General Etiquette > Family and Children

Avoiding a political argument, politely.

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snappylt:
I am going to be deliberately vague here because I really do not want to start a political discussion here - I want to hear ideas & suggestions of how to avoid political arguments with family members.

Yesterday a family member (let's call him "Fred") tried to start a political discussion with me.  Because of the tone of Fred's voice when he approached me, I had the impression Fred was angry, and I really didn't want to get into a shouting match with him.

Let's say that Fred was angry about an action that the governor of our U.S. state recently took.   Fred came into the room and in what sounded to me like a loud, angry, accusatory tone of voice asked if I had heard that a court had just ruled that the governor's action was unconstitutional.  (His voice rose on the word "unconstitutional" as if this was a truly evil thing he was telling me about the governor.)

I had not read that news story myself, so I asked Fred to help me find the story on my computer so I could read the story myself before we talked about it.

Well, it turned out that a state appeals court ruled against something the governor did recently.  The reporter also noted that governors in our state from all political parties have done the same thing for more than 100 years. (Fred hadn't mentioned that part of the story to me!) The reporter quoted someone as saying that this particular court ruling was made by judges appointed by the governor's predecessor and was the opposite of earlier court rulings.  The person quoted speculated that it would all end up in the state supreme court soon.

Well, I really didn't want to get into an argument with Fred.  He gets very angry sometimes, and I don't like that unpleasantness.

So, I asked him what he thought, and he told how very very wrong he thought the governor had been.  Then I asked him what he thought of all the other governors who'd done the same thing for 100 years.  Well, he allowed as how those people were wrong, too, to have done that (but his tone of voice didn't sound so angry when he talked about all of the others).  So I said, well, it looks like the state supreme court will get to decide in the end... and I just let my voice taper off... and he just walked away at that point.  I could be very wrong, but I was left with the impression that he had wanted to get me riled up - and he failed.


I guess my question is would there have been a better way to have handled it?

I think I was polite, but I felt the whole time like I was only a few poorly chosen words away from a nasty argument.  Would it have been better to have said that no, I hadn't read the news story and to have just allowed Fred to spout off about how evil he thinks the governor is without comment from me?

I'd enjoy hearing stories about how others handle this.




Docslady21:
If it had been me, I never would have asked him to help me find the story. I would have found something extremely fascinating across the room, outside, or in my car to examine. Someone angrily approaching me to discuss politics is not my idea of a good time. So, I guess my advices is: 1. Try to escape. 2. If you can't escape, try to change the subject. Or, 3. Play dead?

Look, there's nothing wrong with just saying, "Oh goodness look at the time! Excuse me!" and walking away. He doesn't need to know why you care about the time or what you mean. I'm also perfectly happy to allow certain individuals to have the perception that I am incredibly dense and shallow about politics. Meaning, play dumb. "Oh, those things bore me. Did you see the latest episode of Duck Dynasty?" or "I don't even know what you're talking about. I never watch the news." They don't need to know how much I enjoy politics because I know that their version of discussion involves lots of shouting. =)

guihong:
I always say, "I'm allergic to politics.  I break out in an argument".  With rational people, that makes them laugh and we drop it.  With irrational people, it's then "Oh, look at the time; the cat's bursting into flames".

Mel the Redcap:
I think you handled it perfectly! You made sure you had the facts, and you defused him without actually having to state a position of your own. Go you!  ;D

Danika:
I had a similar interaction with a friend the other day. I didn't feel like discussing politics because I had her over to have a good time. The way she was talking wasn't a discussion; it sounded more like preaching. Whether I agreed with her or not, I don't like to be preached at. And it didn't sound like she was doing her own thinking or analyzing. Rather, it sounded like she had memorized something and was just spewing lines. I didn't want to engage the crazy and I don't enjoy arguments or debates.

So I just said "uh huh" or "mmm" to indicate that I heard her comments. But I didn't get more energetic or riled up. I just said "uh huh" and then kept getting up to offer her coffee, or to add more sugar to mine, etc. I beandipped a little here and there. Eventually, she ran out of steam.

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