Some Helpful Suggestions for Reasoned Ethical and Civil Decision Making

Ron Barnette

I submit that the most effective ethical and civility judgments and decisions are made with a keen blending of the mind’s reason, with emotional involvement, and with a check on one’s reactive instincts. To this end, the following thoughts serve as an aid for clear, thoughtful, ethical and civil decision making.

Use Reflective Reasoning

• Utilize ample time to reflect on ideas before making your decision
• Use a more systematic process for arriving at judgments
• Reflect on your personal responsibility for making sound judgments
• Always be collaborative by including diverse ideas and divergent perspectives from others and from your own imagination
• Balance your own emotions with your reasoned judgment
• Listen well to views of others and suspend personal judgment
• Ask critical questions to clarify the issues
• Avoid quick “either/or” thinking…the old logic ‘black or white fallacy’, and avoid personal,  ‘ad hominem’ criticisms of the opposing viewpoints
• Always seek alternative possibilities as you reflect on your own views
• Consider the consequences and implications of various viewpoints, including your own
• Justify your position by clear principles of ethics, civility, and logic

Beware of ‘Blind Rule’ Obedience

• Avoid the tendency to cease or abruptly cut off discussion
• Evaluate critically a claim that “this is the way we have done this in the past”
• Do not blindly rely on the chair to say, "Do it this way because..."
• Never underestimate nor neglect personal moral responsibility, in spite of what others say or imply
• Challenge rules, thoughtfully, if you judge that they compete with ethical principles or when they are not logical…this makes for cogent, reflective dialogue, in light of changing times. But always be prepared to alter your views in light of what you hear and evaluate cogently
• Always realize that past practices are subject to current realities

Avoid Visceral Reactions

• Bite your tongue and steer clear of strong visceral responses
• Do not let emotions rule your reflective judgments; always endeavor to separate issues from personalities
• Avoid staking out positions and locking on to them blindly
• Do not talk while blocking out your listening ability
• Do not see others as “for me or against me”
• Do not allow a personal feeling to prevent thoughtful collaboration and potential agreement…a ‘win/win’ is always an ideal for which to strive.