< back to all


People who communicate effectively are open to divergent opinions and views. They listen actively and thoughtfully, even when they disagree with what’s being said.

Active, respectful listening is not just something individuals need to master, however. Institutions committed to social change should also strive to make it a cultural norm, especially when it comes to communications.

You can think of respect as inclusivity's close cousin. Seek out contrarian perspectives. Be polite and open to alternative ways of thinking about and solving problems. Always assume positive intent. Don’t interrupt. Consider that your approach may not always right. And accept that diverse points of view have inherent value.

Whether you work for a foundation with significant financial resources or a small nonprofit providing critical community services, there will always be things that you don’t know or insights to be learned from others. Embracing this fact heightens your awareness and expands your capacity to be truly engaged, alert and responsive. That makes you a better communicator.

by the numbers


Americans who say that most people they meet have very good manners (Public Agenda).


Drop in perceived respect parents have for teachers, from 91% to 49% (Harris Poll).


Percentage of Americans surveyed who believe we have a civility problem (Weber Shandwick).

tips and insights

The public's confidence in public institutions has declined over the last four decades (University of Chicago).

“Learning in public” can be one of the best ways to demonstrate humility and respect; better, in fact, than staying quiet.

It isn't enough just to listen to people; philanthropic and nonprofit institutions need to be willing to act on the feedback they hear.