Since the last time millions of American workers chatted around water coolers, the nation’s gone through a pandemic, protests powering a social justice movement, an election, an insurrection and two presidential impeachments.

And now many people are returning to the office, where these polarizing topics might come up in face-to-face conversations for the first time.

But how will we talk to each other in a productive and respectful way? Will we avoid it altogether? And could our deep divisions undermine the success of the companies we work for?

Americans are increasingly avoiding conversations with people who aren’t like them, even in the workplace, where their economic livelihood depends on effective collaboration, research shows.

And that’s how some people want it.

“I was hoping for more unity after things open up,” says Brandon Bentz, 38, of Wichita, Kansas. “It’s like, let’s all try to start fresh.”

Why we don’t need to…

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