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How to Deal with Political Discussions in the Workplace

In functional democracies, political discussions among citizens are a regular part of interpersonal exchange. That this causes problems in the workplace is a topic as old as democracy itself. But how about solutions?

How to Deal with Political Discussions in the Workplace

When the tension is high, and this is always the case before elections, cases of politically motivated conflicts in the workplace also increase. Mueller from Finance is known for always being in favor of lowering taxes – but in view of the current pandemic, your opinion is that more state reserves need to be built up? Smith from Marketing recently said that there is a lot to be learned from the president’s Twitter account in terms of viral guerrilla marketing – and all you could do was shake your head? And how many times did Simon from HR actually show up uninvited at the lunch table last week to promote the president’s opponents? Is this necessary? Is it appropriate? And how should you react?

Well…let’s begin by saying that sometimes it is especially useful that getAbstract is a Swiss company. In Switzerland, the average citizen goes to the ballot box four to six times a year to vote – on very specific political proposals, but also on local and national democratic representative bodies. In the days and weeks before these votes and elections, they are the dominant topics in all daily newspapers, on television, on the radio, at the regulars’ table and on the playground.

In short, those who live here have a lot to do with political dissidents, are asked about political attitudes regularly and must be able to present their own arguments, often. Especially in the workplace.

Unfortunately, in many other democracies, especially in those where the political spectrum is not as broad as in Switzerland and the whole system tends to polarization, more and more people tend to hold back from expressing their personal opinions in public, which makes even more room for those who do exactly the opposite.

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Rethinking Polarization

Tribalism, not ideological differences, is fueling partisan politics in the US.

Jonathan Rauch National Affairs Read Summary
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Divided Politics, Divided Nation

Today’s America is a divided nation teetering on the brink of violent conflict. How did it come to this?

Darrell M. West Brookings Institution Press Read Summary
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The Red and the Blue

The 1990s set the stage for years of political gridlock and animus.

Steve Kornacki Ecco Read Summary

That’s why ideas have evaporated from public life, and the corridor of what can be said and must not be said is narrowing. That’s dangerous, because ideally, we should all engage in open, forthright and active communication.

Some companies have already addressed their concerns about this development by initializing broad discussion panels or company-wide conversation series. No matter whether you intend to follow the institutionalized examples or become active in your immediate environment yourself, silent withdrawal cannot be an option.

This applies particularly in times when political parties are moving away from each other, critical issues are on the agenda and the waves are rising. How do we deal with this? How do we deal with those who think differently, who we do not understand (or at least, less and less often), who seem morally unreliable, or whose position we reject outright?

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Avoiding Politics

Even charitable people avoid open debate to maintain harmony. The result is apathy; they don’t seem to care. Do you?

Nina Eliasoph Cambridge University Press Read Summary
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We Can’t Talk About That at Work!

Bold conversations you think you should avoid can make a positive contribution to your workplace.

Mary-Frances Winters Berrett-Koehler Publishers Read Summary
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Authentic Conversations

When it comes to corporate achievement, what you say to co-workers, and how you say it, matters.

Jamie Showkeir and Maren Showkeir Berrett-Koehler Publishers Read Summary
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Reclaiming Conversation

Technology should augment your life, not control it. Start talking.

Sherry Turkle Penguin Press Read Summary
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How to Talk to Anyone

There’s a secret to knowing how to talk to people so they want to listen; indeed, there are 92 of them. Start counting.

Leil Lowndes McGraw-Hill Education Read Summary

Start with Yourself!

Good conversations, and this applies especially to political ones, include the need for a standpoint from which both sides can engage. If this position is well-founded, arguments can be productive. If you have a problem with someone else’s point of view, it is advisable to look first at your own – and examine the differences between the two of you. Only when this is clear can you talk rationally to each other.

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Difficult Conversations

You know that difficult conversation you don’t want to have? Here’s how to have it.

Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen Penguin Read Summary
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The Good Ones

You can hire people with great skills, but if they lack character, you’re asking for trouble.

Bruce Weinstein New World Library Read Summary
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Dealing with the Tough Stuff

Most managers hate conflict and difficult conversations. Here’s how you can proceed gracefully and effectively.

Darren Hill, Alison Hill and Sean Richardson Wiley Read Summary

Find out what annoys you, and why – and how you can make your point of view clearer in a conversation without getting carried away or attacking the other person just for his or her attitude. Learn to understand and accept points of view that contrast to your own – that is not the same as adopting them. Consciously overcome discursive rifts by signaling to the other person that you can understand and accept his or her position in principle, but then make your point, calmly and objectively.

Usually our articles deal with how to do something. If you want to know how not to discuss productively, you can also just look at this picture.

Inform yourself about discussion points, and check your own fundamentals before you deal with the foundations of the opponent’s arguments. Gut feeling is no substitute for your own mental work.

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How to Train Yourself to Be a More Rational Thinker

Discover how to increase your rational thinking and improve your decision making.

Matt Hutson New York Read Summary

You can never be sure that you know why the other person thinks the way he/she thinks. Try to put yourself in his or her shoes. Be content with simply listening from time to time, and plan to hear out the person’s story to achieve a level of shared meaning. This way you will also uncover illogical or ideological patterns – in you and in others.

When you speak to each other, it is important to speak at eye level – that is, as long as the subject is not below the belt – because even the best understanding must stop somewhere. Before you get to your “red line,” try to ask good questions instead of making speeches.

Ask the Right Questions

Do you know what they say about the Swiss? They tend to be slow and stoic. It may be that some mountain farmers express these traits in rocky solitude, but, in general, there is a misunderstanding here: In Switzerland, people like to let each other finish, then think about what they have said or heard – and only then do they respond. As you can imagine, this procedure takes time. In Switzerland, much more is asked than preached, whether in the village pub or at lunch in the company. In Swiss German, people even lift their voice towards the end of most simple sentences – something that, in school German, characterizes question sentences only.

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Questions Are the Answer

Bold questions can lead to great innovations and are essential to human progress.

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Ask More

Knowing how to ask the right kinds of questions leads to greater clarity and understanding.

Frank Sesno AMACOM Read Summary
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A More Beautiful Question

Use questions to ignite creativity, find new perspectives and shake things up.

Warren Berger Bloomsbury USA Read Summary
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Ask the Right Question!

The more you work on your conversations, thinking deliberately about what you want to ask, the more your conversations will work for you. How to elicit information and get results without more of the same old talk.

Rupert Eales-White McGraw-Hill Education Read Summary

So, try to be more Swiss to smooth out a tricky conversation: Ask questions, let people speak, and only then, react. Never shout. Shouting is as un-Swiss as it is counterproductive.

Make Your Point!

If you have questioned yourself, and have then let your counterpoint speak, you are ready: Make your point! Work with good examples, references, point out contradictions and stay calm. If someone interrupts you, point out that you would also like to speak – but remain calm and objective.

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Fierce Conversations

The harder the conversation is to have, the more important it may be, and the more you have to do it right.

Susan Scott Berkley Read Summary
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Crucial Conversations

The more you just don’t want to talk about it, the more you need to know how to speak up skillfully.

Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler McGraw-Hill Education Read Summary
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How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends

How to step away from the sidelines, get into the conversation and connect with other people.

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The Gift of Struggle

Problems hold the clues to becoming a better leader if you take the time to find the gifts they hold.

Bobby Herrera Bard Press Read Summary

You will find that the sources you cite are not beyond doubt in every situation. You will find that parts of your argumentation cannot and will not be understood – but that’s only of limited importance: It is important to set a good example in discussions. If they don’t lead to anything, you can always stop them.

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Conversation Transformation

Often, it’s not what you say but how you say it that makes all the difference.

Ben E. Benjamin, Amy Yeager and Anita Simon McGraw-Hill Education Read Summary
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Leading Through Language

The language you use helps or hinders you as a leader.

Bart Egnal Wiley Read Summary
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How We Talk

Learn the linguistic secrets behind the conversations you have every day.

N. J. Enfield Basic Books Read Summary

This measured approach and trying will, in itself, help ease the situation. Others will follow your example. Maybe not just Mueller from Finance. But a good, pleasant, objective discussion culture can be established in your company if other employees are inspired to act in a similar way. In polarized times, such cultural lighthouses are especially valuable.

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