These days, every subject has the potential to go off the rails. Here’s how to stay on track when talking to colleagues.

Share story

Ryan Lochte and Colin Kaepernick. Gun control. Fat shaming. Mansplaining. Batman vs. Superman. The freakin’ election.

Why can’t we all just get along?

No matter where we turn, there’s some topic that makes our blood boil or our passions rise. And I’ve found out the hard way that not everyone thinks like me. Some of those unlike-minded folks are professional contacts and colleagues.

With so much divisiveness in the air, how can we come together conversationally? Are there any safe discussions to be had around the digital or IRL water cooler? In the spirit of peace, love and understanding, here are a few topics that offer some common ground. Your colleagues and blood pressure will thank you.

Traffic. Seattle traffic blows. Anyone who has been stuck during rush hour in the Mercer Mess or on the Viaduct or on the West Seattle bridge or on 520 knows the woes of driving in our glorious city. Talk about your collective traffic frustrations and you just might score a carpool buddy.

Air travel. Let’s talk about the security lines at Sea-Tac. Even the pre-check queue is starting to look like a human habitrail. During my last trip, the never-ending line was almost enough to make me turn around with my wheelie suitcase and go home … until I remembered the traffic.

HGTV. Many folks turn to HGTV regularly, mostly to see Chip and Joanna Gaines work their rustic magic on “Flipping Out.” Everyone loves this Texas couple and their adorable need to put shiplap on everything. Steer clear of any talk of tiny houses. Nothing good ever came from a 150-square-foot space with a bucket for a bathtub.

Housing. Be it rents, mortgages or the inability to find an apartment under $1,800 or a house under $1 million, the housing market is sure to bring people together in weeping and gnashing of teeth. Houses may be plentiful and affordable on HGTV, but low list prices are hard to find in Seattle, let alone properties with an open floor plan, granite countertops and curb appeal.

Weather. The go-to conversation-starter for co-workers and grandparents, weather is a safe haven. It’s always fun to share some smugness that we’re lucky and smart enough to live in a city that isn’t topping 100 degrees during the summer months and dropping below zero in the winter. Well played, us.

Music. Admittedly, people can get fired up on the subject of Macklemore or Pearl Jam. But if the talk starts to heat up, cool things down by bringing up Prince or David Bowie. No more controversy.

And on a final note: ’splaining is not OK, regardless of your gender. Rather than explaining something in excruciating detail, talking over someone and disregarding any comments they do manage to insert into the conversation, listen. Employ the WAIT method and ask yourself, Why Am I Talking? Chances are you’ll hear a different perspective — and that’s something we can all use more of.

Jennifer Worick is a veteran freelancer/contractor, publishing consultant and New York Times bestselling author. Email her at