From Donald Trump’s provocative statements to NFL players’ protests, from Europe’s refugee crisis to the Brexit vote, there’s no shortage of political issues guaranteed to make your blood boil.
The smart money says you should keep your opinions about these hot topics to yourself, at least when you’re in a professional environment.
Consultant Mary-Frances Winters offers a contrarian view of political conversations in the workplace. By discussing contentious topics, she argues, you can build deeper interpersonal connections.
“When we engage with each other, we have the opportunity to learn more about each other’s similarities and differences, build better relationships and improve trust,” Winters writes in We Can’t Talk About That at Work!
Of course, civil discussions of contentious issues don’t come easily. A water-cooler chat about Obamacare or police shootings quickly can devolve into a red-faced shouting match.
You may not be ready to keep your cool during a political discussion, Winters warns. Don’t try to conduct a possibly contentious conversation without proper preparation.
To prepare for a potentially treacherous talk, she advises steeling yourself. First, look past your own biases and opinions to learn how others feel. Winters suggests embracing “the 4Es”:
1. “Exposure”– Consider the people you regularly interact with.
2. “Experience”– Understand the need to create meaningful relationships with those who are different.
3. “Education”– Tap into your firm’s organizational development curriculum.
4. “Empathy”– Strive to understand others; that will contribute to your emotional intelligence.
There’s an art to constructive political conversations, and mastering it takes time and effort. Winters suggests remaining inquisitive and respectful.
And she offers this road map to making sure you’re not the blowhard whom everyone fears getting into a political debate with:
1. Acknowledge – Admit you’re not an expert. You can learn what you don’t know.
2. Legitimize – Other people’s opinions matter as much as your own.
3. Pause – Don’t rush in; take a moment to think before you speak.
4. Accept – Don’t just tolerate your co-workers’ views. Be ready to give them serious thought or accept them.
5. Question – Always be inquisitive. Ask your co-workers about their experiences.
6. Empathize – Walk around in someone else’s shoes.