Social etiquette dictates that talking politics is generally taboo. But, when much of the world is caught in the buzz of an election or other contentious political issues, talk of politics can easily intrude on our daily conversations.

“[Politics is] not a great way to lead off a conversation,” says Richard Heft, president of Ext. Marketing in Toronto. “Let them raise it and say what they want to say.”

When political issues do come up in conversations with clients, consider these tips for handling the discussion:

> Stick to facts
Knotty topics about a choice of candidates or a stance on an issue — anything that veers into personal views — should remain off limits.

If a client expresses concern about the outcome of an election and its impact on his or her portfolio, frame your response in neutral terms, says Michael Silicz, investment advisor with National Bank Financial in Winnipeg.

Silicz avoids making predictions about markets. But he will quote analysts’ projections about an expected outcome. For example, when asked about the way the markets would react to the election of an unlikely candidate who is trailing in the polls, he says: “The markets don’t like surprises.”

> Stay informed
One exception to the “no politics” rule may be discussions about the way an election result or a budget announcement could affect a client’s tax situation. It’s important to communicate to clients that you’re on top of developments, says Dean DiSpalatro, senior writer at Ext. Marketing in Toronto.

Without sounding any alarm bells, you can send clients an email about anticipated policy changes, says DiSpalatro: “It’s one of the ways advisors can demonstrate their value.”

For example, one approach might be to direct them to what policy experts are saying, and reassuring clients that your team will be ready to make adjustments when changes come into effect.

> Pivot the conversation to finances
If a client broaches a certain political issue with you, Heft says, hear them out. Then ask about their concerns and try to relate the issue to their financial circumstances.

“That can lead to a better discussion about whether their portfolio is well positioned [to meet] their needs and concerns,” Heft says.

> Keep emotions in check
Some clients may be very vocal about their political affiliations. Silicz knows some of his clients lean to the left while others are more conservative.

If he has built a rapport with certain clients he feels comfortable engaging in a political discussion. But, Sicilz says, he’s conscious not to impose his own views and to remain respectful of his clients’ opinions.

Whether or not you share your client’s views, Heft says, keep things as unemotional as possible. There’s always the risk that the conversation will devolve into a heated debate if things get too personal.

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