The 2016 presidential campaign has sparked more political debate — on screen and in real life — than we’ve seen in ages. With so much wall-to-wall coverage and so many provocative sound bites from the candidates (one in particular…) it’s almost impossible to avoid getting roped into an uncomfortable exchange.
It’s one thing to have a lively back-and-forth with like-minded friends but family, the office and especially social media can be minefields filled with cans of worms that are best left unopened. To keep yourself above the fray, you need an exit strategy in place for those times when a political discussion starts turning into a political debate.
Stop it Before it Starts
If you’re in a situation where you know you have different views than those around you — especially if you feel passionate about your position — disengage ASAP. Make an excuse to step away, say you don’t like to talk about politics or just keep quiet until the conversation changes course.
NEVER Assume Anything
This campaign has been so over the top that it’s easy to assume any sane person must see things the way you do, but you’d be surprised. Politics makes strange bedfellows after all. This is especially important at work — be careful not to make off-hand comments about the latest controversy. People on the other side of political debates feel just as strongly as you do and many take insulting comments about their candidate very personally. The same goes for family members.
Be Very Careful on Social Media
If you think no one is paying attention to your posts, you could be wrong. Things get tagged, liked, reposted, retweeted…and they never go away. Not to mention all the trolls out there just waiting for fresh blood to entice into a nasty exchange. This goes for things you like, retweet, etc. too. Besides family and friends, prospective employers check out your feeds as part of the hiring process.
According to Intel’s 2012 Mobile Etiquette survey, “90 percent of U.S. adults think others share too much information online, and 23 percent of U.S. adults said that the sharing of touchy subjects—such as politics—is a pet peeve for them.” And that was 2012! This goes double in 2016.
Can’t We All Just Get Along?
If you do wind up in an awkward political debate — and you probably will before November — don’t let things get out of control, take a breath and remember sometimes you’ve got to simply agree to disagree.