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At lunch time, tea break or whenever we take a small break from work at my office, my colleagues talk about everything under the sun.

They usually start discussing about sensitive topics like one's faith, political preference and other controversial subjects.

They harshly disagree with each other and ask my opinions. Out of my ignorance I usually say something that they all start criticizing, and then more heated discussions follow. Being sensitive, I view it as a personal attack/insult and snub them for this in anger. This leads to negativity, while I have to sit/socialise with them as I don't want to be isolated.

But I am tired of their gibberish talk and want to handle this situation gracefully. How?

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    how do you see the relationship with these colleagues in the office? do they brush off the disagreement when they are back to work? – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Dec 18 '17 at 7:09
  • Change the world around you... which is impossible. So eat alone in your car until you realize that your feelings are not made by the situation, but by how you look at them... think about that last line... it’s applicable in many many situations... – patrick Dec 18 '17 at 8:03
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    If you dislike your coworkers criticising your views or beliefs, stop sharing your views and beliefs with them. Whether that means declining to answer, deflecting or simply not hanging out with them is entirely up to you. – Dukeling Dec 18 '17 at 8:41
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    I usually take the argument somewhere absurd, "What if every McDonald's was closed for a month so their employees could build the wall on the Mexico border? But then what would President Trump eat?" – user16259 Dec 18 '17 at 11:42
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    Usually the best answer to this case are just 2. 1) Either you particepate and make part of the topic and are part of them! 2) Answer with the basic "Meh, I don't know/care" It's easier. – William-H-M Dec 18 '17 at 12:29
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It's always risky to discuss things like race, religion and politics, but also something that most people can talk about or has an opinion on.

Personally, I don't think it's ever worth engaging in these conversations because it rarely ends well... so a response along the lines of "I haven't really thought about it" or "It doesn't really bother me" is your best and safest option to opt out of the conversation gracefully.

  • This is what I've done when similar discussion arose in the past. I keep my mouth shut for the duration of the controversial discussion (even if I sometimes have to bite my tongue to keep it that way.) If they point out that I'm being really quiet, I respond with something along the lines of "Yup, I sure am!" and then, if necessary, I leave. – Steve-O Dec 19 '17 at 18:51
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These kinds of discussions are rarely about facts and logic. A blog post by a Scientific American writer recently addressed how to approach discussions that are highly emotionally charged: How to Talk to a Science Denier without Arguing

The particular example in the blog post may not apply to your co-workers, but the general principle is still true: First seek shared goals, Second establish understanding and sympathy with the underlying emotional issues, and - only after success with 1 and 2 - carefully introduce any factual or logical points.

That you have multiple co-workers already arguing with each other makes it more difficult, and as theonlydanever's answer indicated you might judge the best course is to try to stay out of it altogether. But sometimes even in groups you can 'score' a rapport-building point; I would recommend at least reading about EGRIP or similar methods and try to keep an eye out for an opportunity to make a rapport-building statement.

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  • I consider discussing faith issues with colleagues to be unprofessional at best, and unacceptable in the workplace (including lunch break)

  • If you colleagues are nonprofessional, you don't have to participate in such behavior

  • To a lesser extent this is also true for politics, but this may depend on the context. I mostly did not have problem with politics when discussing it with other scientists and engineers, unless there was some cultural background difference.

I only express dissatisfaction with my colleagues opinions on such matters when their opinion clearly puts them outside the constitution. If they stop being objective on a too short timescale, i rather just make a mental note to give them a task requiring balancing between interests

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