With my first name being Hilary, you can imagine what my life has been like since Bill Clinton was in office. Whenever I introduce myself to someone for the first time, including at the office, I inevitably hear the words “Oh, like Hillary Clinton”. Yes, same name, different spelling. I never get “Oh, like Hilary Duff” or “Oh, like Hilary Swank” or even “Oh, like Sir Edmund Hillary, first person to climb Mount Everest”. Nope, it’s always Hillary Clinton.
And now with the famous Hillary running for President, the frequency in which I hear that expression has increased tenfold. What’s interesting about sharing the same first name as the potential next President of the United States (which for the first time in American history is a female name!), is that I’m never really sure how to react. Does the other person love Hillary? Or is he or she a Trump supporter?
So it happens, and shortly after Hillary’s name is dropped, I am immediately thrust into a topic of conversation that many in polite societies say you should never discuss in public: politics.
Imagine it’s your first day of work, and I just met you for the first time and we are already off and running on a conversation on politics, just because I happen to share a presidential candidate’s somewhat uncommon first name. This is a side street I never wanted to turn down, at least so early in our acquaintance! No matter what ensues from here, I will quickly learn how you feel about Hillary Clinton, or Democrats in general, or Republicans, or if you love Donald Trump. And truth be told, I can’t even discuss these topics with my family and close friends without upsetting someone. Yet, here we are maybe thirty seconds into our introduction and I’m not sure if we’re about to start arguing over taxing the rich or giving free state college education to students. How did we end up here?
What’s next? Shall we discuss religions of the world and atheism? Talk about how much we bring home in salary each year? I’m cringing as I type this.
Politics is just one of those topics that’s, shall we say, difficult to discuss with others at your workplace. Like religion, personal finances, and a select few other taboo topics, politics can bring out the best and worst in others. If you disagree about a political viewpoint, things could get heated and uncomfortable pretty quickly. It’s really not worth jeopardizing your work relationships just to discuss your personal stance on today’s hot topics. Yes, healthy debate is always a good thing, and much can be learned from simply listening to an opposing point. But if candidates from the same party can’t even debate gracefully on national television with each other, who can?
Thankfully we live in the US, where you can have your opinion and voice it without legal ramifications (within reason, of course). But with that comes great responsibility. We are free to say how we feel or think about things, but we have to be able to accept how others feel about it as well, even if we fundamentally disagree with everything they believe. That’s a tough pill to swallow sometimes.
And because of all that, everyone is just better off if you simply keep politics out of the office. Throw out a “How ‘bout them Red Sox?” instead. I promise you’ll thank me.