The Science-Backed Method to Discussing Politics at Work Without Making Enemies


Alyse Kalish

September 20, 2016

We get it—it’s election season, and it feels like it’s all anyone’s discussing anywhere you go. And that includes the office. In fact, you’re at the point when every time your co-worker opens his mouth to share his latest thoughts, you get angry; meanwhile your counterarguments provoke more and more death stares.

There’s nothing wrong with having conversations about non-work things while at work. Unfortunately, these kinds of repeated situations force you to want to avoid the big elephant in the room altogether just to keep peace in the office.

Well, what if we told you that we’ve got the perfect formula for approaching these politically-charged moments?

It’s actually a lot more obvious than you think: According to a recent study in the Harvard Business Review, there are four things necessary for having a productive, persuasive, and friendly conversation about politics—a focus on learning from one another, an ask for permission to engage in a debate, a show of respect for the other person’s opinion, and a focus on sharing the same goals and purpose.

It’s how you tackle any professional debate, right? You put your emotions aside, you keep things polite, and you open your mind to the other side of the argument.

What’s fascinating about this study is this technique also applies when you’re in support of your colleagues: “These same labels held true even when the observers had the same opinion as the actor. That’s right—even when you agree, how you share your view risks alienating friends and weakening relationships. Our findings suggest that whether you agree or disagree with another person matters much less than how you share your opinion.”

So, this discovery isn’t just about political disputes, but all conversations. If we’re not open to even listening, or respectful in how we confront someone, we risk pushing people away from wanting to talk or listen. And no matter how passionate we are about something, it’s not worth losing the people we look up to or care about.

Don’t be afraid to challenge your co-workers, but before you jump head first into a heated argument, consider testing out this strategy first. After all, unless you’re planning to quit the day after the election, you’ll be working with these people for a long time.


This article was written by Alyse Kalish from The Daily Muse and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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