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Guidelines for a Civil Discussion

In courtrooms, it’s not the loudest voice that prevails. Opposing arguments are grounded in reason and evidence and they are put forward within strict guidelines of courtroom decorum.

Each side tests the arguments of the other side, and a judge holds everyone to the same protocol and code of conduct.  The adversarial system is no place for incivility. In fact, court proceedings are models of the effectiveness of civil discourse

Put an X next to the characteristics of a civil discussion that are important to you.

  1. Wait to be recognized by the moderator before speaking.
  2. Don’t interrupt or talk over someone else who is speaking.
  3. Listen for content in the statements of others, even if you disagree. Don’t engage in side conversations that distract from the speaker who has the floor.
  4. Don’t assume that you know what someone else means.  Ask questions that help you understand perspectives different from your own.
  5. Follow the direction of the discussion.  Don’t repeat what has already been said. 
  6. Relate your comments to those of previous speakers.
  7. Don’t get personal. No demeaning or inappropriate comments, facial expressions, or gestures.
  8. Differentiate between facts and opinions. Both are valid when expressed appropriately.
  9. Listen more than you speak.
  10. What would you add?  


DISCLAIMER: These resources are created by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts for educational purposes only. They may not reflect the current state of the law, and are not intended to provide legal advice, guidance on litigation, or commentary on any pending case or legislation.