As many engage in deep political conversations in their personal and professional spaces, resources are available to ensure constructive dialogue among those who may have opposing views. At the Culture and Conversation: Civility and Political Engagement - Navigating the 2020 Election event in September, panelists such as Niki Messmore, Program Director of Community and Civic Engagement at IU School of Medicine, Jordan Finch, MS1 and MSMS SIG President, Amelia McClure, Assistant Director of Government Relations and Compliance at IU, and Ashley Toruno, Community Engagement and Policy Advocate at the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana shared a plethora of helpful tips and ways for faculty, learners and staff to engage in the political process, post-election. Click to watch the recording.
Top 10 ways to engage in civil discourse
1. Create spaces for civil dialogues
When discussing election outcomes and politics in the classroom, meetings or personal conversations remember that we all view the world through the lens of our own identities. The identities that we ascribe to have different proximities to power and privilege. Depending on these experiences some topics are more sensitive than others. When discussing politics within the classroom and workspace, make sure your words are spoken out of thoughtfulness, consideration and respect for those who may have differing opinions.
2. Focus on the issues
Despite whether your candidates were elected to the local, state or federal office, the societal issues our communities face continues. Use your energy, excitement and passion to keep advocating for justice and change. This work does not stop once election day finishes. Continue being an advocate for your patients and profession.
3. Encourage open dialogue
To encourage open dialogue in the classroom, faculty should be conscious of how they communicate to learners about politics. Understand that many learners are feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the political process and need your support. Be available and open to talk about these feelings and emotions.
4. Set safe boundaries
It is always a good self-care tip to identify safe boundaries to be executed on both a personal and professional level, especially when it comes to politics. If you notice that some political topics make you feel anxious or fatigued, set up safe boundaries. This includes:
letting people know when you are willing and unwilling to discuss a certain subject
limiting how much information you process each day
connecting more with those who share your values
giving yourself grace
Your mental and emotional health matter, so set up boundaries and take more control of your health.
5. Power in proximity
There is power in proximity, especially when becoming engaged on social justice topics and civil discourse. Engaging in civil discourse calls for individuals to be informed about how people are directly impacted by different injustices. Here are small steps that can help you become more informed:
Listen to the life stories, needs and struggles of those negatively impacted by injustices
Help move the conversation forward by passing the microphone – provide an opportunity for those doing work around causes to share information or highlight their work
Creating closer proximity allows you to magnify their voices and strengthen these relationships to bring about real and lasting change.
6. Advocate for your patients
Although the election is over, advocating for equity and justice is still necessary. Your patients benefit when you remain civically engaged and politically active. Continue advocating for better health outcomes of your patients and magnifying their voices and concerns. Your patients need you!
7. Get involved at the local and state level
Join with those who have similar interests and values to find creative ways to be more active in your local and state efforts. If you want to change a policy or provide input on a local issue, contact your city council members and state representatives. You can have a more profound and direct impact by getting involved at the local and state level.
8. Take care of your mental and emotional wellbeing
Life is full of challenging events that can cause stress. Most of the time these feelings pass, but sometimes they can develop into more complex problems such as depression or anxiety that can impact daily life. Resources to restore well-being and mental and emotional health are available to IU faculty and staff:
In addition, IU medical plan members have 24/7 virtual access to board certified physicians. IU Health Plan members can access IU Health Virtual Visits, and Anthem plan members can access LiveHealth Online (Anthem also offers psychiatry and psychology visits online). Telemedicine visits are covered at no cost for IU medical plan members through June 2020.
All IU School of Medicine students, residents and fellows seeking mental health or personal counseling services—for any reason—can access resources for confidential personal consultation and treatment on every IU School of Medicine campus. Medical students, resident physicians and fellows can access psychiatric services as well as confidential and free of charge personal counseling and treatment. Learn more.
9. Keep communication open
Be conscious of how you communicate with your colleagues regarding politics. Try to keep communication open in your relationships and not harm them because of political differences. Instead of letting our differences harm our relationships, let them be strengthened. Be intentional about your conversations and reassure your colleagues in these types of conversations that you value them, their ideas, thoughts and opinions.
10. Be aware of conflicts of interest for IU community members
The IU Government Relations team encourages all faculty, learners and staff to “personally engage in partisan political activities, partake in public policy debates, and voice their opinions.” However, there are some limitations to what can be expressed in a professional versus personal space. All IU Community Members are always expected to distinguish between when they speak, write or act in their personal capacity and on behalf of the university’s interest. Learn more about the policies in place for faculty, learners and staff.
The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
Madison Pershing is a Marketing and Communications Assistant for Indiana University School of Medicine’s Faculty Affairs, Professional Development, and Diversity.