How To Get Out Of An Unwanted Political Conversation In The Office

Barack Obama retaining the US presidency will be a major topic of conversation today, and with an election for Australia due next year, political conversation around the office isn't about to dry up. But what about when you just want to put your head down and get some work done? Here's how to get out of those conversations and stay focused.

Picture by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Get Out As Fast Possible

The easiest way to get out of a time-sucking political conversation is to stop it before it starts. It's all about pushing the conversation away from you. For a brief escape, you can excuse yourself and head to the bathroom, but that's not going to end the conversation for the whole day. If a simple "I don't have time for this right now" doesn't have any effect, Psychology Today recommends interrupting and shifting the topic:

Don't feel shy about changing the topic, or directly asking your friend to slow down or stop for a minute so you can have a turn to speak. Given the situation, it isn't rude or impolite. If you're lucky, you may startle the heck out of your friend, disrupt a pattern of one-way conversation, and seize an opportunity to speak and be heard.

If you can, switch back to a work related issue and move along with your day. You can also use body language to convey you're not interested in the conversation. Those tactics could including packing up your bag, mentioning a meeting or deadline you have to meet, or simply averting your gaze from the chatterboxes.

If you don't want to cut the conversation off completely, the Vancouver Sun suggests a different approach:

Approach the talker and say, "I noticed you came by this morning to talk to me. I want to let you know that the best time to talk to me is when I'm not busy. When I'm busy, I focus on what I'm doing and I can't talk. So, if it is something really important, let me know quickly and I'll come by later and get the information."

The bottom line: if you're not interested, don't get involved, and don't let the conversation strike up around you. Photo by Lazurite

Don't Encourage Negativity

Political outcomes we disagree with make us unhappy and give us a negative focus. As we've noted before, one way to handle this situation is to divert the conversation into something more positive:

[P]eople bellyache just to get attention. [Author and speaker Will Bowen] suggests giving the complainer a different kind of attention by asking, ' "What's going well for you?" They'll look at you like you're crazy at first,' but persist and "the person will either switch topics or stop talking to you. Either way, you don't have to listen to them any more."

Doing this can get the conversation away from a long-winded political rant and toward something more productive. That said, if things are still leaning toward the negative, Psychology Today suggests you simply share a positive story instead:

Take the risk to start a new conversation with something good that is happening now.

If nothing else, it might get the conversation off the political track so you can return to work quickly. Photo by joaquin uy

Hide Under Your Headphones

If the political conversations just keep coming at you all day long, it might be time to put on a set of headphones to block out the chatter. As we've noted before, a good set of headphones usually signals to people you don't want to be disturbed. If you don't have headphones for music, but your office has headsets for your phones, those can do the trick as well.

If hiding behind a set of headphones isn't working, see if you can move your workstation for the day, or convince your boss to let you work from home for the day. It's an extreme measure, but if you seriously need to get things done it might be your only choice. Photo by Jon B


    "Approach the talker and say, “I noticed you came by this morning to talk to me. I want to let you know that the best time to talk to me is when I’m not busy. When I’m busy, I focus on what I’m doing and I can’t talk. So, if it is something really important, let me know quickly and I’ll come by later and get the information.”"

    Yeah... Way to sound like an uptight, socially awkward git. I find these articles kind of ridiculous. If you don't want to discuss politics, why not just say something along the lines of, "Sorry to cut you off but I've really gotta get back to work, on deadline, you know how it is."

    What sort of places do you people work at where you can't just say to a person "I really don't want to get in a political discussion right now, they usually don't end well and i don't want to get into an argument" ? What's wrong with honesty?

    I had a boss who voted down the other side of the line, gave me shit whenever he had the chance about my views on politics. Keep your politics to yourself, or expect to be targeted by Liberal voting wankers. Never forget, your boss is the enemy.

    Nothing wrong with ending a discussion with the phrase, "let's agree to disagree"

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