As one of the most abrasive presidential campaigns reaches its climax, people are going to be offering their opinions on one candidate or the other with more and more volume in the coming weeks.
Here are some tips on keeping the conversation from reaching screaming levels.
1. Know your audience
If you are going to talk politics with a co-worker, have an idea of their position before you start. If you aren’t sure, try asking a more open-ended question, such as “What are your thoughts on the election?” Once you know, you can tailor your comments to be non-offensive and not permanently damaging.
2. Speak with discretion
Ensure that good judgment prevails by avoiding political discussions in inappropriate circumstances, especially circumstances where emotions are already running high. Baby showers, weddings, children’s birthday parties and Uncle Ed’s funeral are not the best venues for political banter.
3. Expect respect
You can have opposing views without being nasty (unlike the campaigns). If someone becomes belligerent, say, “This conversation has gotten out of hand and I’m not interested in discussing it further,” or “Please excuse me, the tone of this conversation makes me uncomfortable.” Then excuse yourself to another conversation or another room.
4. Know the facts…
The best way to win a debate is with facts. Be prepared with accurate information from non-biased sources about current political happenings so you project credibility. Don’t believe every meme you see on Facebook – take the five minutes to research before presenting your view.
5. …and just the facts
It’s easy to get overexcited about your candidate, but try to keep emotional statements out of your discussions. If you don’t get wound up, it’s less likely that other people will be wound up. Speak calmly and with respect.
6. Feel free to shut up
There’s no harm in offering your views, but don’t let people pressure you to share your thoughts or jump to their defense. Just make a personal decision to talk or not talk about it up front and stick with it. Flip-flopping makes you a target for confrontation.
7. Agree to disagree
It’s fun to have stimulating political banter, but if you agree to disagree upfront it can be more entertaining and less destructive. Ask questions to enhance the dialogue and listen to what is being said – that can often bring your own views to light.
8. If you are coworkers, remember that you’re on the same side
A good debate can help pass the time during a slow work day, and help you learn more about your co-workers. But at the end of the day, you work for the same company with the same end goal. Don’t let political conversations interfere with your productivity and work relationships. Know the company’s policies about what is and isn’t allowed for political expressions (i.e.. sending out political emails, hanging signs) and adhere to management requests.
9. Having a party? Choose your guest list carefully
If you know your guests will have strong political opinions, invite other guests that will enjoy the lively debate. If you are worried about hurting other people’s feelings, plan a separate dinner party where the mood will be less controversial.
10. Compare apples to apples
It’s easy to demonize another side while keeping a rosy view of your own, especially when talking politics. Avoid comparing the highest ideals of one political party with the missteps and gaffes of the other. Policies, for instance, should be compared with policies, and platforms with platforms.