Avoiding Awkward Political Conversations

We recently wrote about how to disagree about politics without friendship – but what if you really want to avoid the conversation altogether?

You might be talking to a complete stranger, and engaging in heated debate may seem like more effort than it’s worth – you just want to get away quickly. Or your interlocutor is a colleague who does not want to change his views. Or you are dealing with a son-in-law on Thanksgiving and are desperate not to hate them.

If you want to avoid tense political debate in the office or at the dinner table, here are some simple strategies for dealing with the unrelenting yeller problem.


When I feel uncomfortable, my tactics with strangers often involve jumping to a topic that is mostly non-controversial. On a recent flight involving red eyes, I sat next to someone who was eager to participate in a political discussion. When I realized that facts would not change her mind, I immediately changed the subject to how awful flying is. Fortunately, the topic of politics was not (for a moment) discussed, despite our serious disagreements.

In a story for the New York Times, our friend Rob Walker made similar suggestions for disagreement in the workplace that can apply to any setting you find yourself in. what’s on the news, do you mind if we talk about football (or something else) instead? Or, I don’t know, about our work? “- he wrote. “… Remember that you are better off expressing contempt for such conversations in general than just advocating biased views that you do not like.” It’s easy – talk about the weather, traffic jams, and any other social topic that won’t get you both in hot water.

Be honest but tactful

If they still don’t subside, CNBC suggests being more outspoken, especially if you feel their views are at odds with yours. They suggest expressing something like, “I disagree, but this is an interesting point that you are talking about.” This is a concise way to express disagreement without letting the conversation continue. (Of course, if it’s not really interesting and doesn’t really fit your views, drop the second half of the sentence entirely.) If they ask you more, just make it clear that you have different views without diving. why.

I agree I disagree

If the conversation is already heating up, then it’s time to be honest and cut it off as soon as it comes to a turn; Make it clear that given your different views, the political conversation will end badly for either of you. The simple “I don’t want to talk about politics” also works. On a recent Reddit thread, u / anisaf5 suggests finding something to do if politics is a frequent topic in your meetings .

“So instead of having a big dinner with everyone sitting around the table and talking to each other, a project, game or movie will keep them busy and provide a natural topic of conversation,” they wrote. “Likewise, people tend to become more aggressive when drinking alcohol, minimizing the amount of alcohol at the event is likely to reduce regret later on.”

If you’re at work with someone whose views are so radical, it might be worth talking to an HR or executive, especially if you feel uncomfortable with their views. Set your own boundaries, and if they do cross them, you have every right to participate or not to participate in the discussion when it gets personal. (Here’s our guide on how to get someone to shut up if you need to.)


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