Five Keys to Stop Bad Arguments

Better arguments help people avoid toxic conversations threatening our future

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Jay Verner
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NORTHBROOK, Ill., (Oct. 2, 2020) – Americans are witnessing one of the deepest political and cultural divides in our nation’s history. Compounded by the worst health crisis in a century and a reckoning on racial justice, our collective future depends on Americans’ ability to come together. That doesn’t mean we should stop arguing, though, according to leaders at The Better Arguments Project.

It means we should argue better.

 “The word ‘argument’ shouldn’t be a bad word,” says Eric Liu, director of the Aspen Institute and former White House speechwriter and deputy domestic policy adviser. “We believe arguments can bring people together. Our goal isn’t to get everyone to agree, it’s to help people learn more about our differences, and to challenge each other to think about positions other than our own.”

Liu’s position is built into the framework of the Better Arguments Project – a civic initiative founded by The Aspen Institute, The Allstate Corporation and Facing History and Ourselves. During this time of rigid polarization, the group is making free tools and resources available for anyone looking to bring people together in almost any situation, from the virtual office to schools, dinner tables, and even social media.

“People are afraid they’ll be driven further apart from their neighbors, coworkers and even their loved ones because of their beliefs or values,” says Stacy Sharpe, senior vice president of Allstate Corporate Brand. “We should never be afraid to stand up and argue for what we believe in, but we need to do it in a better way. The only thing we should fear is the status quo, where unhealthy arguments will continue destroying civility, decency and the chance to thrive.”

The Better Arguments Project resources are based on five principles to achieve civil conversations:

  • Take winning off the table
  • Prioritize relationships and listen passionately
  • Pay attention to context
  • Embrace vulnerability
  • Make room to transform

The Better Arguments framework will be featured as a key theme at the Aspen Ideas Mini Fest Oct. 20-21. The virtual event will bring together top minds to discuss some of the most important issues of our time.

To interview a Better Arguments spokesperson about tips for improving the quality of conversations and/or to attend the Aspen Ideas Mini Fest, please email: