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Talking Politics at Business and Social Events

Is it the right place for politics? Am I looking for information. A better understanding

In the United States, it is full season for many political races. A little over three months away, the commercials, campaigns and over-signage will be history. The election results will be here; we would like to keep our friends and business colleagues alike.

It seems we are faced with political conversations taking place at most social and business events: on the golf course, a family reunion, business networking event, card game or at poolside. I am a supporter of a healthy conversation and using a conversation to educate and enlighten. It is through education that we become more civil, tolerate and gain understanding of the world around us.

But politics is its own beast. There was a time when we had conversation taboos. We would like to think that political conversations is about educating others but at many events, it seems to turn to my-way-or-the-highway mentality. That is not good, right?

Have I done my homework? How will I come across and do I have ability to handle such a conversation? Do I know the crowd well enough?

Am I looking for information? A better understanding? What is my purpose? 

Before you engage in a conversation, a statement or off the cuff comment, think about the type of event you are at.

Be sensitive to the surroundings. There is always a time and place for every conversation, and this is where common sense comes in.

Is it the right place for politics? Just because it is the political season doesn't mean every event needs to hold it own debate. Will I, as a guest, ruin the host's event? Or will I, as the host, ruin the event for my guests?

If and when, remember it takes two to have a conversation. If you find you are cornered or all of a sudden in or around a political conversation that is too heated for your liking, think about your exit strategy.

You have the right to keep your views to yourself, respect others and agree to disagree.

Don't make a statement personal or a personal attack. Remember do your research, talk about the issue or candidate, not the person you're debating with. 

Be aware of your voice volume and tone.

The season will come and go. And remember there are many wonderful other topics to engage in. After election day, it's the holidays.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

evy davis July 28, 2012 at 03:54 PM
HI Catherine, I was recently at a friendly gathering of about 6 people (all with out our spouses) for dinner when one of the people started talking about her political views. It did not come up in a obvious way, but clearly she was passionate about what she believed in. Not being prepared for such conversation, and clearly disagreeing with her, I sat silently, making only a few neutral comments. It was uncomfortable and I felt at a disadvantage not only because I did not want to "discuss" politics, but also becuase I had not been brain washing myself with rhetoric. I know what I believe but I was not prepared to combat her statements. I was completely unprepared on how to politilely change the subject. After listening for 10 minutes to the banter at the table, I was able to get the group on another topic. But I felt defeated and annoyed that I was unable to say something like, "We are all entitled to our political viewpoints, and since no one invited you to school us on yours, could you please bag it?" ;) How would you suggest handling this kind of situation (after all, it was not a party where we could walk away and I did not want it to be uncomfortable). Evy
Garry Kanter July 28, 2012 at 04:25 PM
I think the "norm" should be talking current events is acceptable. From there, make exceptions as appropriate. All change begins with awareness. And silence serves to strengthen the entrenched interests.
Garry Kanter July 28, 2012 at 04:25 PM
And I have been in conversations where I say, "You know what, maybe we'd be better off just stopping right here."
shakerchamber July 30, 2012 at 09:26 PM
am commonly involved in political conversations, I like the debates! A good way to avoid the discomfort you describe is something like this: "Hey guys, before we get into any heated conversations about politics, let's wait until after dinner" (when you can decide how much longer you'll stay)or "Let's not get too far into this political debate, can we table this until another time". Before you get into a political queasy state, decide your own words that will sound mature yet firm to stop the 'banter' if you find it disturbing or uncomfortable.
Nikki Ferrell July 31, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Great suggestions, guys. I'll have to remember that next time I feel the room tensing up.

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