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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

The Science-Backed Method to Discussing Politics at Work Without Making Enemies

serious conversation
Izabela Habur/Getty Images

Last night’s election will likely be all anyone’s discussing at the office today. While there’s nothing wrong with having conversations about non-work things while at work, these kinds of discussions can get pretty heated, pretty quickly.

Well, what if we told you that we’ve got the perfect formula for approaching these politically-charged moments?

It’s actually a lot more obvious than you think: According to a recent study in the Harvard Business Review, there are four things necessary for having a productive, persuasive, and friendly conversation about politics—a focus on learning from one another, an ask for permission to engage in a debate, a show of respect for the other person’s opinion, and a focus on sharing the same goals and purpose.

It’s how you tackle any professional debate, right? You put your emotions aside, you keep things polite, and you open your mind to the other side of the argument.

What’s fascinating about this study is this technique also applies when you’re in support of your colleagues: “These same labels held true even when the observers had the same opinion as the actor. That’s right—even when you agree, how you share your view risks alienating friends and weakening relationships. Our findings suggest that whether you agree or disagree with another person matters much less than how you share your opinion.”

So, this discovery isn’t just about political disputes, but all conversations. If we’re not open to even listening, or respectful in how we confront someone, we risk pushing people away from wanting to talk or listen. And no matter how passionate we are about something, it’s not worth losing the people we look up to or care about.

Don’t be afraid to challenge your co-workers, but before you jump head first into a heated argument, consider testing out this strategy first. After all, unless you’re planning to quit the day after the election, you’ll be working with these people for a long time.