Civility and Civil Conversations

Grade Level: 
PreK, K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Act of Kindness
Citizenship/Civic Engagement
Civic Virtue
Civil Society
Conflict Resolution
Problem Solving
Civility is courtesy and politeness for others. It comes from the word "civis," which means citizen. We can teach civility and the skills of civil conversations to grow citizenship and action for the good of all.

"Different people have different opinions, and it's okay to respect all of them." - Juan Pablo Galavis

We don't have to agree, but we can seek to understand.

Tips for effective conversations

  1. Show respect for others.
  2. Be kind (civil) even if you disagree.
  3. Listen to understand before speaking to be understood.
  4. Ask questions and be open to learning before saying, "You're wrong."
  5. Conflict is hard. Be brave and know that you'll get through it. 
  6. Recognize that we all have blind spots. Be grateful when someone reveals your blind spots.
  7. Look for the common ground. What can we agree on? Common ground examples: we all want peace, comfort, and friends.

Be Kind

Ms. Sandor models kindness and honesty in conversations with the youngest children.

Use Constructive Skills

This Edutopia video provides norms and debate practices.

Mr. Salciccioli provides high schoolers with definitions and effective tools for debate. He describes techniques people use that are not effective and guidelines for respectful debate.

Two people demonstrate examples of ineffective arguments and then an effective debate.

Be Curious

The Scout Mindset is a model for civil conversations. Dr. Kait Pressnall gives simple guidance for using curiosity to keep conversations civil.


Ms. Budz gives us a simple acronym for active listening.

See the Listen First Project tips here.

Be Positive

Dr. Kait Pressnall teaches us to work for the common good with positive dialogue even when we don't agree.

Be Assertive

In this video, Dr. Kait Pressnall compares passive and aggressive conversation styles and then illustrates the more civil assertive style of conversation.

Take Care of Yourself

This video helps listeners define who they are and then make statements to stand up for themselves in a difficult conversation.

Liberation from Conflict and Barriers

Sometimes we have to find common ground with the end in mind. Even if we don't agree (or have different perspectives), we can be equal in our end goals, such as peace, good health, or personal happiness. To reach the same end goal for all, some people may need different things than others, such as a ladder or a barrier removed. In this illustration, the end goal is watching the game. Think about the end goal in any debate or conflict. 

Debate Topics

Here are some debate topics you can use to practice these skills: