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Discussing Politics At Work: How to Remain Respectful

Discussing Politics At Work: How to Remain Respectful

It’s an age-old phrase “Never talk about sex, religion or politics at work.”  Why is that?  The obvious answer is that it can lead to conflict. But the truth is, the months leading up to the election, you may find it hard to keep quiet about politics. Remnants of the campaigns bleed into our day-to-day life; sound bites from the debates are shared on Facebook or the candidates may have even been on your favorite evening talk show. Trying to discuss last night’s television programs with colleagues in your office cubicle can quickly escalate into a heated political debate, and as tempting as it may be to relay your opinions, it is suggested to stay away from the subject altogether.  However, if you find it unavoidable, here are some guidelines on how to respectfully discuss politics at work:

  • Allow your co-workers to speak without interruptions.

  • Even if you do not agree, respect your co-workers’ opinion. You would want them to do the same for you.

  • Be intentional. Make sure you have a point to the conversation.

  • Ask follow-up questions to find out why your co-worker believes what they believe.

  • Stay informed and up to date with the latest information so you can have an intelligent, knowledgeable conversation.

  • Hold your emotions in check. If you cannot discuss a topic without hitting a boiling point, then do not discuss it.

  • Know which political topics are off limits – usually social issues such as same-sex marriage should not be discussed. These issues tend to be more personal so it’s best to be avoided.

  • Choose the right time for political discussions – like during a lunch break but not during a meeting or presentation.

  • Think about how people might perceive you in your role at work if they knew your position on certain issues. Don’t discuss topics that will jeopardize your credibility.

If you do find yourself in a political discussion, it’s important that it ends well. Whether you casually redirect the chat to a different topic or you deflect the topic altogether, being the bigger person will always bode well in the office.  Don’t forget, you are going to see these people just about everyday! You can end conversations by acknowledging the varying perspectives and how diversity will always lead to better solutions. Or, by simply stating it’s interesting to hear your coworker’s thoughts. And if the person who started the discussion takes a turn towards being combative, then let your colleague know that you have a pressing meeting to get to and get out of there!

Not every discussion has to be divisive, and if handled well, you could actually get to know your colleagues and the differing set of opinions that make your office an even better place to work. Whatever you do, handle these conversations with care. They’re more personal than you think.

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