“That’s what I think, but that needs to stay between us.”

“Oh, I wish people really knew the whole story.”

“Well, you won’t win any customers saying that.”

— Anonymous business owners

Politics. The partner of religion when it comes to conversational faux pas. “Don’t bring up politics and religion in mixed company.” We’ve all heard that phrase, and many people live by those words.

But why is that phrase so popular? Because it’s easy. Because ignoring certain subjects makes for pleasant days, it makes for happier interactions and nobody gets offended by a differing view. I wonder if any great social change in this country was ever described as “easy” — or any modest social change for that matter?

Because of the “no-politics rule of etiquette,” in a small way, we have lost the collective ability to disagree constructively. Rather than discussing the pressing political issue that has certain ramifications to our life, we ignore it. We form our own insulated opinions, through knowledge gathered from our own self-selected Facebook community and the news-media that-most-shares-our-worldview, and then we delude ourselves into thinking “everyone we know feels the same way we do.” We never give opportunity for the opposing side.

Then we have the gall to bemoan our legislators for not being able to compromise, when we ourselves struggle to ever admit the opposing view has a shred of merit. And that’s the point — we hold the ownership of our beliefs so strongly now that we will continue to believe in them in the face of experts telling us we should change our mind. We have made it a game of winning and losing.

At some point it became more important to “stick to your beliefs” than to admit a change of heart after considering new information. In fact, we feel so strongly about the ownership of our winning opinions, that those that do not share them lose our support.

For most business owners, the chance of that loss of support is too great, and so they don’t share their opinions, but instead wring their hands behind closed doors wishing a change would come. The quotes at the top of this article are from actual business owners I have spoken to over the past 12 months; at their request, I left them anonymous.

This November, along with a very important presidential race, Maine voters will have six referendum questions to decide on. The questions are briefly as follows: marijuana legalization, education funding, background checks for guns, minimum wage, rank choice voting and a transportation bond.

All of these questions will have a business impact to some degree, but the largest business impacts come from questions 2 and 4 which involve the proposed 3 percent increase on incomes more than $200,000 for education funding, and the proposed increase to minimum wage (and tip credit elimination).

The Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber just released a survey and information on these topics to member businesses explaining both the yes on 2 and yes on 4 stances as well as the no on 2 and no on 4 stances. The survey is to hear from business owners, confidentially, on how they feel about these questions. From that the SMMC will make a stand on behalf of the businesses. Why?

Because we are not afraid to plant a flag and tell people where we stand and exactly why we feel the way we do. We don’t mind disagreeing and doing so in a way that we listen to the other side and consider their viewpoint.

We don’t presume to know the opinions of people before we ask them, nor do we downgrade anyone’s opinion because it is opposed to what we believe. We know that the best solution for all only comes from listening to all sides, and so we are trying to do that. We are eternally optimistic that others can join us in this viewpoint.

We hope that our leadership in these matters will offer the individual business owners the support they need to plant their own flags. We hope business owners will eventually be able to truly let their customers know how they feel about certain issues, and how it will affect their businesses.

It would be a shame if laws came to pass that businesses knew would hurt them, but they were too afraid to say something for fear of retribution from those unwilling to compromise. It would be a true loss if the citizens thought they were helping the businesses when they actually were hurting them.

Let’s listen to each other, and allow for the possibility of a differing perspective. And most importantly, let’s not let our unwillingness to be wrong impede us from doing what is right.

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