Should we share our political and social opinions with others in the process of business networking? Do we openly espouse our positions or present a neutral or vague opinion? Personally, I keep most of my deeply held political and social positions to myself, primarily so I can deal with a wide variety of people without polarizing them. The question is not whether we have such opinions, but whether we want others to know about them in a business setting. One school of thought is that we should stand up for what we believe about politics, religion, rearing of children, race, abortion, or the legalization of marijuana. The counter position is that we need to keep such opinions out of business conversations because they are polarizing.
I have been in sales for almost thirty years, and during that time have dealt with people of every conceivable political, religious, and social opinion. Though some might have discerned my leanings, I have been very careful not to reveal too much about my deeply held values. It is not relevant to the business we are conducting. Why present something that could negatively taint the business conversation? There is another side to this issue, and that is the possibility of establishing a higher level of rapport when we do share opinions with others. So if we are a Democrat and find out the other person is also a Democrat, there could be some value in talking politics is we are fairly certain there is a common ground. This is analogous to finding out that someone attended the same school as you. I went to UCLA, so when I find out someone else went to UCLA I might make a comment about our common alma mater. When I find out someone went to USC, I usually don’t make a comment about it. I am not interested in debating which school is better, and it could lead to bad feelings. Besides, because I do business in Los Angeles, I am perfectly happy having positive relationships with both Bruins and Trojans. I have nothing to gain by getting into an argument with my Trojan friends.
It is quite possible to get to know people well without delving into political discussions and debates. There is a time and place for such discussions. Some people will say they don’t care what your opinions are, but there could be a negative effect from knowing too much about another’s opinions. You have the right to share or not share your opinions if asked. What is your position and opinion on this topic? There is of course no obligation to share your opinion, but you can do so if you choose.