Your question: Do you think it's a good idea to discuss politics and religion at work? I love to talk politics and religion, but I don't want to offend someone. What are some tips to talking about complicated, or often controversial, subjects at work.
My answer: Good question. Most people will advocate not talking politics or religion at work in order to not risk offending someone and potentially losing their business. Of course when you work in a hospital this is of utmost importance because you are in business of helping your patient feel better, not worse because of what you said.
However, I'm of the belief, that if you use common sense, you can talk about just anything. The bottom line here is you must realize that life is stressful, and every person must do, or believe, what they need to in order to get through life.
The key is, you are best not to just walk into a patient's room and just start rambling about your political and religious beliefs. It's best to let the patient invite you into a discussion, or find some creative way to encourage the patient to open the discussion.
For instance, if the patient doesn't open up the discussion, I usually look for cues in the room to start a discussion from. For instance, if I have a patient who has a Bible on the table, that means the person probably believes in God. So I might ask something like, "What is your favorite passages in the Bible?" Or, sometimes I ask, "If a non-believer came into this room, what one passage in the Bible would you recommend to convince him?"
What is the patient watching on TV? If they are watching Fox News, chances are they are conservative. If they are watching any other news channel, chances are they are a liberal. Still, to make certain, you could ask a simple question about the news program that is currently on. You might ask: "So, what do you think about that? If the topic is Obamacare, you might ask: "So, what do you think about Obamacare?"
Of course you will need to be careful, because once you open this bag of worms, you might get an answer you don't expect. Regardless, even if the person has polar opposite views as you, you can still safely tread these waters. Just try to be open minded and noncontroversial, until you are invited to be controversial. If you adamantly oppose the person's view, you might say something like, "That's an interesting view."
The thing to remember is that most people love to talk about things that interest them, which means politics and religion should not be ruled out as topics of discussion. Some people thrive off intelligent discussions, and that does not mean they have to be intelligent discussions with people they see eye to eye with.
Think of it this way, if you have an idea that will make the world better, or help someone feel better about life, what good would it do if you did not share that idea? It would do no good. So, the only way ideas will be shared is in the arena of ideas.
Just be careful to tread lightly. Feel the waters and see how it goes. Play it by ear. If the water doesn't feel safe, back away or change the subject.
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