What do you do about discussing politics at the dinner table? I have seen great conversations and I have seen people leave the table in tears. Below are two lists, one that is quite helpful from Dianne Gottsman, the renowned master of etiquette from the Protocol School of Texas, from her website. The other is a more amusing list of dos and don'ts from DK Books.
The art of small talk typically involves staying away from potentially charged topics like politics and religion; instead focusing on more neutral interests, including books, travel or your favorite movie. That said, what’s a savvy lady (or gentlemen) to do when he or she finds the conversation has made a beeline straight towards a heated political debate, with no way out? Take a deep breath and refer to my tips on talking politics below to keep the conversation polite.
1. Allow the other person to state his or her opinion – Don’t interrupt – allow others to make their feelings heard.
2. Ask questions – Even if you disagree with the comments of others, show respect by asking pertinent questions. You may be surprised to learn something new!
3. Keep your voice down to a low roar– Don’t allow yourself to get worked up and start a shouting match with your coworkers or dinner guests.
4. Educate yourself on important issues – It’s important to at least be familiar with the beliefs and platform of each candidate to allow for knowledgeable discussion. Remember, being well-informed is always best!
5. Don’t take it personally – Keep the discussion in perspective and ask yourself how much anxiety and conflict you are willing to undergo at the office or with friends by arguing over who the better candidate may be. Never resort to name calling or shame tactics, “I can’t believe you are that ignorant!”
6. Vote – it’s a cop-out to say, “I don’t like any of the candidates so I’m not going to vote” – if you don’t vote for someone, anyone, you have no room to complain.
7. Politics is not off limits at a dinner party or social event – be prepared! You can answer with “I’m off political debate duty tonight – argue amongst yourselves” and opt out or jump in and make your point. Do what feels right but always keep in mind you are a guest and don’t want to offend your host.
8. Keep it clean – Use your best judgment and keep your interactions civil – you host will thank you for not inciting further furor among his or her guests.
9. Don’t assume that everyone wants to talk politics – Asking someone how he or she intends to vote in the election is invasive unless the information is offered first.
10. Use your sensitivity training – Be mindful of how you are making others feel by voicing your strong opinions and avoid monopolizing the entire conversation with politics. Have other conversation topics handy in your conversational arsenal to pull from when the conversation is too heated.
Wishing You an Engaging and Civil Discussion (and only if you must go there!),
For a more comical look at tips concerning political conversations at the dinner party, we offer a different
12 Fool-Proof Tips for Talking Politics at a Dinner Party
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If there’s one news item you can’t miss these days, it’s the 2016 Presidential election. Whether it’s TV news or social media, pals and pundits alike are weighing in minute-by-minute on debate debacles, primary results, and controversies from Super Tuesday.
With all this going on, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed sometimes. Not sure of the latest political jargon? Want to polish your small talk? Here are 12 fool-proof tips for talking politics at a dinner party.
1. Forgo the traditional flowers and greet the host with a heavy bouquet of national newspapers. Explain that in this fast-paced, globalized world, it’s crucial to stay informed.
2. Show your knowledge of democracy by electing a President, Vice President, and full Cabinet for the party. Periodically hold referendums in the kitchen.
3. When meeting new people, introduce yourself as “Bernie Trump. Sorry, Hillary Sanders. My apologies, those aren’t my names! I can’t get politics off my mind. Anyways, politics, yes?”
4. Make a big show of editing the Wikipedia page for The absence of bicameralism in the state structure of Nebraska on your phone while at the dinner table. When someone asks you to please pass the potatoes, say, “Just one moment, sorry, I have to correct an annotation about quorums in the lower house.”
5. Assemble a miniature Congress out of cutlery on the refreshments table. Call it the Cutlery Congress.
6. Make sure everyone at the party has a chance to see your Top 3 voting outfits. Remind them the general election is a long way away, and you may not go with that color.
7. When you feel out of your depth in the conversation, loudly turn on a politics podcast. Point enthusiastically at your phone. Nod sombrely when necessary.
8. Set up a conference call with your Politics 101 professor from undergrad. Ask her when you can go for that coffee to have a catch-up and talk Socrates.
9. If someone begins to suspect that you may not know what you’re talking about, assure them that you binge-watched season 3 of House of Cards last night.
10. Respond to all points of view with “Yes, I agree. And isn’t the chive dip delicious?”
11. Chair a debate between the host’s cat and dog in the living room. Go straight for the important issues. Use this as an opportunity to show how differences can be resolved.
12. If all else fails: sneak out early for pizza.
Enough silliness – these tips won’t help you at all! For some real political insights, tryHow To Run a Country: 4 Ideas From Extraordinary Americans. Or better yet, pick up The Politics Book. From ancient and medieval philosophers like Confucius and Thomas Aquinas, to revolutionary thought leaders such as Thomas Jefferson and Leon Trotsky, to the voices who have shaped modern politics today, The Politics Bookclearly and simply explains more than 100 groundbreaking ideas in the history of political thought.