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RED, WHITE, and BLUE: Your Guide to Talking about The Upcoming Elections at Work

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Rule of thumb: It’s always best to avoid talking politics at work.

But with the elections fast approaching, it can be difficult to avoid all political conversations. With so many polarizing issues on the ballot, how do you keep workplace peace when politics rears its head?

For election season, learn how to handle political debates without jeopardizing your office friendships.

Keep these seven rules in mind before engaging in any talk of politics.

  1. Know your workplace. When it comes to talking politics, some workplaces can be more sensitive than others. This can be because of your industry, boss, or coworkers. In some offices, these conversations simply aren’t going to end well. In these cases, it’s best not to engage. Don’t bring up political issues and don’t contribute to existing discussions. Leave all propaganda and party paraphernalia at home.
  1. Know your audience. Try to keep all conversations among peers you know well. Don’t assume that everyone on your team shares your beliefs or supports the same candidates. You’d be surprised how much political ideals can vary, even among people from similar backgrounds. Most importantly, NEVER discuss politics with a client.
  1. Know that you have a lot to learn from others. It’s a natural reaction to become offended or guarded when our beliefs are challenged. However, if you want to have an amicable discussion, it’s important to fight this reaction and instead work to stay open. Listen to others’ opinions without interrupting. Even if you disagree, acknowledge their viewpoint and then move on.
  1. Know when your tone is too harsh. Don’t say things like, “Are you kidding me?” or “No way!” These quick dismissals can come across as harsh. Your coworkers might get offended. Be aware of your tone and word choice. Keep the conversation respectful.
  1. Know when to let it go. In the workplace, it’s better to concede rather than alienate your peers. Before the conversation gets too heated, take a deep breath, laugh it off, and walk away. Maintaining healthy coworker relationships is worth it.
  1. Know that in the end, we can always find common ground. Explore opposing ideas, but always seek the areas where beliefs overlap rather than conflict. We all want to create a better future for ourselves and our country—we simply don’t always agree on how to best go about it.
  1. Know you can opt out. Do you have a colleague that gets too aggressive? Does the conversation often end in tears? You should NEVER feel like you have to engage in a discussion. No matter how insistent others are, you always have to option to remain silent. Politely state that you are not comfortable with the conversation. If the problem persists, reach out to HR.

Our political beliefs can feel very personal—but during election season the topic is hard to avoid. When engaging in political talk while on the clock, approach the conversation with an open mind. Keep it mature and civil. And remember that when it gets heated—either because of you or someone else—the best option is always to walk away.