Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Jan. 20. Rather than soothe the raw partisanship that plagued the election and its aftermath, it seemed to stoke discord, from the boycott by Democratic members of Congress to the massive protests near the White House and continued strife on social media.
So, what is the best way to navigate those thorny, post-inauguration political discussions, especially when they happen at the office or a professional function?
Engage in actual conversation: Expressing your beliefs can be done in a way not destined for a political brawl. For example, citing research and concrete reasons why your views skew a certain way encourages intellectual discourse, as opposed to a war of opinions. Just as you want to express your beliefs, be courteous and let others express theirs, even if you disagree.
Be civilized in presenting conflicting beliefs: It’s inevitable that disagreements will arise. When they do, handle them with respect. For example: “That’s an interesting viewpoint, and you raise some valid points. However, my research reveals ...” Never raise your voice, reveal anger, abruptly walk away or make it personal.
Exercise your right to privacy: Keeping your opinion to yourself is professional, and privacy is indeed possible. Have a few authentic statements in your arsenal: “After such a contentious election and the inauguration, I’m keeping my opinion to myself. I appreciate your interest and wish you the best in 2017.” By acknowledging and thanking them for their interest, you defer a sticky political conversation and maintain privacy.
Try these phrases to end the conversation before it gets heated:
• “Thanks for sharing your views on the inauguration; it certainly gives me something to consider.”
• “I’m uncomfortable discussing politics at social events, but I enjoyed visiting with you.”
• “Gotta get back to work. See you at our next lunch meeting.”
Or, consider a segue to a new topic:
• “Mike, thanks for that post-inauguration update. Sally, you mentioned a best-selling book you were reading. Will you share more, please?”
• “Post-inauguration 2017 will be interesting. Who has spring break travel plans?”
• “Has anyone seen the Golden Globe-winning movie ‘Manchester by the Sea?’ ”
• “Who else has seen the new exhibit at the museum?”
Above all else, be tactful, polite and remember that educated responses allow you to cordially engage, or respectfully decline whenever these inevitable conversations cross your path. We all understand and recognize respect.
Sharon Schweitzer is an international etiquette expert, author and founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide.