What I’m listening to: Hardliners by Holcombe Waller
I get to play today! Jenn Mattern and I have a date to do some collaborative projects, and I get to sit in her comfy chair and love up her dog and cats.
I love freelance writing. 🙂
Yet because we work with a variety of people and temperaments, sometimes the job can require more tact than we think we can muster. It’s never been more obvious than this past year during the nastiest election cycle I’ve ever seen.
From the time the candidates announced until this very day, the vitriol and hate has been elevated beyond anything any of us could have expected.
Some of it is coming from your clients.
And it’s horrible for their business. No matter what your political opinion is, half of your audience isn’t going to like it.
Way to limit your business, right?
I’m not one to bite my tongue a lot, but in business, I do my best to keep my personal opinions to myself. I’m not always successful (and you’ll find plenty of proof of that fact on Twitter), but I try to temper it. Why? Because my personal battles never belong in my professional life. That’s me. You may think differently, and you’re welcome to. But remember that half the people who are listening don’t agree.
So what happens when your client voices his or her opinion loudly and to every corner of the internet?
Become Switzerland. When I see it (and I do right now), I avoid the topic entirely. I make like it’s not happening, like their opinions aren’t out there, that they’re not relevant to me (and they’re really not)… call it burying your head if you will, but I will not enter into a war of words with my clients over anything, including politics. And no one ever wins points when they’re shouting.
Never bring it up with them. Ever. There’s a reason why our vote is a secret ballot. No one needs to know my vote or my views. It’s not relevant to the relationship. What’s relevant is the business relationship. I would no sooner take a client to task over their beliefs than I would take them to task over their religion, their interest in sports, their reading choices, their attire…. If it doesn’t relate directly to the project at hand, it’s not relevant.
Divert. And divert again. I’ve never had a client bring up politics with me directly, though some interview subjects have alluded to the topic. That’s when I change the subject. And I’ll keep changing it and bring them back to the original topic. If it becomes out of hand, I suggest just holding up your virtual stop sign: “We’re getting off track, and I’ve never been all that interested in politics. But I am interested in that last point you were making on X. Can you expand on that thought?”
Be respectful and expect no less. This is business. Even if they bring up politics and try shoving opinions down your throat, it doesn’t matter. We have to conduct ourselves as we would in any other business setting. We can’t take it personally even if we’re burning up inside with anger. If it’s not relevant to the project, it’s not a topic of discussion. Period. And that means you have every right to respectfully ask them to not talk about it. If they can’t respect your wishes, halt the conversation. If they’re belligerent asses about it, you may want to rethink that relationship.
Writers, have you had clients bring up politics or any other taboo topics with you?
How did you respond?
What’s your own opinion about how we as business owners should be addressing such topics in public?