They argued about the weather, sports, sex, war, race, politics, and religion; neither of them knew much about the subjects they debated, but it seemed that the less they knew the better they could argue.

Richard Wright, “The Man Who Went to Chicago”

All Americans lecture. . . . I suppose it is something in their climate.

Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance

I have spent many years of my life in opposition, and I rather like the role.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Democracy calls us to have uncomfortable conversations. It asks us to listen to each other even when we would rather be listening to ourselves — or to people enough like us that we might as well be listening to ourselves. It is easier and more comfortable for us to live in perpetual high dudgeon inside our echo chambers than it is to have a meaningful conversation with people who disagree with us.

Michael Austin

We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.

Robert Jones Jr.

You can sway a thousand men by appealing to their prejudices quicker than you can convince one man by logic.

Robert A. Heinlein, If This Goes On—

If they were only free thinkers, but they are free speakers!

Natalie Clifford Barney

The fact is, people seldom truly speak with or listen to one another; more often than they care to admit, they deliver soliloquies, with each individual using another’s remark merely as a launching pad for his or her own performance.

Yi-Fu Tuan

The sound of tireless voices is the price we pay for the right to hear the music of our own opinions.

Adlai Stevenson

He talks well, possibly better than he thinks. But this is a common failing.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Unfortunately civility is hard to codify or legislate, but you know it when you see it. It’s possible to disagree without being disagreeable.

Sandra Day O’Connor

The only person who listens to both sides of an argument is the fellow in the next apartment.

Ruth Brown

There is nothing more prejudicial to community life than to mask tensions and pretend they do not exist, or to hide them behind a polite facade and flee from reality and dialogue. . . . People are not necessarily helped to overcome their limitations, fears, egoism, jealousy, and inability to enter into dialogue simply by being made conscious of them. In fact, this can sometimes shut people off in even greater anguish.

Jean Vanier

Better to be tentative than to be recklessly sure, to be an apprentice at sixty than to present oneself as a doctor at ten.

Natalie Zemon Davis

The most important tactic in an argument, next to being right, is to leave an escape hatch for your opponent, so that he can gracefully swing over to your side without an embarrassing loss of face.

Sydney J. Harris

Try not to force your idea on someone, but rather think about it with him. If you feel you have won the discussion, that also is the wrong attitude. Try not to win the argument; just listen to it.

Shunryu Suzuki

Nothing like stars to show us our little arguments are meaningless.

Glendy Vanderah, Where the Forest Meets the Stars

During the flames of controversy, opinions, mass disputes, conflict, and world news, sometimes the most precious, refreshing, peaceful words to hear amidst all the chaos are simply and humbly “I don’t know.”

Criss Jami