Sunday, August 31, 2008

Discussing Politics in Business Life

In these highly politically charged times, I find that people are concerned about how to participate in conversations that touch on the presidential election and other related topics. It has been generations since people have so been actively watching and talking about the United States political process, that it leaves many nervous about their business relationships. Nobody wants to offend anyone or be offended by others.

We have all been counseled to avoid discussing religion and politics, but I don't know if that is necessary, or even good advice. The current race between Barak Obama and John McCain has reached historic proportions, and it is inevitable, unless you are a hermit, that you will encounter such discussions in and around your professional life.

I enjoy reading, learning, studying and talking about politics, candidates and the issues that face our world. I also understand that other people have different opinions and experiences, which will make some see things differently. That is okay with me.

Passion also can stir the pot. People get very passionate about their points of view. While I admire those who have that "fire in their belly" for their cause, it is NEVER an excuse for being disrespectful. Our society has forgotten this. Disrespect and rhetoric is a badge of honor to many, and I wish more people would stand up and say "Enough!"

I was raised to be respectful of people from different religions, races, political beliefs and financial positions. Rich or poor, republican or democrat, catholic or jewish, Chinese or South American .... I firmly believe that all good people are to be allowed to have their political beliefs. My father taughtt me not to demonize others for their differences. I have discovered through my own experience that when we cherish others for what makes them unique, we personally become better than we were before.

When engaging with others in discussions where you do not agree, simply be respectful. There is no harm in people having conversations when they are on different sides of an issue, as long as they treat each other fairly. If you find it necessary to say hurtful and aggressive words, you will both end up bruised.

You will never persuade most people to convert to your opinion in a casual conversation, so let them learn to respect your beliefs by respecting your actions.

I have changed my mind on a major controversial national issue. I did this because of a conversations I had with a very knowledgeable person, but one whom I thought was wrong. He listened to my point of view, and shared his. Never did he try to convert me or put me down for my stance. Instead, he asked me to explain what brought me to this decision. He accepted my place and did not outwardly judge me. I did not change my mind that day, but I like to contemplate issues when exposed to new information, and over time I softened. While I still do not see the issue 100% his way, I have changed from my previous position on this issue. Had he put me down or belittled, I probably would have dug in my heels.

I wrote a few days ago about how the far right and far left have both turned me off with their attacks on the Obama / Biden ticket and the McCain / Palin ticket. The hateful personal attacks have soured me about politics on many levels. The joy that some find in trying to harm the good people on the other side is not fun to watch. Reading many blogs has left me feeling sad about the future of our country, as these hateful souls are our people. What is funny is how those who share their views chime in with "right on"...not "come on folks, lets be respectful".

Viewing politics is like watching them make sausage. Icky.

However, I believe that most people we encounter are in the middle and only care about seeing changes that can help all people. One cannot turn on the TV, computer, or pick up a newspaper (yes, some of us still read the newspaper) without being touched by the world of politics, thus it will be discussed.... by those who are informed and by those who are not. So you need to be ready to discuss politics.

Six things to do when talking politics in a business / professional setting:

1. Remember that the country is split on many issues. If you have a strong view, keep in mind that other people might have conflicting views. Be respectful of their position. Realize that they have an equal right to their opinion (there are some issues where this is not the case, but most issues are okay for people to disagree) and let them know that you respect their right to their point of view, albeit different from yours.

2. Do not try to change their mind. Realize that most people do not flip flop quickly on the important issues of our day. If you cannot move them in one conversation, then there is no reason to get heated.

3. Ask them questions about their views and why they believe these things. People who will openly talk about controversial issues will usually share their back story. When you remember that a person's unique background influences how they see the world, you will be more apt to respect how they chose their position. You need not agree with them, but understanding will take you a long way. Just because you have a different background does not mean you can't respect theirs.

4. Never put down the politicians that the other person supports. Attacking a person's chosen candidate is often taken as a personal attack. While you might not agree with the choice, in our country people are allowed to vote for their candidate they choose without you making them feel bad.

5. Try to learn. If you think that you are smarter than everyone else you might just be a fool. I have found that people whom I disagree with are some of the best teachers. I learn more from those with whom I am different than I do from those who are just like me. Not better or worse, just different. This does not mean I will change my mind to accept their view, but how they reached their decisions and how they conduct themselves as a person can be in itself and education.

6. Never have a conversation with someone who cannot be respectful back to you. If they say hurtful disrespectful things. walk away. In the end when someone is a jerk toward you are others, you cannot fix them. Jumping into the mud with them will just leave you feeling dirty.

When we approach each other as valuable individuals, then we can have civil conversations that will benefit everyone. I think John McCain and Barak Obama both want to see this race remain out of the gutter. Win or Lose, both sides can be respectful of each other and put America first. Barak Obama, John McCain, Joe Biden and Sarah Palin are all good people who want to serve. If we see them this way, then we can have a better way.

Can it happen? That is up to you and me.

Have A Great Day.



Anonymous said...

I love your statement "when we cherish others for what makes them unique, we personally become better than we were before". It speaks to listening when others speak and respect. Talk about great networking tools!

Anonymous said...

What planet do you live on? People do not respect the political views of those who disagree with them. And they will not, because those who are politically active get a big rush of self-importance by bonding together with others of the same mindset. Look at the love fest that takes place in any group of two or more republicans or democrats.

Quit writing about this stuff and get back to what you do well. Step away from politics as you seem to be in the middle and it will make you got mad.

The other choice is become 100% behind Obama or McCain and roll in the light that you are so much brighter than those on the other side. America is split, and each side sees the other as wrong. Oh the joy in knowing in your heart that you are the enlightened ones.

I agree with you that the whole thing is horrible, but it wont change so move on. Back to the business stuff which is why I read this blog every day!

Ari Herzog said...

I disagree with point #5.

People should not "try to learn."

People should simply learn.

I learn a new thing every day. I don't try to learn it; it just happens.

thomsinger said...


Sorry, I deleted you post, as it did not fit the rules I have on the blog that nobody can say anything really mean.