Romney and Obama aren’t the only ones taking sides in intense debates this election season. According to our recent poll, 62 percent of Americans have found themselves in heated debates and the victims of verbal attacks when discussing politics—with their friends.
According to the survey:
- Three out of five say they’ve had a political conversation damage a relationship with a friend, family member or coworker, and 14 percent say the relationship never truly recovered.
- Only 15 percent of respondents believe they can express their full political views to others without getting upset.
- Rather than risk an emotional verbal battle, 86 percent avoid political discussions and one in 10 report they stay away from political banter at all costs.
You don’t have to be a pushover or stay silent in order to keep your friends this election season. Here are four tips for successfully talking politics with friends, family, and coworkers:
- Look for areas of agreement. Let the other person know you share common goals, even if your preferred tactics for achieving them differ.
- Avoid personal attacks. While you don’t have to agree with the other person’s view, you can still acknowledge that his or her view is valid, rather than “idiotic” or “evil.”
- Focus on facts and be tentative. Consider the source of your facts, and ask the other person to do the same. Ask two questions: Could the facts be biased? Could they be interpreted differently?
- Look for signs of disagreement. If the other person grows quiet or starts to become defensive, reinforce your respect and remind him or her of the broader purpose you both share.
ABOUT THE EXPERT
Steve Willis is a Master Trainer and Vice President of Professional Services at VitalSmarts.
This classic scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off comes to mind each time I prepare to train a new group. For those of you who have seen the movie, you’ll remember this scene. Ferris is absent from class. His teacher monotonously says his name during roll call in hopes that repetition will work its magic and Ferris will somehow show up.
I’ve realized over the years that, like Ferris Bueller’s teacher, our participants are hoping that we show up—and not just physically. It’s one thing to be physically present, but the participants of today expect more. They expect us to be present with them, not just present in the room. Able to read the group’s interest level and respond accordingly. Able to apply the material to their circumstances. Able to inscribe a personalized message on their heart, mind, and soul! Well, or at least a personalized message on the inside cover of their participant guide. I think you know what I mean.
So what’s your trick—what do you do in your preparation or during the session that allows you to be present with your participants? I’m interested in two categories of responses here: 1) what advice do you have for trainers who are fairly new to the VitalSmarts suite of programs and 2) what advice do you have for trainers who are so familiar with the suite they run the risk of phoning in their training?
Join the conversation by sharing your thoughts below.
Attending Crucial Conversations and Crucial Confrontations Training has been of great benefit to me both personally and professionally. I am diligent about sharing the books, audio companions, and the Crucial Skills Newsletter with my staff.
I work in a non-clinical department within a trauma center staffed by very experienced nurses in emergency and/or critical care—which contributes to the amazing and thorough work they do in their current roles. I shared your recent Q&A article, “Coping with the Loss of a Loved One” with my staff and received the following e-mail, titled “I felt like a nurse again,” in response:
“Last Wednesday as I was leaving the ICU, I did something I have often wanted to do but didn’t feel comfortable doing. A woman was walking down the hall toward the waiting room, and she was crying—not an uncommon sight. I slowed down, walked along side her, and said I was so sorry for whatever she was going through. I thought it was probably related to one of my patients, but I wasn’t positive. She seemed relieved and said, “It is so hard.” I kept walking with her and asked if she was alone and if I could get her a drink of water. She said family was in the waiting room and that she had a bottle of water in her bag. Just before we got to the ICU waiting room, she stopped and leaned toward me for a hug, then stood for a few minutes before going into the waiting room. At that point, I left.
“If it hadn’t been for the Crucial Skills Newsletter you sent and a recent experience with another coworker who recently lost her husband, I don’t think I would have had the courage to actually approach this woman. I am very thankful that I did so.
“Years ago, I read a book written by a man whose young wife died in the ICU and he says the longest walk of your life is from the hospital to your car after your loved one has died. I have often wondered if there is any way someone can walk out with those folks who stand alone at the bedside when their family member dies. This is just another example of how a small gesture can make a large impact.”
So, I want to thank you for making these resources available to me and my staff. We still contribute to the profession we love and demonstrate this commitment to our patients, families, and associates.