Whether you’re helping someone out or engaging in debate, remember to preserve one another’s dignity. Pity, hatred or judgement won’t do anyone any good. Provide someone with the security they need to engage with you openly and that’s how you get somewhere. Somewhere people can be vulnerable, admit what we know and don’t know, what we’ve done right and where we might have room to grow.
Holding space for dignity is making eye contact. The tone in your voice. Questions that are genuine, not just rhetorical. Listening instead of waiting your turn for rebuttal. Asking someone what they need instead of thinking you know better. Acknowledging the inherent value in each person.
I might be another millennial advocating for ‘safe spaces’, but this is not about hiding from our problems. Constructive conflict is the perfect opportunity to practice this. You probably know there’s a chance to put in the effort and you can do some planning ahead. Working in a space that ensures dignity doesn’t give everyone what they want, but it’s miles ahead of the public discourse we are bearing witness to each day.
I believe that a lot of the scariest, ugliest human behavior comes from fear and insecurity. And, when we enact policy that strips people of their dignity and puts them in desperate situations, how can we expect anything other than perpetuating a cycle of incivility? I’m sure a few current events come immediately to mind.
We can take steps to hold space for dignity in our private conversations in and in our civic lives. What’s personal is political, and what’s more personal than basic dignity?