Political discourse in the United States has grown increasingly contentious over the last few years. In a recent survey from Pew Research Center, 85 percent of respondents said they felt conversations about politics have deteriorated, becoming less respectful, fact-based, and issue-centric than in previous years.
These conversations have caused stress for 40 percent of Americans, according to a University of Nebraska-Lincoln survey. Furthermore, a fifth of respondents said politics had “damaged friendships and created problems with family, friends, and in the home,” while 5 percent said “politics led to financial or legal problems or caused them to miss time at work or school.”
Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that people are finding it harder and harder to leave politics at the door when they enter the office. A 2017 Betterworks survey found that close to three-quarters of employees have talked politics with their colleagues since the 2016 election, and half have witnessed an all-out political argument at work.
Luckily, there are steps we can all take to keep political discussions from ever reaching that level. Consider these tips the next time a work conversation turns political:
1. Understand What’s Appropriate (and What’s Not)
First, get clear on what your company policy is when it comes to political talk. Some private-sector employers discourage it or ban it altogether, which they have the right to do. Even if it is technically okay to talk politics in your office, it’s almost always best to avoid the topic.
“You need to talk about it minimally and respectfully because even if somebody doesn’t say something, they may be feeling uncomfortable,” Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life, says.
2. Frame the Conversation Properly
As an election nears, it’s not uncommon for politics to come up around the water cooler, especially when hot-button issues like candidates’ stances on student loans, the economy, or healthcare are in the news. The upside here is that it is possible to have a constructive conversation that doesn’t get heated. According to Gottsman, your body language and tone of voice play a huge role in keeping things calm.
Taking an aggressive or belittling tone, crossing your arms, and shutting the other person down are surefire ways to make people defensive, which doesn’t set the stage for a positive conversation. Read more here…