I’m “a Communist” . . . Really?

I wrote an article on Entrepreneur.com last week entitled “Why Everyone Should talk About Politics While Networking” and in my opening line I state, “Yes, I believe everyone should talk about politics (and religion) while networking . . . if they’d like their network to go up in flames, that is!”

Though I may have been very active in politics over the years and I do, indeed, have a definite religious/spiritual leaning, I have found that it is undoubtedly best not to mix my views/beliefs in these areas with my business networking activities because these topics can be VERY divisive.  Opening up a dialogue of a political or spiritual/religious nature with those in your network tends to be something that will more than likely invoke passionate, heated arguments which is NOT a good thing for a networking environment (take a look at the full article for my complete commentary and explanation). 

Soon after the Entrepreneur.com article came out, someone left a comment in the comment forum beneath the article that I found quite surprising.  The comment they posted says:

“This guy Ivan Misner sure sounds like a Communist to me.  If it walks like a duck . . .”

Really?  I’m “a Communist” because I said that people who want to be successful at networking should not talk about politics and religion in a business networking environment?  Okay, well, I guess I should really thank the person who posted the comment because they’re ultimately helping to make my point.  Discussions about politics and religion can make people say some crazy things.

By the way, here’s how I responded to the comment:

“Too funny.  You clearly don’t know me. Besides, a true Marxist-Leninist would be out leading the proletariat revolution of the capitalists and I’m too busy being a capitalist.”

Hey, I always had a hunch my Political Science degree would come in handy someday yet I never would’ve imagined it would be through someone calling me “a Communist,” that’s for sure. 😉

What’s your feeling on the appropriateness of discussing politics and/or religion in a business networking environment?  Have you tried it yourself, or maybe networked with someone who makes a habit of bringing up these subjects when you’re conversing while networking?  What has your experience been? . . . I highly encourage you to leave a comment; I’m very interested in hearing some different perspectives on this. Thanks!

23 thoughts on “I’m “a Communist” . . . Really?

  1. I wholeheartedy agree with you. I’d prefer if politics & religion were left out of business entirely. While it is commendable to uphold one’s fervent beliefs, it doesn’t belong in business conversations. We all believe we are doing the “right thing,” so it’s only reasonable to respect others for doing their own right thing without trying to change them. It’s unfortunate that some people can’t see the true value of diversity.

  2. Absolutely agree. This is business. I’m not here to discuss who you’re voting for or your personal beliefs that aren’t business related. My goal is to learn about your business and how we may be able to work together and refer business to each other. Discussing personal views has a tendency to get in the way of that goal.

  3. I live my life not judging how others live their life. If I start by judging people with regards to their religious beliefs or how they vote, then I need to start judging people according to what they eat – healthy or not, and so much more. That would be exhausting and I would not get anything done and probably have too many restless nights trying to decide who to judge next! I totally agree with you, Ivan Misner.

  4. Generally I agree that politics and religion shouldn’t mix with networking. If you are happy working with people who have different views than you, keep it to yourself. Networking is about building relationships, not building walls.

    One exception – if you have strong beliefs and can’t readily work with people who share different views.

    For example, I knew one marketing person with strong religious beliefs. She kept having religious groups from other faiths wanting to hire her do promote their causes. She felt uncomfortable working for them but didn’t want to say “I don’t want to work with you because we don’t have the same views.”

    I suggested she put her religious beliefs front & center so people of other faiths would self-select and go elsewhere.

  5. Okay, this is pretty funny. YOU a communist!? If what you are doing is communism, SIGN ME UP! It seems that when people’s values or intellect are challenged then they have to revert to something like, “Well…..oh yeah……You are a communist!” I think that is the adult version of, “Well, my Dad can beat up your Dad!” Thanks for sharing. Great example and a good chuckle on a Monday morning.

  6. I generally agree. Politics and religion can be quite divisive. I don’t always go with that good advise. I do think we live in times where politics play a big role in the way we do business. So much of what happens in Washington has a direct impact on small or big businesses. In times when such issues are at the fore, it may be the right thing to do to defend the free market against statist encroachment, in our conversations with peers. It should be done dispassionately and with respect to other’s views, but some ideas are important enough that we may decide the risk of losing business is worth their defending.

  7. I’m going to disagree here. If our emphasis is truly to get to know, like and trust people such subjects should definately be brought to light. If you discover someone holds a strong religous belief and is active in a church, synagogue, mosque, etc. that opens a world of possibilities of potential referrals. If they are active politically again, the potential grows. I WANT to know who you know and WANT to know how I can help you. The idea of “don’t ask and don’t tell” is an ineffective communication technique and stunts the growth of any relationship.

    1. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is NOT what I’m suggesting. I’m saying don’t lead with politics and religion. I talk about these subjects with people I know and have a relationship with, not with people I meet at a networking event (especially for the first time). I have seen people do this over, and over and over again. Talking about these topics with people you don’t know leads to alienating a fair number of people and getting them to focus on your politics and religion rather than your business. But hey, I’m OK if people keep doing it. I have to remember that 50% of all businesses fail within 5 years.

      1. Perhaps I misunderstood the topic to be avoid the conversation all together as I did not see the part where the differentiation was made between leading with religon or politics. Would I lead off upon introduction on these subject? Highly unlikely as I am not a politician nor am I a religious leader. I am also a bit at a loss as to what 50% of business start ups failing has to do with the conversation as well, so I’m going to go ahead and assume that I have completely misunderstood the original article.

    2. you hit the nail in the head! if Misner is right then we shouldn’t talk about sports either as that is very divisive.

      1. Kevin /Cindy Fraher:

        In 35 years, I have never, ever, seen a disagreement about sports come even remotely close to the knock down, drag out, (let’s call a lawyer and file a lawsuit) kind of argument that I have personally seen over politics and especially religion during a public discussion at a networking meeting.

        You are mostly all business people. Use discernment. Learn from other people’s experiences or not. It is up to you. This is my experience in running a large network for 35 years.

  8. This is why cities are so great – people of various creeds and backgrounds come together and smooth over their differences for the common good. (Ivan, you’re a Communist!)

    There’s a saying that “everything has its place,” and I think that when you meet a potential networking partner or client, it’s wise to consider whether that is the correct time and place to potentially light off an argument bomb.

    As your relationship develops, you won’t be able to help learning about each other’s beliefs, and that should be okay – because we all have differences with our friends, don’t we? We just don’t allow those differences to get in the way of our relationships.

  9. It’s a loser for sure. It doesn’t belong in a networking atmosphere. You are either “into” politics, or you are not. If you are, then you have strong opinions. If you’re not, you’re bored. I’ve also often seen the Christian fish symbol on advertising and thought it a bad idea. Or on the back of the car. What if you judge my God by my driving? Lord help me!

  10. I’m a member of BNI Integrity in Calgary, AB Canada. Like many people my age, I have strong political and religious views. Even though I’m in Canada, I prefer to follow US Politics. Dr. Misner is exactly right. Even when you think you know your BNI colleagues, I’m cautious with expression said views. You’ve probably worked hard to create relationships within your chapter. How unfortunate it would be to sour the wine with unnecessary banter and debate.

  11. Dear Dr. Misner,
    For me the blockade extends beyond religion and politics to include any subject matter of a volitile nature; especially on the first few encounters.
    Wishing You Plenty To Live,
    Tom Doiron

  12. Another strong message from Dr.Misner. For me I hand to learn this the hard way befor BNI . Yes I hung myself!.

  13. When you speak, you learn what you know. When you listen, you learn what others know, think, and care about.
    When I’m out networking, I go with the flow. It’s obvious that most people don’t talk politics or religion when business networking.
    If the topic comes up, I’ll contribute energy to the topic.
    Last thing I will do is make someone wrong for expressing how they feel about anything.

  14. I wrote a blog about this just a few weeks ago. With the Presidential election coming, Facebook is bombarded with political posts. Most of them accusing “the other guy” of something, very few are positive and in all cases, I avoid diving into the fray. Be careful what you click “like” on or “comment” on as a business person. You are bound to piss off somebody who may be your customer or next customer.

  15. I found in business networking that I tend to have strongly differing views about politics and life from many other people in business. I believe sometimes people’s mentality reflects in their behaviour and attitudes in networking groups as much as it does in their political opinions, but I guess it’s best not get into the political realm and try and explain (for instance) that supporting fellow members does not negate those members in their “personal responsibility” – It’s just seeing what you can do to help another person based on a pre-assumption about reciprocation. It could be so easy to get sucked into a head-on confrontation about peoples world view and beliefs when really your main concern is the attitude they display towards fellow members of your networking group specifically.

  16. I talked to a fellow professional looking for business advice on a marketing project recently and about 2/3 of the time all he did was rail, rail, rail against the president. What did this have to do with my marketing questions? Nothing. I don’t want to talk with him again. I would have felt the same way if he had railed against Bush, too.

    Even in my personal time, avoiding politics has been a very wise decision. Used to get very caught up in it and all it did was leave me angry about things I have very little influence over. This is wasteful. Avoiding political websites and new sites has helped me become immensely more positive and centered personally. I still vote, but that’s about it.

  17. Hi !! Politics and Religion could stand as a common public subject tool to engage fellow members may give a chance to understand the intellectuality on how well we are aware of the present scenario and how helpful is the govt supporting the relevant trade or business. Off course this should not stand as a main subject but to lead the Fellow members to understand each other better & helps on the mutual growth of business network.

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