In the political season, tensions are often high and conversations can be heated or even non-existent. Below are some ways to maintain and build relationships rather than do damage that could hang around after the discussion and after the election. Here are 5 steps to help you positively engage and communicate by one of the leading experts on fear and bias, Rosalie Chamberlain, also author of the new book, Conscious Leadership in the Workplace: A Guidebook to Making a Difference One Person at a Time.
By Rosalie Chamberlain
In the political season, tensions are often high and conversations can be heated or even non-existent. But let’s consider the impact on your current workplace, your community, neighborhood, or wherever you find yourself stuck in a sticky situation where politics come up. Chances are in any of these situations, you have existing relationships with others. What are some ways to maintain and build relationships rather than do damage that could hang around after the discussion and after the election? Here are 5 steps to help you positively engage and communicate.
1. Start with noticing what happens when an opposing perspective exists. Do you automatically defend your position and dismiss the other perspective because you disagree? If you are convinced you have the right answer, then you may be in for a tense discussion or looking for the quickest exit. If this is the case, notice if you are now judging the person who has an opposite viewpoint or prefers a different candidate. Now, if this is someone you have regular interactions with, judgment of them is not going to enhance that relationship. Keep in mind while you may not agree or even respect some of the views of another party or platform, judgment of the person is not the route to go.
2. When there are differences of opinion and you want to have a conversation, are you interested in having a dialogue or a debate? If you only partially listen to what is being said because you are preparing your rebuttal, then you are on a debate trajectory. During political seasons, debates are frequent and popular, and their purpose is to have a winner and a loser. Determine if a win/lose situation is what you are going for, and if you have decided that maintaining a relationship is more important, be cognizant of the tendency to respond to what has been said with “yes, but…” because it is one of the quickest ways to hijack a discussion and make it a debate. There are times for healthy debate to examine ideas and determine what will be the best solution. However, when every response is a contrary position without acknowledging and exploring someone else's idea, the motivation for the other person to contribute will wane and eventually fall away - or they will walk away. Be interested in learning.
3. What does your energy say about you? Your energy sends a message to others. It can be welcoming, inclusive or it can be divisive, combative and ready to pounce and defend or it can show complete disinterest. Sometimes energy comes across as victimized and puts the blame on others or the establishment. At some point, we each have to take responsibility for our own beliefs and participation in a process. It is often said that if you don’t vote, don’t complain. Consider taking this to heart and realize that we each have the ability to approach situations with an attitude of curiosity, interest and ultimately collaboration.
4. Be aware when you think someone of a different group is going to be a ‘certain way’ such as trustworthy, not trustworthy, too quiet, too aggressive, or any other automatic judgment that drives your behavior. Like judgments placed on others that hold different perspectives, judgments of an entire group is not helpful. Strive to get to know the individual. See if there is someplace in which you have commonality. After all, at the very least, you may live in the same country. Stereotyping entire groups is not helpful in any situation. It does not feel good to be stereotyped and in a political environment, that is an experience almost everyone has had or will have at some point. People have individual qualities that are overlooked because of the air of tension, fear and defensiveness that constantly exists.
5. Do you work toward creating a more inclusive environment or take sides, adding to the obvious tensions around you? Whether you avoid a topic or jump in and join the conversation, communication is important. Effective communication is going to be the best way to build and maintain a culture of openness that ultimately will need to include collaboration and respect. Several things you can do to be aware of how you are showing up are to notice your language and its impact and notice your willingness to learn and genuinely engage in conversations.
Becoming more aware of how you respond to others and situations is important for successful relationships. Now, as much as at any time, the need for civility, respect and looking for common interest is incredibly important. Each and every person can make a difference and put a stop to the climate of anger and meanness that has a tendency to surface in the political season.
Rosalie Chamberlain is the Owner of Denver, CO-based Rosalie Chamberlain Consulting & Coaching. A thirty-five year organizational culture and eighteen year coaching veteran, she specializes in maximizing talent andproductivity within organizations. She is a skilled consultant, facilitator, coach and speaker in the areas of diversity and inclusion strategy, multicultural competency, leadership development, and talent management, with expertise in managing and leveraging diverse talent.
Previously, Chamberlain was a Diversity & Inclusion Manager for a national American Lawyer Top 100 law firm. She received her diversity and inclusion credentials from Cornell University’s Institute for Labor & Relations (ILR) and was certified through the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching and the International Coaching Federation. To learn more visit www.rosaliechamberlainconsulting.com and connect on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Her new book, Conscious Leadership in the Workplace, is available on Amazon as well as other online booksellers.