By Michelle Egan, guest contributor

When temperatures are breaking record highs and fires are burning across the state, people get irritable and yearn for ways to cool off.  The unbearable heat is not just outside—it’s in our homes and offices and workplaces. We’re facing critical decisions on the state budget and the Permanent Fund Dividend. We must find ways to drop the temperature so we can approach our policy issues in a thoughtful and cool-headed fashion.

Civil discourse is the fire suppressant we need to drop on Alaska’s flaring tempers.  It’s essential that we advocate for debate that is respectful, honest and productive.  Screaming at lawmakers, discounting other opinions, mocking protestors and telling half-truths does nothing to advance productive communication and problem solving.

As communicators who believe in the power of our democracy, we have a duty to insist on civility.  Right now, Alaskans are dealing with each other through yelling and name calling and mocking; we can do so much better.

Here are some fire-dousing tips for social media from the National Institute for Civil Discourse at the University of Arizona.

  • Check for accuracy-don’t spread information unless you know it’s true.
  • Avoid insults and name calling-your mother was right about this one.
  • Seek info from different perspectives-find sources with different views and study up before you launch.
  • Walk away-there’s no reason to respond to every comment that angers you.
  • Spread respect-model decorum and show others how it’s done.