We’re not wired for civility, but we can fix that

Dallas Morning News Columnist Steve Blow interviews staff at the SMU Center for Dispute Resolution & Conflict Management about civility.

By Steve Blow
The Dallas Morning News

They’re in the business of civil conversation.

And with so many of us craving more civility in our world today, I wondered what they might have to teach us.

So I sat down with folks from the SMU Center for Dispute Resolution & Conflict Management.

And I’m happy to report that we didn’t scream at each other once.

The amazing thing is that these experts manage to keep things civil even in the face of major strife and disagreement.

Whether it’s a marriage coming apart or a business deal gone wrong, the Southern Methodist University center is a place where combatants can sit down with counselors and/or mediators and find solutions.

I visited with counselors Hal Barkley and Misty Solt, mediators Tom Hartsell and Julia Elliott, and with Tony Picchioni, chair of SMU’s Department of Dispute Resolution and Counseling.

The first thing I learned was that I’ve been looking at civility all wrong. I have viewed it as the norm from which we strayed.

In fact, going for the throat comes far more naturally for us.

“This is part of our evolutionary past. It’s the way we are wired. We are creatures that are always scanning to keep threat away,” Picchioni said.

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