Working Definition

A controversial conversation is one that generates sharp disagreements or strong emotions. It may be that participants are committed to divergent positions on an issue. It may also be that participants, whatever their positions, feel that important aspects of their identities are at stake in the discussion.

The goal of our research is to identify practices that encourage controversial conversations that are both civil and courageous. A civil conversation is one in which each participant honors the personhood of all other participants. A courageous conversation is one in which all participants share their unique wisdom with others.