Civility


MPA Civility Policy*
In the spirit of our unifying APA Code of Ethics and in particular, Principle E (Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity), we seek to treat all persons with dignity and respect in all of our oral or written communication and at all times.
We acknowledge that reasonable persons seeking the best interests of psychology and the larger community can passionately disagree with colleagues about various topics. At the same time we strive to hold true to our values and identity as ethical psychologists, and we seek to treat everyone as we wish to be treated. A civil and respectful community of colleagues creates a safe, comfortable, and productive environment for psychologists to conduct the work of the association.
To this end, we strive to conduct reasoned debate and communication in a spirit of civility, collegiality, respect, and compassion. We understand that during heated debate and at moments of disagreement some may fail to live up to our ideals. Respectful corrective feedback is necessary and will be provided in order for us to create an organizational culture and climate that helps us to reach our goals of respect, dignity, and compassion for all.
We also acknowledge that individual cultural and subgroups of members may have different criteria for what is and what is not acceptable civil or uncivil behavior. We wish to be respectful and mindful of these cultural differences and norms. 
We are also aware that to allow uncivil behavior to continue in our organization risks losing the participation and enthusiastic volunteers that contribute their time and energy for APA. When members fail to live up to our ethical ideals we offer respectful, constructive, but direct and immediate corrective feedback to maintain a productive, comfortable, and safe environment for the greater good of the association and the profession.

General Principles
There are several general principles that can help us achieve our goals of a more civil, ethical, inclusive, and productive organization. These include important self-attributes, group dynamics in governance, and creating a more civil culture at APA.  
Self Attributes- Consistent with our Code of Ethics we strive to be professionals where integrity, accountability, civil and professional deportment, and concern for the welfare of others is expected and valued. We strive to be highly competent professionals who respect everyone, are responsible for all of our actions, are people of integrity, and are always concerned for the welfare of all. 
Group Dynamics in Governance- Ongoing self-assessment, reflection, and welcoming engagement by members that is attentive to how we respectfully engage others is important for effective organizational functioning. Asking ourselves if we are ‘walking the walk and talking the talk”’ of respectfulness and openness towards others is an ongoing process. Assessing our inclusivity and sensitivity to a diversity of backgrounds and views, and attention to in-group/out-group power dynamics requires ongoing assessment, critique, feedback, and correction. 
Developing a More Civil Culture- Research on observational learning underscores the importance of modeling desired behavior for others and that all members of the organization, most especially senior leaders, can act as models of our values and ethics.
 
Specific Principles
We agree to use the following specific strategies as part of our implementation of civility:
  1. Think carefully before speaking or writing an email response so that reason has time to temper emotional reactivity.
  2. Practice active listening and reflection.
  3. Distinguish between facts and opinions. Talk about both respectfully.
  4. Seek and acknowledge common ground as a foundation from which to explore differences.
  5. Use respectful disagreement as an opportunity to learn and deepen understanding.
  6. When there are differences of opinion, discuss the ideas, not judgments of the individuals expressing the ideas.
  7. Focus on the common good.
  8. Maintain openness to the ideas of others.
  9. Use assertive communication.
  10. Encourage colleagues to express alternative viewpoints.
  11. Maintain a spirit of collegiality.
  12. Hold each other accountable for creating a welcoming environment for all.
  13. Use corrective feedback to encourage productive, prosocial behavior.
 
We seek to avoid the following behaviors and to offer corrective feedback if we observe the following behaviors (adapted from APA Civility Task Force):
  1. Use of aggressive, intimidating, hostile or condescending language or tone
  2. Attacking the person instead of discussing differences of opinion
  3. Interrupting and talking over others
  4. Dominating conversations without giving others a chance to express their views
  5. Misrepresenting what others say as a strategy to discredit it
  6. Taking disagreements personally and responding defensively
  7. Insulting others
  8. Refusing to acknowledge valid information presented by individuals who represent a viewpoint different from our own
  9. Using passive aggressive communication
*This document was quoted and adapted from the American Psychological Association and Civility Report to the APA Council of Representatives February, 2017
 
Listserv Moderation
  1. MPA adheres to listserv guidelines published by APA: https://www.apaservices.org/about/listserv/listserv-rules
 

On professionalism, politics, and persuasion on our Listserv

 
The MPA Listserv is intended to foster community and to discuss issues that are of interest to the science and practice of psychology. Most of the time, our listserv is a lively and collegial forum that self-regulates well. From time to time, as in other social media platforms, it can be prone to tension and conflict. To support the former and assuage the latter, we honor our Civility Policy, which in turn is informed by the APA Code of Ethics.
 
As helping professionals, our passionate commitment to alleviate human suffering leads us naturally to strong positions on a variety of social and political issues. We benefit from our members’ diverse voices that are informed by intersecting theoretical, ethnic, gender, racial, political, spiritual and cultural positions and identities. We strive at all times to be mindful of when our voice might inadvertently lead others to feel marginalized or unwelcome.
 
Fortunately, in these times of deep division and polarization, we have the training and expertise to lead by example and engage in constructive conversation. When posting items of interest on the Listserv, how do we navigate the moving-target boundary between expressing public good advocacy and making partisan political statements?

We invite you to use the science and ethics of psychology as the primary lens through which to express your views.
 
How does this look in practice? At a panel on public good advocacy at last summer’s APA Convention, the presenters, taking family separation as one example, offered the following frame:
 
  • Keeping families together is a social justice issue grounded in psychological science about child development and childhood trauma.
  • Providing mental health services to affected children (who will most likely be covered by Medicaid) is a practice issue grounded in psychological ethics.
  • Keeping practitioners’ reimbursements at a level that will encourage psychologists to participate is a guild issue.
 
We aim to model our discourse after our common framework of science and ethics. In that spirit, we aim to focus on foundational ideas and avoid posting judgements about politicians and others who hold different views.
 
The MPA Listserv is intended to address issues through the lens of the science of psychology and of the practice of psychology. It is expected that content posted on the Listserv will fall within this frame. If it does not, then it likely does not belong on the MPA Listserv. 
 
The science and ethics of psychology is the common language that unites us as psychologists. It reminds us of what we have in common. It gives us a shared moral foundation on the basis of which to invite others to enter and consider our unique points of view. It opens the door to conversation and persuasion.
 
There are many venues available for the expression of political views, but only the MPA Listserv offers a setting for addressing issues of the science and the application of psychology. We all need to protect this unique space.
 
On behalf of the Listserv Moderation Team, we welcome your comments:
Lissa Patterson, PhD (ehpatter@med.umich.edu)
Christina Limke, PsyD (Christina.Limke@helendevoschildrens.org)