With elections coming up soon, political ads are unavoidable on television and on the radio. There are even ads on Facebook, and some of my friends post political party propaganda on their walls and in comments on mine. I cannot wait until it is all over.
I have some strong political opinions, but I don’t have to express them while I am working with clients, and you will not find them on my personal or business Facebook pages. I have agreed to a yard sign, but it is for a local election and for a longtime friend and neighbor. There won’t be any bumper stickers on my car for any candidate, or any public display of support, because I don’t want to mix politics and business.
One of my active clients currently works for a politician who I would not vote for even if I were in the right district. My opinions are very different from those of my client, and I don’t have a problem with that. In fact, we seem to be a perfect match for each other in our roles as Realtor and buyer. She has not asked me directly whom I support, and I will not volunteer the information.
Some of my clients are Hmong, and some are gay. Some are Christian and others are Jewish. Some are Democrats and others are Republican. Some are moderate, while others are liberal or conservative. Some like to talk politics or religion, and sometimes I am a captive audience.
Even though my clients will talk about politics and religion in my presence, I won’t engage in discussion with them. It’s hard for me sometimes, but I resist the urge to get into a debate. I remind myself that I have bills to pay. I have friends and relatives who enjoy debating with me, and people I can talk to about most anything.
In business, when it comes to politics, religion and sex, I stay away from all three topics. I will not openly state my beliefs, and I will not ask anyone about their beliefs or political opinions. It is a survival skill I have picked up over the years, and it has served me well. There have been times when I have broken my own rules and put my foot in my mouth, and I always regret it.
There are agents who advertise their religion or political beliefs along with their listings. Those making that choice have the right to freedom of speech, as do I.
I don’t need to have the same political or religious beliefs as my clients to do business with them. In fact, I don’t need to know what someone’s political or religious beliefs are at all — I do a hell of a good job for them without knowing.
The 2012 presidential elections are contentious, as always. Each party has "talking points." Sometimes to amuse myself I look up the talking points on various fact-checking sites. Both sides make plenty of misleading statements, and some statements are blatantly false. It’s just politics. But there are those who believe these talking points and want to share them with the world. They don’t want to associate with anyone who doesn’t agree with them.
Sound bites, slogans and talking points are an important part of the election process. But please keep them off of my Facebook pages and websites. Friends and business contacts who support political candidates are of course free to do so, but I won’t mix business politics or religion, and that is my choice.
There are real estate brokerages and brands that are associated with religions. I have often wondered if having a religious brokerage is good for business or bad for it. I know I would not feel comfortable as an agent in such a brokerage, but I have friends who feel right at home.
It is possible that by expressing my opinions openly, I would attract like-minded clients. At the same time, some potential clients might not want to work with me because I don’t have the same political beliefs that they do. This, despite the fact that a person’s ability to sell real estate has nothing to do with their political beliefs.
When the presidential election is over, we will have the same president or we will have a new president. Either way, I still have to find business. Expressing my opinions is not going to impact the outcome of the election, but it may impact my business.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.
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