Guide to Post-Inauguration Etiquette: Graciously Handling Political Conversations

Guide to Post-Inauguration Etiquette: Graciously Handling Political Conversations

It will soon be official. President-elect Trump will be sworn into office as the 45th Commander-in-Chief on Friday, January, 20, 2017 in the U.S. Presidential Inauguration.  Political partisanship has been on the rise, along with public incivility. So what is the best way to navigate those post-inauguration thorny political discussions?

Remember respect is universally understood:
When asked a question about the inauguration it’s important to show respect for different countries and people. Our cultural conditioning has a deep impact; yet we all understand and recognize respect.

Worldwide, the decorum of asking and answering questions varies greatly. Be prepared for post-inauguration and “new president” queries in cultures where open discussion about politics is welcome, such as Australia.

Exercise your right to privacy:
Keeping your opinion to yourself is professional and privacy is possible. Prepare a few authentic statements to have handy:

  • “After such a contentious election and the inauguration, I’m keeping my opinion to myself. I appreciate your interest.”

By acknowledging and thanking them for their interest, you defer a sticky political conversation.

Respectfully respond and engage in conversation:
Inauguration and political conversations may be taboo in your workplace, and the conversation starter in your social circles. So know the office policy and your audience.

When engaging, remember that research has shown increased political conversation, even online is associated with greater political action. So answering inauguration questions may make you a cheerleader for democracy!

Expressing your beliefs can be done without a political brawl. Cite research and concrete reasons why your views align a certain way to encourage an intellectual conversation, not a war of opinions. Be courteous and let the others express their beliefs, even if you disagree.

How to reconcile conflicting beliefs:
It’s inevitable that disagreements arise. Handle them with grace, dignity and respect. For example: “That’s an interesting viewpoint; you raise some valid points. However, my research reveals…”

Never raise your voice, reveal anger, abruptly walk away or make it personal.

Graciously handle yourself, either way:
Whether you decide to respond or not, be tactful, polite, and remember that educated responses allow you to cordially engage, or graciously decline whenever these inevitable conversations cross your path. For example, “My inauguration observations are based on results from _____ that reflect…”

Find a balance:
Take time to self-assess your comfort level. Be authentic and make an informed decision about how you wish to respond. Find a comfortable balance and stay the course.  “Don’t change horses in midstream” as we say in Texas!

Consider these statements to close a political conversation:

  • “Thanks for sharing your post-inauguration political views, it certainly gives us something to consider. Bye for now.”
  • “I’m uncomfortable discussing politics at social events, but I enjoyed visiting with you. Excuse me.” Then step away.
  • “It’s nice to meet you, enjoy the rest of (event). Excuse me.”
  • “Thanks for your time. Maybe I’ll see you at our next lunch meeting. Excuse me.”

Consider these statements to segue to new topic:

  • “Mike, thanks for that post-inauguration update. Sally, as our host you mentioned a best-seller you were reading. Will you share more?”
  • “Post-inauguration will be interesting. Who has spring break plans? ”
  • “Has anyone seen the golden globe award-winning movie Manchester by The Sea?”
  • “We have extra game tickets. Who wants to go?”
  • “Who has seen the new museum exhibit?”

Whether you attended or watched the inauguration, we are called to be civil to one another as the new administration takes office. Keep these tips in mind when engaging in post-inauguration discussion to encourage diverse perspectives.


Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management with the HOFSTEDE center, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial and Banquet Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People and NTD Television Canada. She is the resident etiquette expert on popular morning lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, National Business Journal, Reader’s Digest and Stylecaster. Her international award-winning, best-selling book Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its second printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. Sharon is the winner of the British Airways International Trade, Investment & Expansion Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.

Photo Credit: Flickr United States Government Work

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