Political IdeologyThe wise have long suggested that we all stay away from discussing politics and religion at “networking” events. I have two questions:

  1. Who are “they,” and
  2. Where did this wisdom come from?

Americans are more diverse than ever before and ideological differences matter in the future direction of this great country. Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, Neocons, and Ultraliberals all have increasingly polarized views on what’s best for our daily lives and how to lead our political system, natural resources, capitalistic economy, and scope and size of government. The discussions often become emotionally charged and the participants seemingly more unable by the minute to talk politics in a civilized manner.

So is it possible to talk politics without the conversation ending in bruised egos and hurt feelings, particularly during an early interaction in a business relationships? Is politics, like religion, a subject too taboo for business networking events? And if someone does unexpectedly start to talk politics at your breakfast table, what should you do?

My response is absolutely. It elevates the conversation beyond the mundane, gives you a glimpse of both what’s in the other person’s heart and mind, how well read or traveled they may be, and whether they can succinctly, factually, respectfully, and articulately convey their point of view (growing edges for all of us, by the way!). So I often bring up:

  • What’s your opinion on Obamacare?
  • How do you feel about Gay Marriage?
  • Where do you stand on Stem Cell Research?
  • How do you feel about NSA and national security leaks by Edward Snowden?
  • How does Net Neutrality impact your business?

At first, they may be taken back a little, but here are three recommendations on how to be tactful and engaging in the process. My intent is never to be manipulative; the goal is to really understand who they are, help them get a glimpse into who you are and in the process, nurture a mutually beneficial relationship:

1. Cite Facts More Than Opinions

Use facts to support your position. This requires preparation and tends to be more thoughtful and intellectually appealing. I’ve found factual conversations to be more insightful without painting with a broad brush. All Republicans are not insensitive and all Democrats are not elitists, so why dilute your credibility by saying so?

2. Disagree Respectfully

Particularly as you get to know others, shaking your head in disgust, interrupting, heavy sighs, rolling your eyes, or acting like a petulant jerk is seldom going to win you relationship points! There are at least two perspectives on every issue, two distinct visions of the future, and relationships are further nurtured by listening, particularly to someone who may bring a different perspective than yours. Even tone, staying away from making disagreements personal, or any indication of sarcasm are signs of taking the high road. Agree to disagree.

3. See It From Their Side

One of the 10 Relationship Impact Points I often talk about is Empathy. It’s always good to see an argument through your relationship partner’s lens. “You know, that’s a good point. I never looked at it that way,” goes a long way!

Bottom line – Political views are often very personal and it makes many of us passionate about our lives, families, views of what is right, and how others should be treated. It’s an interesting, but certainly not the only, spotlight on our moral compass. I don’t subscribe to the suggestions that you shouldn’t take it personally or keep quiet. After all, that’s one of our fundamental freedoms in this great country, as well as what often creates insane conversations!

Make it a great week.

p.s.

Some fantastic learning opportunities:

  • (Every) Tuesdays, 3 PM ET – Google+ Hangout On Air: 52 Questions for Insane Conversations
  • (Every) Friday, 2/28, 3 PM ET – Twitter Chat #AskDavidNour. This week we’ll cover “How do you build effective & impactful digital business relationships?”
  • Friday, 2/28, 4 PM ET – ExecSense Webinar: How to Cultivate a Relationship with Your Board of Directors as a CMO
  • ExecSense Webinar: What CEOs Need to Know Before Hiring a Social Media Director
  • PDUS2Go Webinar on #NewNorm for Project Management Professionals
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