We are living in complicated times, friends. People seem to be up in arms over everything. Take this week’s brouhaha over Nike deciding to include Colin Kaepernick in a new campaign. There seem to be two very distinct opinions regarding the company’s decision, and neither side is pulling any punches.
Once upon a time ago, our opinions were kept to ourselves or shared with a few close friends or family members. We now live in a world where people air their STRONGEST opinions publicly on Facebook or Twitter. Even the President of the United States takes to Twitter to share his unfettered thoughts.
It seems like it’s no longer enough to have an opinion. You have to share it, and then attack anyone who doesn’t share your same views, and the behavior is crossing over from people’s personal lives to the workplace.
So how do you rise above the fray? Stacey Engle, EVP at Fierce Conversations offers this advice:
Ask yourself, what is my intent?
If you are considering approaching a political topic, or if you are brought into one, be sure to question your intention and desired outcome. This can help put the conversation into perspective, and potentially avoid discussions that come from a less-than-genuine place. Do not start a conversation to gloat, to undermine or to simply drum up drama under any circumstance.
Watch your language
As a rule in any contentious conversation, instead of using “but” after validating someone’s opinion, use “and.” Example: “Yes I see your view, and I feel differently” instead of “Yes I see your view, but I feel differently.” Hear the difference? “And” is more inclusive.
Everyone has a story, and you likely don’t know someone’s full background, or the person’s reasons for believing what he or she does. This can also lead to individuals being more passionate about certain topics that are personal to them. Try to keep this in mind during every interaction, and be respectful of people’s past and how it relates to their beliefs today.
If you ever feel uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to simply say that this is a topic you don’t want to discuss, or that you’d like to revisit at another time. You should never feel pressured to discuss topics or state your opinion when you don’t want to. If this request isn’t respected, it’s time to speak with your boss or HR.
Address behavior if necessary
If there is someone specific who is causing tension, have a conversation in a one‐to‐one setting. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, ask your boss for help to best prepare. Ultimately, talking about behavior change is a skill, and it can be learned. Those conversations can also enrich the relationship!