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On Neutrality, and Respectful Debate, in These Politically-charged Times

Posted By Murphy Pickett, Tuesday, April 4, 2017
On neutrality, and respectful debate, in these politically-charged times
By Jess Myers, Ewald Consulting
In the wake of the 2016 election, and as a result of the seemingly endless run-up to it, we’ve all heard the notion that the people of the United States are currently more divided than they have ever been before. Since most associations encompass a vast swath of opinions on all sides of whichever political debate seems to be raging at the moment, it’s safe to say that association members have the potential to be divided as well.
To avoid inter-association disputes related to political opinions, it’s now more important than ever to be mindful of all views and beliefs when working within and on behalf of your association. When you’re behind the wheel of a car, being in drive or reverse is how you go places, as opposed to being in neutral. But taking a neutral position politically is the smartest and safest way to ensure respect for all opinions and association harmony in these charged times.
By posting things that are politically neutral you inform without the risk of offending. But clearly, even the most seemingly innocuous post can generate strong opinions, or contain a nugget that may spark a debate among members on different sides of an issue.
That’s OK. We all have opinions, and we have the right to respectfully debate and disagree. But the word “respectfully” is the key to making it all work. That means avoiding public airing of topics that generate strong emotions and are likely to lead to harsh words and potential hurt feelings. When you post on behalf of your association, be it on their web page, on social media or via your own channels, consider the content and the audience carefully:
- Think about your association members on opposite sides of the political divide, and how each might receive the information being shared.
- If there is strong support for posting an opinion piece on one side of an issue, consider the concept of “equal time” and allow an association member to post a counter-point of sorts explaining and advocating for their position.
- Make sure that it’s known that the opinions of a particular association member are theirs alone and do not reflect an official position by the association.
-  Monitor the debate between members if your association has a public forum, and don’t be afraid to step in and delete comments if a passionate discussion devolves into personal attacks or other content that’s inappropriate for the site.
- Be a peacemaker, reminding association members that we are all working toward the same goal of advancing and growing the organization, even if the ways in which we see the world differ.
Just like getting behind the wheel of a car, you know there’s an inherent risk every time you shift into drive. Always remember that staying in neutral is much safer.

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