by Sarah Wilkinson, Class of ’17
Religion and politics: the two forbidden conversation topics. You’ve probably heard your Great Aunt Bessie say, “Don’t talk about religion or politics at the dinner table.” What’s the big deal? Well, have you seen the media buzz lately? Religion and politics are impassioned topics for many people, and some are willing to go to great lengths to defend whatever it is they believe. It can make for some nasty arguments. It can tear families and friends and co-workers apart.
However, in light of the 2016 presidential campaign and the absolute media scourge, it’s sort of hard to avoid talking about it. That doesn’t mean you have a free pass to bring it up any time the conversation drifts. As a general rule, try to avoid it unless someone else brings it up first, or you think a recent event or interview directly relates to your job.
When talking about politics in a professional environment, here are some general rules to keep in mind.
- Keep an open mind. The fact of the matter is, your co-workers may not agree with you on all your views. Don’t take their disagreement with you as a personal attack, but simply because they’re passionate about their beliefs and values, same as you, even if the beliefs and values are different.
- Do you research. If you’re going to talk politics, you should make sure you know that you have accurate information. Accurate meaning, you need to gather information from multiple sources. If you aren’t up to date on your facts, simply tell your co-workers so and politely duck out of the conversation.
- Survey your audience. Before you even begin a conversation, assuming you weren’t engaged by someone else, take stock of who your audience is. Do they want to talk politics? Do they like politics or keep informed about it? If not, spare the poor woman who’s just trying to fill up her bottle at the water cooler.
- Speak for yourself. Don’t use a collective “we” when asserting your political beliefs, and certainly don’t direct “you” statements at whoever you’re chatting with. The only polite way to talk about politics is to say “I think” or “I believe” and speak only for yourself.
- Listen up and step back. This isn’t an argument with your friends. It’s not an “argument” at all. Politic talk in the office is just that: talk. Your conversations with co-workers shouldn’t be about winning, but about hearing each other. So listen and be aware of how often you talk. It’s not smart to dominate the conversation.
- Ask questions. If you don’t understand someone’s point of view, say something. Ask for clarification. It won’t make you look ignorant, but interested.
- Get back to work. Make sure the conversation doesn’t pass the point of no return, when passions have been ignited and fingers pointed. Know when the conversation has come to its natural end or make it end before it gets ugly.
The good news is, if you’re interested and excited about politics, it’s probably an indication that you’re an engaged citizen, which is precisely what Champlain hopes for its students.
Source: The Muse