Author: Ken McRae

Civil Conversations Step Four: Make The Argument

Several months ago my sister recommended a TED Talk to me. The Talk was given by Megan Phelps-Roper, formerly of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka. In her TED Talk, Ms. Phelps-Roper explains how she was encouraged to change her worldview as a result of several conversations she had with people outside the church and family that compromised her entire universe. She identified four specific steps the people she talked to used to help her change her mind. Those four steps became the basis for the four-part series I have been writing on how to have difficult conversations. We...

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Civil Conversations Step Three: Stay Calm

I have been exploring a four-step process for difficult conversations. The idea behind the process is that there is a way to discuss even the most difficult of subjects and, potentially, find consensus. Megan Phelps-Roper presented this method in a TED Talk.  She is a former member of the Westboro Baptist Church from Topeka (and the granddaughter of its founder, Fred Phelps). The TED Talk reflects her journey from being the online spokesperson for the church’s hate fueled message to leaving the church. Along the way she interacted with lots of people who opposed her, and the Westboro Baptist...

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Step Two for Civil Conversation

In my last article, I discussed a four-step process for having better conversations on difficult matters. Megan Phelps-Roper, a granddaughter of Fred Phelps and former member of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, suggested this process in a TED Talk. The four steps she suggests are most effective for having conversations even on tough topics or in heated moments, are: Don’t assume the other side has a bad intent. Ask questions. Stay calm. Make the argument. I discussed the first step in my prior article; this article is about the second step—Ask Questions. Questions Must be Open-Ended It is...

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Don’t Assume Bad Intent: Step One for Civil Conversation

I recently watched an amazing TED talk ( that was not only fascinating but contained practical information which can be applied in numerous common situations. The talk itself focused on how we can reach others with different beliefs or viewpoints. As an attorney, I spend a lot of time trying to convince others to see things the way I, or, more importantly, how my client sees them. As a result, this talk was especially relevant to me, and I thought the information could be helpful to anyone who negotiates deals, talks politics with friends, or ever has a conversation...

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Should We Care About the Rule of Law?

The “Rule of Law” sounds like an arcane concept. At its heart, it is simply the idea that our nation is ruled by laws which apply to everyone equally. President John Adams famously described “a government of laws, not men.” It is such a fundamental part of our system we, unfortunately, do not spend much time thinking about it. The side effect of this lack of attention is that, if someone challenges the necessity of the rule of law, society is not accustomed to defending it. My first job as a lawyer was with a small firm. The two...

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