>All the screaming and outrage at recent town hall meetings has really got me down. As a society, are we now completely unable to disagree in a civil way?
Even as I try to utilize the listening and communication skills that are the way I make my living, I sometimes find myself acting out a bit. I yelled in frustration at my father during an argument about health care reform. I stormed away from a neighborhood conversation on the issue because I thought my friends were being intolerant of different opinions. (Yes, I recognize the irony in that!)
I think one of the factors contributing to a lack of skills in civil disagreement is that many of us spend all our time surrounded by others who basically think the same way we do. This is well-documented in The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart by Bill Bishop. Basically, Americans have been moving to neighborhoods that reflect our own political worldview, as well as only consuming media that also reflect our worldview. We have fewer and fewer opportunities to interact on a daily basis with those who differ from us.
Thus our differences become entrenched and polarized. A wonderful organization called the Public Conversations Project works to bring together people from opposite sides of contentious topics like abortion, to listen to and learn from each other; even if we continue to disagree, we can at least stop demonizing “The Other” and try to understand how they came to their point of view.