Discussing your political beliefs at the office usually ranks high in lists of career-limiting moves, unless you work in politics and maybe even then…
Either way, it’s frowned upon and well, perhaps it should be. There are few quicker ways to guarantee you will upset someone, so it’s usually suggested that those conversations simply don’t happen. But how can you separate politics from your life at work, especially if you’re in a career that is affected by politics (such as mining) or if it simply is an election year and the primary story in the news?
I’m not sure, so that’s probably why I occasionally indulge in political discussions there, even if it means taking a risk. In my quest to figure out how a moderate like me should be voting, I feel it’s important for me to have those discussions with really smart people like my coworkers and be willing to be challenged in my beliefs.
All too often, I find myself responding with gut feelings towards issues and I suspect that I’m not alone in that regard. What makes each of us respond a certain way to a Democrat or a Republican? What is at our core that makes us react the way we do? Is it our religious beliefs? Education? Job? Family history? Why do you choose the news source that you do, when the opposing news source just simply irks you or makes you roll your eyes, sigh and think to yourself “I can’t believe anyone believes this bull$%it.”
A coworker recently asked me why I didn’t like a certain political candidate and all I could think of as a response was, “I just don’t. He just makes my skin crawl and I’m fairly certain he’s evil.” I said that I knew I had better reasons than that, but at that moment, that was the best I could do. Everything I read or hear about that candidate makes me angry or sad or both, but when it came down to a list of concrete reasons, I froze up and instead thought of the intentionally inflammatory headlines.
Why do I automatically believe and get fired up about every negative story in the media about the one candidate and not the other?
Is that fair?
Is it common?
I suspect so.
A few months ago (although it may have been a year, time flies), a study came out that demonstrated that people surround themselves with opinions that match their own. We are apparently uncomfortable with opinions that differ from our own, to the extent that many people will “unfriend” people that post opposing political views on their Facebook pages.
That’s pretty weak. If your opinion has that flimsy of a base, then perhaps it’s time to reconsider that opinion. And if you’re that opposed to different opinions, then it’s time to reassess your views towards that pesky first amendment of ours.
We shouldn’t isolate ourselves into little clans with similar views and we shouldn’t insulate ourselves from the world at large, as frustrating as we may find it. And we should be respectful of others’ political views, no matter how incredibly dumb we think they are at the moment.
And we will. Find other opinions dumb that is. Because those opinions challenge ours and to accept those opinions as plausible would mean that we would have to accept that our opinions and worldview just may be wrong.
Or we’re just guilty of arrogance when it comes to political views, which is sort of a shame because then we’re closed off to learning from the other half of people that we share this country with or at least a place of employment.
Yep, sort of a shame…
My challenge to those of you who read this (and to myself) is for the next week, time allowing, actually read the articles posted by others that you disagree with politically. But go into it with the same attitude you would want them to have to your candidate. Read them without preset disgust or anger. Read them from the point-of-view of someone with a different background or current life status as you. I’m not saying you need to change your mind, but at least begin to understand why the other half feels the way they do. It’ll only help you cement your beliefs.
And don’t be scared to talk to your coworkers, they just might teach you a thing or two.