I’ve noticed that in our society, we seem to be in a “race to the bottom,” insofar as civility and politeness are concerned. This is especially true when it comes to debating politically or otherwise contentious issues. Allow me to explain why I see this as a problem:
Many pundits, politicians, or ordinary citizens seem to think that the best way to get their point across is to drown our their opponent with loud and inflammatory remarks. The seemingly short attention span of many Americans, and the constraints imposed by TV based news, may have something to do with the success of this tactic. I, however, think we would do better to focus on the issues and conduct ourselves like civilized people.
Personal attacks, yelling, and hyperbole make it harder to persuade the opposing side. That is because making the issue more personal causes people to become emotionally invested in the defense of their viewpoint. They are then unable to concede the point or even compromise, since to do so would cause them a loss of face. I’ve found a better aproach is to argue the facts in a respectful manner. Indeed, I canot think of a single situation where I’ve seen yelling or personal attacks prove successful.