September 26, 2011
In this new age – where the Pope tweets, and tabloid television shows breaking news quicker than reputable news sources – talk about religion and politics is everywhere. So what do you do when your coworker wants to discuss the article and snarky comment you posted on Facebook about Michele Bachmann over lunch? Other than barricade yourself in the bathroom until she forgets about it, you can use these tips to express your views without being offensive, or worse, jeopardizing your credibility.
Play Nice. Remember that saying our mothers used to tell us when we were snotty-nosed and broke? If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it all. Well, it still applies even if you’re still broke and mama isn’t controlling your life. Usually, when people are passionate about something it shows. But passion doesn’t have to be mean-spirited or rude. If you approach people with a smile and an open mind, they may not always agree with you, but they will respect your maturity and levelheadedness.
Listen. It’s hard to stay quiet when someone is trying to tell you the modern day equivalent of "the Earth is flat." This level of inaccuracy can lead even the most levelheaded person to interrupt and correct anyone attempting to pass foolishness off as fact. Nevertheless, even when there's tons of research supporting your opinion, listen to your challenger and let them finish telling you their side before you lay into yours. This goes hand in hand with playing nice, and hopefully will force your opponent to be quiet when it’s your turn to drop knowledge.
Stick to the facts. As easy as it is to form an opinion, it’s easier to form one that can piss someone off. Using cold, hard facts can help you avoid this. It’s pretty hard to dispute information that has already been proven true. People can try, but ultimately, the truth is the truth. When you stick to facts, you’re less likely to come off as silly or misinformed.
Agree to Disagree. After you’ve played nice, listened, and quoted from The New York Times, the fact remains that if Lisa thinks Sarah Palin is the greatest thing since the invention of iPods and Maria wants to name her next child Barack, the chances of them agreeing on major political issues might be slim to none. Sometimes facts can’t persuade people to change longstanding beliefs. When it’s clear you will never see eye-to-eye, agree to disagree and amicably part ways.
My rule of thumb is to never discuss politics and religion with people who don’t know my first, middle and last name, plus at least three hard-to-know facts about me. Still, the rise of new media makes political discourse harder to avoid than the IRS. We should guard our opinions as carefully as we guard our finances. Remember, information can spread remarkably fast with significant consequences.