Share this article

print logo

Tips on surviving Tuesday's election, from an etiquette expert, a divorce mediator, a boxing referee

It has been a vitriolic presidential race – complete with insults, name-calling and vulgar comments.

So no matter whose side you’re supporting, you'll likely have to deal with a few more nasty remarks about your candidate on Election Day – whether from your neighbor with the Trump sign on his lawn or the Clinton fan in an adjoining cubicle at work.

How can you get through the day?

Speak up? Hold your tongue?

The Buffalo News reached out to experts who know a thing or two about handling conflict – a divorce mediator, a boxing referee, a peacemaker and an etiquette teacher – and asked them for some Election Day survival tips.

Their advice?

Read on.

Manners, please.

There's been a lot of blowback from the negative politicking this season, but don't take the bait, said John Bourdage, the etiquette expert.

“Never deal with force using force,” said Bourdage, founder of Bourdage Consulting. "Generally, people like that are looking for confrontation, and if you don’t give them the confrontation, you can neutralize the situation.”

Bourdage, who received his professional training at the renowned Ivor Spencer School for Butler Administration and Personal Assistants in London, trains and coaches social skills and business networking.

"Remember," Bourdage said, "all manners are based on one pillar concept of respect and consideration. I think the Duke of Windsor said, ‘Manners are the lubrication of civilization,' and that’s what we always have to remember.”

Bourdage reminded people to be aware of the three topics that should be avoided in mixed company: politics, religion and romantic interludes.

It's fine if you are at dinner with friends and want to engage in a conversation about the election, he said.

But if you're at work or at a party, “that’s not the place to have the Lincoln-Douglas debate,” he said.


It was several years ago when Barry Gan was asked to take part in a debate with a national member of the Tea Party.

The debate drew a large and partisan crowd, which cheered and booed at every turn.

"That was one of the last times I chose to stand out publicly and put forward views, because I’ve had an increasing sense – especially since 9/11 –  an unwillingness of one side to listen to the concerns of the other side,” said Gan, a philosophy professor at St. Bonaventure University and director of the school's Nonviolence Program.

That's Gan's advice as this election winds down.

“The candidates are both problematic, certainly," Gan said, "but the bigger problem is the people who support the candidates are unwilling to talk to one another in a civil fashion.”

“It’s the listening that has to occur if we’re supposed to come to some civil understanding,” he said.

Find common ground.

When Steven Sugarman is in the middle of a conflict where people don't like each other, the first thing he does as a mediator is help them find common ground.

He recommended doing the same this election.

“As Americans, we all have a common interest – we all want low unemployment, we all want secure borders, we all want a healthy infrastructure – but just different strategies of getting there,” said Sugarman.

"The key is we’re all in this together for the same common goals,” Sugarman said.

Sugarman, a partner with the law firm of Pusateri, Sherman, Abbott & Sugarman, has been a mediator for more than 20 years, specializing in divorce mediation.

He also suggested taking a break from the controversial issues that have been discussed the past six months and divided the nation. Instead, he said, talk about how to become teammates in moving America forward.

"Keep an eye on the big picture all Americans want to achieve," Sugarman said. "Remember our values of kindness and understanding, of working hard and  helping our neighbor. These are the things that make America great regardless of who's in office."

When it's over, it's over.

The rules of boxing in many ways apply to the rules of life, said John Elmore, a veteran referee of amateur boxing.

“No low blows. No hitting after the bell. No biting. And when the fight is over you shake hands and you hug each other," said Elmore, who is also a longtime attorney. "The winner gets the trophy and the loser goes back and starts training for the next fight."

In some ways, he said, the same applies to the election.

The election has revealed deep divisions in the country – by race, by class, by sex – but when the fighting is over, we're all Americans and the president is the president for all of us, Elmore said.

"We have to respect that they are our leader,” Elmore said. “Just like in boxing they have to respect the judge’s decision.”

“So when the election is over," Elmore said, "the election is over.”

There are no comments - be the first to comment