Are you aware that all normal brains come with chemical and electrical equipment to help you choose civil discourse? Or did you know that your brain can default into cynical choices that bully, berate or intimidate? Simply stated, without deliberate choices for civility, a danger exists for lack of civility to dominate your normal reaction pattern.
How then do we design strategies shaped for healthy communications and civil discourse in the midst of heated rhetoric? My students and leadership circles ask two-footed questions. They question in ways that draw on talents from across differences, across both sides of the brain, and across people’s interest. The result?
Let’s say you are looking to restore a finer rhetoric after leadership campaigns appeared to leave us debilitated by toxic tone?
Ask a two-footed question to actively engage those who differ, those who succeed and those who fail.
No need to become Dali lama when conflicts arise, but neither do you want to mimic a crock separated from its lunch.
Instead – ask two-footers such as:
- What one conflict would you like to solve in a way that benefits most people, and how so?
- How would you teach a peer to offer solutions respectfully, when disagreements invite toxic tone?
- What would be your first peaceful step to launch a peaceful solution to a conflict or disagreement?
In much the way skilled communicators operate mental equipment to create peace out of chaos, two-footed questions operate very different mental equipment that support harmony and good tone.
Build good tone and any learning community begins to value differences
Any situation in which some people prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence… To alienate humans from their own decision making is to change them into objects.
Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. (Paulo Freire)
Do you ask two-footed questions, listen with your brain, and select words designed to create calm under pressure? The same communication triggers within human brains, also balance mental chemistry, and can make or break your social situations.
Neglect brain chemicals, and courtesy or kindness rarely remain part of communication. When somebody slights your sensibility, you’ll simply toss rude barbs back, from stored reactions in your amygdala. Brain chemicals fuel manners and respect much like gasoline fuels engines.
Learn how to regulate cortisol and you’ll stay open and curious to learn from people who differ. Even those who come with crankier tone. Ignore cortisol levels, though, and expect to react rudely whenever harmful hormones surge during disagreements.
Take time to reboot your brain for more serotonin, and you’ll also fine tune it for civility that connects to unshakable well being. The opposite is also true. Neglect serotonin and your brain tends to default back to uncivil exchanges.
Take a brief tone test here to see how your brain is bending toward civility during disagreements. See how simple choices you make, impact brain hormones for rudeness or respect?
Looking for learner-ready materials to teach or enjoy tone skills to enrich your circle?
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Created by Ellen Weber, Brain Based Tasks for Growth Mindset