Tips for Talking Politics: PR Edition
Over the past month, we have all watched one of the most highly anticipated presidential elections play out before us. It’s been stressful, confusing, messy, and hard, and in many of our cases, it’s probably led to some pretty intense and emotionally charged conversations. As PR professionals, we’re taught to tap into our emotional intelligence when having those tough conversations, but that can sometimes be easier said than done.
So what is the most effective way to communicate when you find yourself face to face with someone on the opposite side of the political spectrum? And what are some tips you should keep in mind?
Outline goals & desired outcomes
Identify why you’re engaging in discussion and what you hope to achieve. Do you want to change the other person’s mind? Understand where they’re coming from? Help them see your side? Are you okay with cutting ties with that person if your ethical standards don’t align? Whatever you hope to gain from the conversation, set a clear intention going in.
Do your homework
Make sure you have credible facts and information to back up your thoughts and claims.
Talk through potential conflict with yourself or a friend. Although the conversation may play out differently than you expected, practicing possible outcomes can help you feel more confident heading into the situation. You should also try and identify trigger words and phrases that may cause you to get emotional. Set boundaries for yourself so you aren’t afraid to end the conversation if you start to feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
Be process-oriented instead of content-oriented
It’s easy to get wrapped up in how much you disagree with what someone is saying. So when things start to get heated, try focusing on how things are being communicated between the two of you rather than what’s being communicated. Using a calm and respectful tone can make all the difference.
Speak your truth
Sharing a personal experience allows people to see the greater ‘why’ behind these political ideologies. This approach can be more effective when trying to get someone to see your perspective.
Be an active listener
You can’t expect someone to listen to you if you are not willing to listen to them. Two ways to show your engagement in the conversation include 1) acknowledging what the other person is saying, even though you may disagree, and 2) asking questions to gain insight and understanding.
Look at things from different perspectives
Considering multiple outlooks can help you find the root cause of the problem and help you work toward a solution that incorporates the needs and feelings of everyone involved.
Emotions may be high immediately following a political conversation, so it’s okay to take a moment to assess how you feel and figure out what’s best for you moving forward.