Excitement about this year’s controversial presidential campaign has taken over the media -- and the talk around the proverbial water cooler. It is one of the most talked-about elections in history and you can hardly go anywhere without hearing a discussion of the candidates or the recent debates.
Although politics is often considered one of the taboo topics for the workplace, you can still maintain civil discourse while maneuvering through the minefield of emotions surrounding political opinions. So, as we gear up for the last few weeks of the presidential race, here are several strategies to help you know what to say or what not to say.
1. Listen with the intent to understand.
We are each entitled to our own opinions, and there is no right or wrong, even if you think yours is the only true one. Listen politely and remember that people see things from different backgrounds and life experiences than yours. It can be a thoughtful conversation if you are open to other’s views and opinions.
2. Use 'I' statements.
When you talk about politics, begin your sentences with “I,” using phrases like “I think” or “I believe.” Your opinions are your own and you are entitled to share them, as long as you are willing to allow others to share their opinions as well.
Avoid using the word “You” as in “You should…” or “You can’t.” These phrases can sound judgmental, confrontational or can imply accusations.
3. Cultivate your curiosity.
If you truly want to know why another person feels the way they do, ask questions and encourage the other person to tell you why they feel passionate about an issue at hand. Then try not to judge or belittle them. Keep an open mind and you might even discover a new point of view.
4. Know the issues.
If you are going to engage in a healthy debate, make sure you are up-to-date on the current issues. It is difficult to expound on a point when you don’t know your facts. Don’t rely on the opinions of others for information. Instead, get your information from reputable news sources and watch and read about the candidates yourself.
5. Choose your battles.
Pause before jumping into political debates. To avoid a heated argument, try not to agree or disagree. Use polite non-committal responses like "thank you for your thoughts" or " I appreciate your point of view." If you choose to respond, keep your comments brief and as lighthearted as possible.
6. Walk away.
Politics is a touchy subject so tread lightly and use your best judgment before you engage in what might become a heated debate. If you’re not careful, your words can do more harm than good. What you say can tarnish friendships or worse, your career. If the conversation heats up, or you find yourself becoming incensed or angry, it may be time to excuse yourself. So when in doubt, gracefully bow out, or change the subject and talk shop instead.