Diane Massey | Mind your Manners: How to politely discuss politics in a stormy political climate

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Editor's note: We believe good manners are timeless, that's why we're introducing a once-a-month etiquette column offering you tips and advice on how to handle real-life situations.

With only weeks to go until an historic election, break rooms and social gatherings are buzzing with political conversation. Our next leader of the free world may be the former host of a realty TV show or the first woman ever to hold the Office of President.

Opinions are strong. Secretly, some Republicans are voting the Democratic ticket and Democrats fear defectors in their own ranks. Families, friends, colleagues and even spouses are on opposing sides. Divisive indeed!

How does one chart a course on the open waters of this year's election, one where conversation no longer stops with "We shouldn't talk about politics"? Modern manners and political protocol play a role in creating healthy dialogue in awkward, even angry moments. You can navigate the storm with finesse. Don't abandon ship.

Here are some etiquette tips to keep you a float in a sea of very strong head wind:

• Be prepared: Inevitably, someone will talk politics. Educate yourself in advance. At a minimum, know each candidate's core beliefs.

• Batten down the hatches: During stormy conversation be curious not confrontational. Listen more than talk. You may learn something new.

• Practice polite politics: Don't pull any punches. Even if you disagree, keep your tone steady and your voice down.

• No shaming: With close friends, shaming and guilt often come into play. Stay away from statements like, "I can't believe you are seriously going to vote for XX. I thought you were smarter than that?" "What Kool-Aid are you drinking, you are seriously voting for XX?"

• Be savvy: Don't start a political dialogue by asking someone how he or she intends to vote. It's invasive.

• Go about and tack: Keep good topics in your toolbox to change the course of the conversation. Approach subjects such as the media's impact on politics or how a third-party candidate might impact the election.

• Keep it simple: This is not the time for a heated debate. Your role is to ask for and receive information and then offer neutral statements.

• Know how to exit gracefully: Like networking, have an exit strategy ready to change course. Consider one of these statements: "I have some new insight. Thank you." Or "We simply may have to agree to disagree, but I've enjoyed our chat."

• Keep your cool: Don't be the person to express anger or hostility. By going too far you will sink the mood and possibly cause the relationship to capsize.

• Vote: Some would even say it's proper American etiquette! If you don't vote, you have no reason to complain.

Diane Massey formed the Berkshire School of Etiquette in 2014 and trained at the American School of Protocol in Atlanta, Ga. Her sought-after seminars empower individuals with the knowledge and skills of modern day etiquette to take action personally and professionally with confidence and courtesy, in a spirit of cooperation and awareness of others, every day in every way. www.berkshireschoolofetiquette.com/


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