Mind Your P’s & Q’s: The Etiquette of Politics
One of the first rules you learn for making small talk with new people is do not, under any circumstances, talk about politics. The reason politics are not a good topic when you first meet people is because you want to avoid any topic that may bring about conflict. Although that is the rule for meeting new people, what happens when you are around people you have established relationships with such as colleagues, associates, friends and even family? You cannot expect to be around people you know well and the topic of politics not to come up at all, especially when elections are coming soon. Below are a few tips that will help even the most passionate person have civil discourse about politics.
- Do not assume. I have a friend that I grew up with and we are so much alike. We went to the same schools, were in the same clubs and love shopping and fashion. However, as similar as we are, we have completely different political views. A mistake that many people may make is assuming that other people will think the same way they do politically because of similarities or because they are relatives.
- Do research. Another way to have civil political discussions is to make sure you are stating the facts about candidates and issues instead of something that you may have heard or read somewhere. When having political conversations, it is best to be educated and well read. Also, do not engage in shouting matches to prove that the information that you have is correct and the other person is wrong. When the discussion starts to become aggressive find a way to end it by saying a phrase such as “we will agree to disagree” or change the subject. Also, you could use humor and make a joke about something else to change the tone. Humor, when used correctly, can always lighten the mood and change the atmosphere.
- Do consider other viewpoints. Do not take on a superior stance and think that your political views are the only right ones. Many people are passionate about their political beliefs and sometimes that passion can stop them from listening to opposing positions. If you only listen to and have discussions with people who think the same that does not benefit a diverse society such as the U.S. Part of having civilized conversations about politics is listening to different viewpoints and being open to beliefs that are different from your own.
- Do not pressure others. When involved in a political conversation with people with opposing views, the goal many times is for the other person to change their beliefs and buy into yours. Even though this is the goal, it may not happen, which could lead to serious frustration. Frustration and passion can lead to preaching instead of teaching, yelling and even personal attacks. Always stay calm and if you feel yourself losing control, end the conversation before the wrong words are spoken and feelings get hurt.