Today our blog was written by our Etiquette Expert Amy Stevens dealing with the issue of politics in the workplace.
“There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, andthe Great Pumpkin.”
– Linus van Pelt, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
I can definitely relate to Linus’ quote! As Americans, one of the rights we cherish most is our right to vote. We appreciate this right so much (as we should) that politics seem to be everywhere – on signs, television, polling phone cards, bumper stickers, and in our conversations. Yet talking politics often leads to awkwardness or anger.
So, is there a place for politics in polite conversation? I think this is a trick question because the answer is irrelevant. Like it or not, people are going to talk politics. We live in a politically-charged world and need to know how to gracefully handle these discussions. We need tact.
“Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy.” – Isaac Newton
Tact does not require watered-down political beliefs. You should be able to unapologetically speak your opinions, but just like so many other things in life, it’s all in the delivery! Politics are often tied to moral and religious beliefs and are very personal; when people feel their politics are attacked they also feel that they are being personally attacked. It is because of this that any polite, political discussion must go hand-in-hand with social sensitivity, tact, and discretion. Below are some tips that may help the next time politics become the topic!
- Don’t make assumptions: You never know what others believe! Your political jokes or negative statements may unintentionally offend.
- Time and place: Take cues from the people around you. If you’re at a party and a political conversation is becoming heated it’s time to “agree to disagree” and change the subject.
- Don’t bring it up: I don’t think we can avoid political discussions but that doesn’t mean we need to start them. At work, the best course of action is to not have the conversation.
- Be honest but not negative: What if you’re asked for your opinion? Answer honestly! But avoid saying anything negative. You could say, “I voted for Bert because he supports some issues that are important to me.” You should not say, “I voted for Bert because he’s not a complete idiot like Ernie.”
- Actually listen: You may hear something that resonates with you or gain a greater understanding about what the other side believes.
- Always end on a positive: Even boxers shake hands at the end of a fight. When discussing politics, end the conversation well. A humorous comment can help smooth rough conversations.
- Know your hot topics: I feel too strongly about some issues to discuss them nicely with people who feel differently – these are my hot topics. Know your hot topics and discuss them with caution! Should you avoid your hot topics with friends? Maybe. Should you avoid them with your boss? Most definitely.
People put on uniforms each day and fight for our right to vote AND to have discussions and debates about our vote. However, more and more we seem to approach politics like boxers in ring. There’s no room for discussion in a boxing ring; political punches are thrown without situational awareness or sensitivity. Lately, it seems to me that more people than ever are wearing political boxing gloves. Yet disagreement is American. Debate is American. Agreeing to disagree is American. Cherish your rights and respect the rights of others.
Read more from our Etiquette Expert, Amy Stevens
on her blog Etiquette From the Trenches.