We all work with people with different political affiliations—even if we don’t know it—which can make politics a dicey topic for chit chat among colleagues. While talking about politics in the office has long been ill-advised, (60% of employees saying discussing politics at work is a no-no according to Glassdoor) about 83% of employees end up talking politics at work anyway, according to career company zety.
These days, with more people working remotely and less face to face communications, there’s even more room for wires to be crossed, and tone to be “assumed.” But thankfully there is common ground, we just all need a little more help finding it and navigating it safely. Here are some tips on how you can steer you and your colleagues towards better understanding all around.
EXPECT AND ACCEPT DIFFERENCES
Before you hint at your politics, pause and remind yourself that your colleague is likely to have different political leanings. Gallup recently reported that 32% percent of Americans identify as Democrats, 26% as Republicans and 41% as Independents. So, opening a conversation up assuming that your colleague is like-minded politically is a good way to make one or both of you uncomfortable. A better way to enter into any conversation is with an open mind.
Keep in mind that most of your colleagues may be self-censoring their political views. According to Cato Institute, 62% of Americans have political views they’re afraid to share. These fears cross partisan lines. Majorities of Democrats (52%), independents (59%) and Republicans (77%) all agree they have political opinions they don’t feel comfortable sharing with colleagues for fear that it will either hamper their professional advancement, or even worse, get them fired. Strong liberals stand out, however, as the only political group who feel they can express themselves, according to the study. Nearly 6 in 10 (58%) of staunch liberals feel comfortable sharing what they believe with colleagues.
BE KIND AND CURIOUS
So, you know to expect differences, the next step is to respond to those differences with kindness and curiosity, rather than reacting with anger. The key there is to listen. Let your colleague speak when they want to speak, and calmly listen. while you really digest what they are saying. We promise, this beats an uncomfortable politically-fueled tiff any day. When you’re ready to speak, consider highlighting what you agree with. So for example, “I know that it’s been a hard year,” or “I understand why you feel that way.”
You can also ask kind questions to help create more connection and keep things civil. This means asking questions that are motivated by curiosity rather than by judgement. So rather than: “How can you believe …?” try, “What led you to feel that way?” The goal is to learn something about your colleague’s perspective, which typically creates more connection and a more courteous convo.
It’s completely natural to have some harsh judgements playing in your head whenever you’re talking politics. This is what makes having a civil chat such a challenge. Thankfully, we all have the ability to recognize a judgmental thought and not blurt it out. To help you with this skill, remember the age old adage of thinking before you speak. Whenever you’re in the midst of a discussion, be aware of your thoughts, and try to recognize whenever you’re feeling harsh. It’s human. Just take a deep breath (or two or three) and give yourself a pat on the back for catching the negative thought in your brain, before it rolled off your tongue.
Most of all, remember to approach these conversations as a dialogue, not a debate, understand that your colleagues come from different backgrounds and parts of the country that all play a part in shaping their views. As long as you keep it cordial and stay curious and open-minded, you can be a healing force for yourself and your colleagues, no matter who is in office.
MORE ON HERMONEY:
SUBSCRIBE: Own your money, own your life. Subscribe to the weekly HerMoney newsletter today for free!