By Dana Gornitzki
Not so long ago, one dared not speak about political leanings at the office or at the dinner table – in fact, it was almost seen as gauche.
However, as times change so do the rules of social graces. In our modern era, sharing opinions is very popular especially in the prolific world of social networking where one can easily hide behind the veil of the computer screen.
As election time in the United Kingdom fast approaches, more and more people want to discuss opinions on party policies, break down candidates’ views (and abundant appearances at schools and hospitals), and even share opinions of leading ladies’ fashions.
Here are three important social graces to remember as politics and UK elections climb up the trending conversation topics:
Sharing is caring
Not only do tools like Facebook or Twitter make it easy to discuss the often delicate topic of political opinion, but gentlepeople seem to have no problem with openly disagreeing if not attacking others who may be otherwise politically inclined.
Remember that a difference in opinion is a very good thing, indeed. Express yourself, but remain tactful and open to fellow opinions – even when you find the view contrary to yours. Also it’s important to say what you would feel comfortable saying in person.
It’s by sharing that we end up seeing some posts including creative political humour (it’s true, the two words can go side by side), revelatory video footage, and unreported material – all the upsides to the participatory nature of the internet cannon.
You never know, you may learn a few things along the way and open your mind to opinions you may have never otherwise thought about. Fact.
Agree to disagree
People, especially on the internet cannon have different opinions. This is, of course, wonderful so we should embrace the open debate. However important it is to share opinions and engage in open discourse, remember that your opinion may not be someone else’s. When conversation gets a bit too heated, make sure to listen, not curse (never, you’re a gentleperson) and respond without YELLING or TYPING in CAPITAL LETTERS. There’s no need to shout, we can hear you.
Christopher Middleton, etiquette savant and author of Behave! A Guide To Modern Manners:
“Time was, people simply accepted their differences and shook hands. I mean, if Roundheads and Cavaliers could collectively overcome the divisions caused by the English Civil War, then surely it’s possible for two next-door neighbours to swallow their differences on the merits or otherwise of tree-pollarding.”
If it’s too hot in the cyber kitchen, then keep on clicking…
Let’s face it, you’re going to read and hear things about politics that you may not like or even disagree with.
Just imagine you’re at a dinner party, and your neighbour to the right says something that you find completely abhorrent (we’ve all been there); the elegant and correct thing to do is take a deep breath and change the topic… just move on. There are plenty of other people to speak and debate with.
The same rules apply on social networks where we’re all invited to share our opinions. If you feel uncomfortable and not willing to engage in further conversation, have an exit strategy ready and politely extricate yourself from the banter that can sometimes become toxic.
Diana Mather, etiquette expert and founder of Public Image suggests breaking up the heated conversation:
“It used to be considered impolite to discuss politics with anyone but close friends as it was considered an invasion of privacy, but today people are much more open… However, it is still not the done thing to ask anyone how they vote - that is their business! Also, if the conversation starts to get heated it is important to change the subject.”