When you treat your opponents with respect, you have a greater chance that they will listen and respond, instead of closing their minds and reacting.
Public speaking without civility damages the speaker's chance of being effective by driving the listener deeper into an entrenched position. Be aware that it can also turn off the undecided and inflame your base.
The result? People can lose respect for you and your point of view. And the worst part is that you made it easy for them.
The example of the moment is Donald Trump. He needlessly created a mess because he didn't think things through. He didn't act like a polite person presenting his own-albeit controversial-point of view.
He acted like a name-calling, lunch-money-stealing school yard bully.
To avoid a Donald Trump-style dive the next time you stand up to speak, take time to try this:
Be curious about the other side.
As you prepare your remarks, be curious about your audience. Strive to know what motivates them, what they believe, think, and feel. Call them up. Go see them. Ask questions, lots of questions. Listen, and then ask follow-up questions.
Talk to more than one person who will be in the audience. When you're ready to deliver the talk, invite some people who may disagree with you to a rehearsal. You may learn something.
Empathy is the willingness and ability to put yourself in the other people's shoes and see things from their perspective. Use your imagination to wonder what the issue feels like to your opponents. What are the hot points? The triggers? What does "winning" look like? What does "losing" look like? What are they afraid of and what are they hoping for?
Is it hard for some of us? You betcha. But it's an important gateway to the indispensable business tools of compromise and collaboration.
People believe and behave for their own reasons. If they are sane, their beliefs and behaviors are understandable. When I fly across the country and look down on the empty deserts of the South West, I can see why many residents of that region think government should be small, just as I can see why those living on the teeming island of Manhattan prefer a stronger government presence.
You don't have to agree with everyone, but in the long run, it helps you and them when you disagree agreeably.