Love Your Enemies: How to Repair Our Broken Discourse

Speakers at the inaugural NaplesNext Ideas Festival discussed promoting civil discourse in a polarized society.

BY March 18, 2019
Arthur Brooks speaking at the NaplesNEXT Ideas Festival.

How can we repair a divided nation?

This is a question we discussed in our March 2018 story called Talk to Me … Please and in a subsequent event with WGCU. The inaugural NaplesNEXT Ideas Festival on Monday also took on this perplexing subject, with speakers Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, and Penn State professors Samuel Richards and Laurie Mulvey.

Brooks, author of the book Love Your Enemies, described a culture of outrage that has consumed the nation to the point where now one in six Americans has stopped talking to a close friend or family member due to disagreements in politics. The issue is contempt. It’s not just disagreeing with someone, but thinking of them as lesser because of that disagreement. He gave three ways that anyone can take a step toward civility and away from discord.

Stand up to the man: Reject the “Outrage Industrial Complex,” as he calls it, that profits off creating division, fear and anger. Eliminate those media sources from your life.

See contempt for what it really is: An opportunity for excellence. Instead of responding to contempt with more contempt, respond with “warmheartedness.” He also explained the 5:1 rule. Each time you feel like criticizing someone, say five compliments before you get to the criticism.

Practice gratitude: Don’t remember the slights. Remember the things you feel grateful for.

Start following these guidelines, he says, and “you’ll have a fighting chance to start the social revolution that will change our country.”

Richards and Mulvey echoed that sentiment in describing their work for the World in Conversation Center for Public Diplomacy. The center hosts thousands of peer-led dialogue sessions each year to discuss complex or contentious issues. Trained facilitators are used to help foster a healthy conversation. As they note, the first step is being willing to partake in that discussion. People avoid conflict. But conflict should be seen as an opportunity to learn about ourselves and other people. “Conflict is our ally,” Richards says. From there, fear can be turned into curiosity.

NaplesNEXT is a three day festival featuring dozens of speakers, discussion groups and workshops, and special events featuring some of the country’s best chefs. Gulfshore Life is a media sponsor of the event.

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