In an angry time, learn how talks don’t have to be fights

Do you find yourself having more verbal battles during conversations? Do you wonder why some opinions rub you the wrong way, and responses lead to anger or fights with family or friends?

Philosopher David Smith encourages civil discourse.
Philosopher David Smith encourages civil discourse in an angry age.

Come to Sno-Isle Libraries community libraries in Granite Falls or Mariner on Saturday, Jan. 11, for Civil Conversation in an Angry Age. In these Humanities Washington programs, philosopher David E. Smith will explore ways to talk about tough issues without fighting. Programs will start at 11 a.m. at the Mariner Library and at 3:30 p.m. at the Granite Falls Library.

“My topic is on civil discourse, how we talk about controversial issues with people with whom we disagree in a civil manner,” Smith says in a Humanities Washington video. “I think the most challenging part of this presentation is figuring out why it’s so easy to be uncivil. Why is it so easy for the emotion that we have that’s attached to belief to get the better of us? Animosity can turn to hatred very quickly if we’re not very careful.”

Smith focuses on those moments when civility breaks down. He maps the structure of conversation and digs into the root causes of civility and incivility. He explores how to have meaningful, respectful conversations on notoriously difficult topics like politics, religion and morality. In the increasingly polarized political environment, he provides participants with the tools needed to embark upon more thoughtful, fruitful discussions.

“The one thing I hope they remember is they have the power within themselves to get on top of those impulses that drag them down,” Smith says. “I think if we talk about civility, it brings out our common humanity. That’s one of the things I want to focus on in these conversations.”

Smith holds a Ph.D. in religious studies from Temple University. For the past decade, he has held roles as a lecturer, assistant professor and associate professor of philosophy and religious studies. He currently teaches at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Washington and frequently lectures in libraries, community centers and retirement centers.