It can be very difficult to figure out how to survive office politics sometimes. There are so many different types of personalities you will encounter and each person will have unique motives and desires that they can get from the job they do. You have several options, but you generally want to be genuine in the end. Some choose to pander to each different type of person, but that will catch up to them in the end. Besides, you don't want to have to be fake just to please other people do you? That is certainly an option, but it usually comes around and bites you because you will slip up sooner or later.
One of the easiest ways to avoid annoying people and getting under their skin is to ask a lot of questions. When you talk to someone on a coffee break, don't tell them about what you did over the weekend or about that crazy dream you had. They really don't care about that anyway. Ask them questions about what they did and what they've got planned for the rest of the week. By getting people to talk about themselves, you are satisfying their need to be heard and making them feel like you are a good listener. The best part is that they will appreciate your interest and you really didn't have to say much at all.
If the burden is on you to start the conversation then talk about the weather. The weather probably the most neutral topic there is. No one will get offended by any type of talk about the weather, regardless of what type of person they are. Of course, that still leaves open the possibility that someone may decide to gossip/backbite to you about another colleague. So what can you do in that case?
The best thing to do when negative talk about another is going on is to just listen - that's if you can't change the subject or walk away. Just take the time to listen to what they have to say without adding anything; you will have successfully avoided back stabbing another co-worker. This is the best thing to do because no one will accuse you of ever saying anything behind another person's back.
The last tip on how to survive office politics is about avoiding playing favourites. If you are in a position of any sort of power or responsibility, you will have to deal with this type of thing constantly. Just think about it in terms of you protecting your own hide and integrity. Co-workers will know who you like the best, so if you even think about giving them an advantage in the workplace it will be obvious. Avoid this at all costs by giving promotions and praise to those that deserve it. This is a smarter idea anyway because you want the best person for the job doing whatever task is at hand.
So no matter what situation you come across in the office, there is a good way to handle it, and fortunately that sometimes means you just listening to what people have to say. You can get much farther ahead by listening to the concerns of others and not saying anything bad about anyone than you could by joining in and becoming part of the everyday office politics.