The art of small talk typically involves staying away from potentially charged topics like politics and religion; instead focusing on more neutral interests, including books, travel or your favorite movie. That said, what’s a savvy lady (or gentlemen) to do when he or she finds the conversation has made a beeline straight towards a heated political debate, with no way out? Take a deep breath and refer to my tips on talking politics below to keep the conversation polite.
1. Allow the other person to state his or her opinion – Don’t interrupt – allow others to make their feelings heard.
2. Ask questions – Even if you disagree with the comments of others, show respect by asking pertinent questions. You may be surprised to learn something new!
3. Keep your voice down to a low roar– Don’t allow yourself to get worked up and start a shouting match with your coworkers or dinner guests.
4. Educate yourself on important issues – It’s important to at least be familiar with the beliefs and platform of each candidate to allow for knowledgeable discussion. Remember, being well-informed is always best!
5. Don’t take it personally – Keep the discussion in perspective and ask yourself how much anxiety and conflict you are willing to undergo at the office or with friends by arguing over who the better candidate may be. Never resort to name calling or shame tactics, “I can’t believe you are that ignorant!”
6. Vote – it’s a cop-out to say, “I don’t like any of the candidates so I’m not going to vote” – if you don’t vote for someone, anyone, you have no room to complain.
7. Politics is not off limits at a dinner party or social event – be prepared! You can answer with “I’m off political debate duty tonight – argue amongst yourselves” and opt out or jump in and make your point. Do what feels right but always keep in mind you are a guest and don’t want to offend your host.
8. Keep it clean – Use your best judgment and keep your interactions civil – you host will thank you for not inciting further furor among his or her guests.
9. Don’t assume that everyone wants to talk politics – Asking someone how he or she intends to vote in the election is invasive unless the information is offered first.
10. Use your sensitivity training – Be mindful of how you are making others feel by voicing your strong opinions and avoid monopolizing the entire conversation with politics. Have other conversation topics handy in your conversational arsenal to pull from when the conversation is too heated.
Wishing You an Engaging and Civil Discussion (and only if you must go there!),