During turbulent times, many feel frustrated or inadequate when communicating personal opinions about current events or policies. Parents are attempting to introduce values of empathy and courtesy to their children. Corporations are trying to balance fiduciary interests while acknowledging society's turmoil, and circles of like-minded peers are becoming less open to conversation across ideological divides during times of financial, political, and civil unrest. A central question looms in our minds: how can we transition our nation back to a society of civility?
Since the 2016 elections in the United States, Mark Fosdal has either moderated or participated in discussions with a variety of organizations, including Make America Dinner Again, Living Room Conversations, Braver Angels, and 3Practices. Each organization had a different means of facilitating discussions with the shared goal of creating understanding between neighbors having different ideologies. His approach to moderating political discussions was highlighted by Anika Gupta in How to Handle a Crowd.
In Essentials for Civil Dialogue, Fosdal's premise is that division in our society may not be as extreme as suggested by some politicians or amplified through social media. While practicing the discipline of civil dialogue, there is a growing number of people realizing our common desire for redemption lays the foundation to explore common avenues for equality. Ignorance stemming from fear is now being replaced with a sense of community from a newer understanding of each other.
Using tailored insights, Fosdal emphasizes self-reflection prior to a discussion while stressing the importance of identifying personal bias, managing temperament, and creating a pattern of critical thinking while underscoring the importance of caring for the marginalized. His insights have gained attention as he uses light-hearted analogies to assist those struggling to navigate the emotional toll of expressing viewpoints during a difficult discussion. He also exposes the reader to a range of ideological principles across the political spectrum that can enrich any conversation with a better understanding of opposing viewpoints.