We just came back from the polls and will head back in a few days to conclude the 2023 elections in Nigeria. We acknowledge the emotions and tensions in the air, and with the current global and local (Nigeria) political happenings, there is so much to discuss. We wouldn’t advise you to take up a political discussion at work. But if you must (assuming your organisation’s policies don’t discourage it), here is how you should go about it.
Political conversations can quickly get out of hand, especially when you have a preconceived biased idea about the other party in the discussion. This can spirally affect how you perceive their opinion about a matter.
Get into the conversation with an open mind.
If you have had a bad encounter with a colleague before and as a result had built up negative impressions, we advise you not to go into any political discussion with them.
The importance of listening for effective communication cannot be overemphasised. Listening empathically even becomes more important when you need to discuss politics at work.
Listening isn’t about ensuring you wait and do not interrupt the other party when they speak only to share your thoughts after they finish. Listening empathically is trying to understand the views of your colleague about a political matter, and to also understand what has/is shaping their views.
To better understand your colleagues’ views or beliefs about a political matter, you may want to ask questions that will help you better understand their experience and how it has shaped their beliefs.
You can say things like; I had never heard about this side of the story, could you please tell me more?
You have this strong conviction about your ideas, how has this happened?
Showing empathy can help create a friendly atmosphere for a political discussion at work.
Re-construct your views
Now that you have listened empathically, you most likely better understand your colleagues’ opinions and how they were formed. Using this updated knowledge, put your argument forward. This could mean you changing your opinion.
Truth is, before we go into a political argument, we already have our opinion. Instinctively, we may want to hold on to our opinions to come out winning the argument. You must show the emotional intelligence to let go of your opinions based on facts and/or updated information from other parties.
Avoid going into the argument with a mindset to win or win. It is not a game. With such a mindset political arguments can quickly get ugly.
How political discussions end is even more important than how they begin. You do not want to leave any bad blood after such a discussion as this can negatively impact work, going forward.
Now that we can’t shake hands, smile at the other party.
You may want to express your gratitude to them for lending their time for the discussion. Share lessons you have learned (if any).