I received an email this morning from a casual business contact that got me thinking about a lesson I learned many moons ago from a very senior public relations agency professional. It has stuck with me through the years.
The business contact’s email commented on a recent political development and how tremendous it is for democracy and the future of the country. Keep in mind, this is not a longtime, personal friend with whom I’ve ever seriously discussed politics or social perspectives.
He obviously assumed I shared his opinion–to me a dangerous thing to do in a business context.
Whether I do agree with him or not is immaterial. He’s certainly entitled to his opinion. But that brings me to the point my long-ago mentor made about business and engaging clients or prospects in out-of-the-office personal dialogue or chit-chat. “Don’t ever get into politics or religion,” he warned. “Ask about business, family, sports, entertainment, music, travel, the weather–whatever–just don’t get into subjects that can lead to argument, controversy or friction.”
Know what? It’s a cliche, but from my perspective, he was right. When you start getting into the slippery slope of personal conviction and opinion, you have NO idea of where the other person stands . . . you have no idea what his or her reaction might be. It’s one thing in a social setting to engage the client or prospect in non-controversial topical issues of the day. It’s quite another to get into areas which are much more personal–subjects linked to deep-rooted individual morals or beliefs.
Has the email I received this morning affected my opinion of this business contact?
Yes, it has. No, not because of his opinion–as noted at the outset, that didn’t really matter to me–but rather because of his judgment in sending me the email in the first place.
You’re entitled to your opinion; it’s what makes democracy great. Just, as it pertains to business, keep away from the proverbial “Slippery Slope.”