certain guidelines. Instead of focusing on getting the other person to change his/her mind, participants focus their attention on two goals:
a) They express their own points of view as clearly and understandably as they can.
b) They try to adopt the other person’s point of view if it passes their own strict personal scrutiny.
The first goal is self-explanatory.
As regards the second goal, it must be emphasized that the participants commit to trying their best to see the disagreement from the perspective of their opponent and discourse with, or as if they have, a sincere willingness to adopt the opposing point of view if they become convinced it reflects a clearer understanding of the topic. RCD is not merely a theoretical endeavor, it is not merely research, it is not merely fulfillment of curiosity. During the RCD session, the participants are actively, fully, engaged in trying to adopt the opposing point of view. Or, if they know they are forbidden from, or unable to, adopt the opposing point of view, they agree to act as if they are actively, fully, engaged in trying to adopt the opposing point of view. Whether or not a participant is ‘acting as if’ during the session is strictly a private decision of that participant, the disclosure of which is at the complete discretion of that participant.
It may arise that a participant needs to end the discourse before the allotted time for the session expires, or a participant may feel bound to not adopt or proclaim a point of view, even if convinced that it is accurate. To accommodate such circumstances, RCD allows participants to “withdraw” at any time, without explanation. Here are some examples: a participant may sincerely suspect that there are additional facts unknown to both participants that need to be researched before an opinion can be stated; a participant may be subject to a moral or legal obligation to not publicly affirm a particular point of view; a participant may not be able to clearly communicate their point of view; or, a participant may need to end the session due to some matter unrelated to the discourse. The RCD withdrawal is not a retreat or a forfeit; it is merely an immediate cessation of the discourse.
The discussions last for a predetermined length of time unless one of the participants withdraws early. The RCD session is not improvised. The participants come prepared to state their opinion as clearly and succinctly as possible. Reference materials may be brought to the session. Prior to the session, they may have provided the facilitator and the other participant with a list of the questions that they would need to have addressed in order to change their opinion (this is not required). The outcome of the RCD session is noted on a “Conflict Analysis Card”. Please see the “RCD Procedure” for a detailed description of the RCD protocol.
RCD provides a means whereby civility and self-discipline temper emotion and self-interest so that important issues are efficiently examined in a way that yields a clearer understanding of the topic. Further, if the participants consent, transcripts and recordings of the discussions are cataloged and made available for public review and analysis in an ever-growing database to increase the fund, or ‘genome’ of human understanding. The term Gnosome is offered to describe this fund of human understanding.