We’ve all been taught from a young age that certain topics are simply not to be discussed in public or with anyone other than our closest friends and family. As you might have guessed, politics is among the top of that list. We’ve all seen that awkward argument ensue with two opinionated colleagues competing over who is right and who is wrong, but discussing politics in the office doesn’t have to be a conversation to avoid at all cost. While I certainly wouldn’t recommend politics to be the topic of choice at work, sometimes the conversation is simply unavoidable. That said, there are several ways to handle and steer the conversation so that this controversial topic isn’t detrimental to your employment, or your friendship. Here’s how:
Perhaps the most important aspect (and often forgotten) of discussing politics in any setting, is the opportunity to learn. A discussion of opposing views doesn’t have to be a competition, or a trial of who is right vs. wrong. Discussions with many different opinions, views and perspectives is a great opportunity to learn and grow, both personally and professionally. Besides, you might learn something that completely changes your perspective, or you might grow closer with your colleague. Either way, you can’t learn if you are busy trying to teach, so sit back and listen to what others have to say.
Any discussion, but especially one about politics, is not the time nor the place to be bull-headed and righteous. Whether you took part on your high school’s debate team, or simply hate being wrong, you can rest assured that this mentality will result in you losing during a political conversation. Be willing and open to the idea that not everyone is going to agree with you and your views. After all, that would be pretty boring if everyone agreed on everything! Besides, you would much rather lose the conversation so you don’t lose the respect of your colleague, or even your boss, wouldn’t you?
Regardless of planning and positivity, there will be times when you are unable to control the emotions and opinions of others. To no fault of your own, the conversation could end heated and you need to have a plan in place to gracefully withdraw from the discussion or simply change the topic. Be level-headed and remove yourself in the best way possible, even if it is simply to get a drink of water. This gives everyone an opportunity to take a deep breath and can prevent the conversation from taking a wrong turn.
With the election rounding the corner, it’s a safe bet that you’ll begin hearing some chatter about the presidential candidates and their views, regardless of where you work. Just remember to follow these three simple steps so you can ensure that the political propaganda remains peaceful and productive.