Modern Etiquette: Talking politics at home and work

Mon Oct 4, 2010 9:54am EDT
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By Anna Post

BURLINGTON, Vermont (Reuters Life!) - Whether you're bracing yourself for the electioneering of the U.S. mid-terms, bemused by EU politics in Brussels, or just confounded by the compromises of the governing coalition in your own country, we all have an opinion on politics and politicians.

Once considered a taboo conversational subject along with sex and money, now politics is often a casual part of daily discourse. How, when and even if you should express your views can be a tricky minefield in both social and business settings.

Whether you are at the office, actively campaigning, or quietly curious, when pursuing the subject of politics, it is important to consider the setting and the audience before wading into the fray.

Some tips for a successful conversation: Know your goal. Think about the purpose of the conversation, and whether you should even be having it. Are you seeking information? Advocating a point of view in the hope of changing someone else's mind? Venting frustration?

Consider how receptive your audience will be to your purpose. Do your homework. While there is always more to learn, at least know some basics about a candidate or issue before volunteering an opinion.

What is a candidate's stance? What did he or she say in the debate? What is the opposition's point of view? Whether or not to trust a candidate's word is one matter, but knowing what was said in the first place is the only way to form a valid opinion.

Don't make it personal. Comments such as, "I can't believe you think that," are perceived as attacking the other person's character rather than engaging in discussion.

Stay away from personal, opinionated, or judgmental comments, as political conversation can often deteriorate into pejorative dumping sessions. Keep in mind, too, that asking for someone else's point of view doesn't mean you have to agree or cede your own position.   Continued...

<p>The dome of the US Capitol is visible through a window on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 24, 2009. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst</p>