This election year seems to be more volatile than any other in recent years and, unfortunately, the polarization has begun to affect people’s personal relationships. Many have chosen to keep their opinions private in order to avoid any unnecessary conflict. While that may be best, there are times when you may feel cornered or pushed into a politically charged conversation. Here are five tips for surviving that awkward moment.

Don’t Panic

If you are not someone who likes to talk about politics (and, really, many of us don’t!), then it easily feel like you’re a deer in headlights when someone brings up the topic. Instead of panicking, take some deep breaths and decide on your course of action. Are you going to take a neutral stance? Change the subject? Find a way to excuse yourself? Gather your thoughts and remain calm. You will feel more prepared for whatever lies ahead.

Refuse the Bait

If the person engaging you clearly has a different opinion than yours and is merely interested in a confrontation, resist the urge to argue with them. It’s highly unlikely that, if someone is choosing to challenge you on your views, that you will be able to say anything they agree with. Instead, you can acknowledge their question or comment and then simply say something like “I’m sorry, I can see you care about this issue but I prefer to keep my political opinions private.”

Be Honest

If you are uncomfortable with the topic, unhappy that you feel cornered or experience any other emotions, be honest about how you are feeling. Some people simply enjoy a good debate and may not realize the distress it causes others.

Have an Exit Plan

If you have decided that you never want to engage in political conversations, take a few moments to come up with exit strategies that are specific to certain scenarios. For example, you may have one tactic in mind for these discussions in the workplace which may be very different for how you plan to avoid them with a close friend. If you have a plan already in mind, you will feel so much more prepared for when these moments do actually arise.

Avoid Argumentative People

We all know certain people who just can’t seem to help themselves. Either they are argumentative, confrontational and/or combative by nature, or they simply react to politics like a werewolf responds to a full moon. Whatever the case, you may have to avoid people who are easily triggered while the campaigning is still going on in order to keep your sanity.

Election years can be very difficult and you may find yourself stuck in an uncomfortable situation but having a plan can help you avoid arguments and maintain friendships.

Have you ever been involved in an ugly political argument? How did it get resolved?