The politics of networking or rubbing your contacts up the wrong way

iStock_000005618867XSmallI love networking. I have not been out and about for a few months for reasons beyond my control, but I do like to get out and meet people. It is not just because I like getting business, although it helps, and it is not about the joy of giving a referral. It is just great to talk to others in business and to learn from them and to hear their latest news.

However in a decade of networking meetings face-to-face I have never got involved in a discussion about politics. Politics is very divisive. People get heated. They say unkind things when they discuss an issue. There are ad hominem attacks on individuals whether in the room or otherwise. Networkers-in-person simply know better than to engage in any political discussion beyond the state of the economy, and that is usually talking about the present rather than who is responsible for it, good or bad.

So why do people in normally perfectly nice on-line forums sometimes start political arguments? It is very upsetting if one finds oneself involved, or even, as I read the other day, see one’s own views trashed by proxy. Of course I have political views. What reasonably intelligent person does not? I just do not mention them on-line except in pointing out when politicians are simply factually wrong on a subject where I have specialist knowledge.

Even reading someone else’s throwaway comment in a thread on Facebook can be very hurtful, and while it may not be intended, it can put one right off the person, even if socially you really like her / him.

It comes back to being really careful what we say on-line. As I have said before, when I got my amateur radio license or “ticket” a long time ago, we were bound by the ethical instruction not to engage in discussion of politics or religion. It was and is a good rule, and should be applied to business networking. Then we can get on with business without having our feathers ruffled by some unfortunate comment. Can’t we?

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