Until now ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ 

November 25, 2020

Understand more. Argue less.

Happy (almost) Thanksgiving!

Turkey Day is usually thought of as a hotbed for disagreements about football, the superior side dish (obviously stuffing), and especially, politics. We’re ready for a change (mostly the politics part). What if this year we all tried to understand a little more and argue a little less? This edition of Civil will help you do just that.

I’m interested. How can I actually do it? We’re so glad you asked.

  1. We’ll show you that we all have more in common than we think.
  2. Then, we’ll take you through the recipe for a civil conversation.
  3. Forward this email to your family + friends and actually have a conversation!

We'll be returning to our regular format next Wednesday.

Common Ground

Katherine Chuang

Before diving in, let’s make sure we're on the same page. Our world was built on checks and balances. This extends beyond politics too: antitrust law prevents a single company from forming a monopoly (looking at you, Amazon) and our bodies are constantly regulating internal temperature.

We are all human and our differences aren't inherently negative. In fact, we’d go so far as to say that they’re positive. To be sure, there are plenty of bad people on either side, but our uber connected world makes it easier than ever to see extreme views as representative of the other side. In fact, 55% of Democrats and Republicans surveyed thought that the other side had extreme views. In reality, it’s only around 30% (More in Common).

We have more in common than we think. Just because someone identifies with a certain party doesn’t mean they believe in everything it stands for. 

Let’s take a look at where to find some common ground this Thanksgiving.

The Right

The Republican Party is usually characterized by small government, constitutionalism, and a belief in the American Dream. However, like any group of people, not everyone is going to think the same. Within the Republican Party, there isn’t quite as much unity surrounding economic issues, such as healthcare, minimum wage, and tuition-free college. While the general stance of Republicans on these issues is that the government should be involved as little as possible, there is a sizable portion who think differently. Some issues where there may be more Republican disagreement are abortion and immigration.

  • 54% of Republicans support amnesty for DREAMers (Pew)
  • 43% of Republicans support a $15 minimum wage (Pew)
  • 39% of Republicans at least “somewhat support” tuition-free college (Pew)
  • 34% of Republicans support a government run healthcare (Pew)
  • 29% of Republicans are pro-choice (Gallup)

The Left

Democrats are characterized by a belief in the role of a strong government to alleviate most issues. They are generally unified in being socially and economically progressive, with initiatives such as ObamaCare, LGBTQ rights, and climate change. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a fair bit of infighting, as the Democratic Party has centrist, progressive, socialist, and conservative constituents. Stances on abortion, gun control, minimum wage, and gender equality can differ greatly depending on who you talk to. 

  • 39% of registered Democratic voters identified as moderates and 14% as conservatives (2019) (Pew)
  • 30% of Democrats have or live with someone who owns a gun (Pew)
  • 29% of Democrats disagree with their party’s stance on abortion (Pew)
  • 23% of Democrats believe that the women's equality movement has gone too far or is about right (Pew)
  • 18% of Democrats oppose raising the federal minimum wage (Pew)

Bottom Line

As you’ve just seen, people who identify with a political party don’t necessarily believe in everything it stands for. While the party we identify with is a result of our childhoods, communities, and news networks, we can just as easily deviate from our party because of those same factors. 

It’s easier for our brains to make sweeping generalizations instead of working through the nuance of individual beliefs. Without even thinking, we identify those who are like us and different from us. A 2018 Stanford study found that both Liberals and Conservatives said they judged people of all political backgrounds equally, even though they actually judged members of their own side more favorably. This denial is a big reason civility is so difficult; we unconsciously view someone on the other side as less moral, intelligent, and correct than ourselves.

Why do we do this? It’s easy to view anything that challenges our beliefs as threatening. Sure, they may support other policies than you, but chances are that you both want the country to get better. The problem? You both have drastically different ideas of what “better” is. 

A Slice Of Civility

Katherine Chuang

In a perfect world, we’d find a unified future to work towards, but we all know that isn't unrealistic at the moment. A much more practical goal is to start talking, not arguing. Here’s how you can start to do just that.


Have an open mind and don't assume the other person is out to get you. 

First, don’t assume the worst from the other person. While it’s certainly possible that they just want to argue, if you enter the conversation with a combative stance, you may never know if they’d be open to a civil conversation.

Then, try to practice some Intellectual Humility. In short, entertain the idea that you (at least in part) could be wrong. Your definition of "correct" may be very different from someone else's (see the previous section). If your ultimate goal is to hold the most accurate belief possible, the best way to do that is hear an opinion that challenges yours.


If you have 3 minutes, watch this video: The joy of being wrong 

If you have 5 minutes, read this article: How ‘Intellectual Humility’ can make you a better person 

If you have 6 minutes, watch this video: Marriage Across Political Party Lines


Really listen

Stay calm and listen to understand; don't just sit there figuring out the best way to prove them wrong. Instead, entertain the idea that the person sitting across from you may have something valuable to say. 

Make eye contact and nod to show that you’re following what they’re saying.

Work to understand, not change their mind.

How many times have you changed your mind on a complex issue after someone made you feel foolish or uneducated? Countless information streams, social media accounts, and books are all saying different things. Fact-checking someone’s claim and convincing them that your fact-check is valid will be near impossible in most scenarios.

We’re not saying you shouldn’t support your position, but don’t expect to change your overly enthused in-law’s political views during dessert. Instead, the purpose of your civil conversation should be to understand where someone is coming from. Your relationship and blood pressure will thank you.


If you have 5 minutes, read this article: How to listen -- really listen -- to someone you disagree with

If you have 5 minutes, read this article: 5 Ways to control your emotions in an argument

If you have 12 minutes, watch this TED Talk: How to have better political conversations

If you have 45 minutes, listen to this episode of the Pantsuit Politics Podcast: Reflecting on the Presidential Election results


This may be hard to do amidst your busy schedule, but it’s vital to improving the way you engage with opposing viewpoints. Reflecting on why your conversation was or wasn’t civil is perhaps the best way to improve for next time; Thanksgiving will hardly be the last time you engage with someone of differing beliefs. The next time you sip your morning coffee or have 5 minutes to yourself, ask yourself these questions.

What did you learn?

Was the conversation civil? Why or why not?

What do you want to do differently the next time you have a conversation like this?

If appropriate, follow up with that person. Should you revisit the conversation? Why or why not?

Bottom Line

We're all just regular people.
Everyone has beliefs just like you. We've all been through an extremely taxing year, and we could all use some grace and civility.

We're all just learning.
In the words of Pam Halpert, "pobody's nerfect". You aren't going to solve the incivility problem in one day, so don't get discouraged if a conversation get's a little heated.

Now It's Your Turn

Now it's time to use this framework to have a civil conversation this Thanksgiving. We want to hear how it goes. We'll be featuring the best responses in next Wednesday's newsletter! 

Tell us about a conversation you had this Thanksgiving. What was it like? Was it civil?

Reply to this email with your response and we might feature you next week!

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That's all from us. We'll see you Wednesday morning!