How To Discuss Politics At Work

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Sep 15, 2016
Politics Fight

Given the highly polarized nature of the current political environment, we think that the first answer to this should really be "don't." But if you have to, if you're moved to, if you'll feel like you'll literally explode if you don't, then the Harvard Business Review has some tips and tricks to make sure you don't alienate half the office. 

The best thing to do, said the HBR, is to not be aggressive and polarizing--you may think the people who disagree with your views may be inhuman monsters, but even if you do hold such uncharitable opinions, it's best not to voice them. Instead, frame the conversation as a learning experience versus a debate: you're there to understand why the other person believes what they believe, not browbeat them into agreeing with you. 

Make sure your framing on this is explicit by asking for permission to explain your perspective. It does no good to talk about this if the other person doesn't even want to entertain contrary viewpoints, after all. 

And when engaging in the talk, be respectful, and try to focus on areas of common ground. 

Experiments have shown that you're much more likely to not so much change minds but maintain relationships if you keep these suggestions in mind. The HBR said that tests have shown people who use these tips are: 

  • Five times more likely to be seen as diplomatic
  • Four times more likely to be seen as likeable
  • Three times more likely to be seen as knowledgeable
  • 140% more persuasive
  • 140% more likely to stay in dialogue with others
  • 180% more likely to maintain relationships with others
But again, we'd like to reiterate that the best course of action is to probably not be in a situation where you have to use these skills by avoiding engaging in these sorts of conversations in the first place. The HBR said that 81 percent of people would really prefer not to talk politics at the office at all. 

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