Author Topic: Avoiding a political argument, politely.  (Read 2725 times)

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snappylt

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Avoiding a political argument, politely.
« on: February 18, 2013, 02:30:27 AM »
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

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Re: Avoiding a political argument, politely.
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2013, 04:10:27 AM »
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

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Re: Avoiding a political argument, politely.
« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2013, 04:26:38 AM »
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

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Re: Avoiding a political argument, politely.
« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2013, 04:36:14 AM »
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
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Danika

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Re: Avoiding a political argument, politely.
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2013, 06:05:54 AM »
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.

cicero

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Re: Avoiding a political argument, politely.
« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2013, 06:39:02 AM »
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. =)
yup.

you don't *have to* discuss politics with anyone, just because they started a conversation.

and you don't even have to play dumb - just repeat "i don't discuss politics." and bean dip

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TurtleDove

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Re: Avoiding a political argument, politely.
« Reply #6 on: February 18, 2013, 06:40:51 AM »
I don't think you handled this poorly, but I think that if your goal was to not engage you could have handled it differently.  As other posters mentioned, you could have said, "No, I didn't see that. Beandip?"  What I generally say (because I also avoid discussing politics) is, "I don't want to discuss it."  I've been adament that I don't discuss politics except for very vaguely for so long that it rarely comes up anymore!

bopper

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Re: Avoiding a political argument, politely.
« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2013, 11:08:59 AM »
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

I agree!  Also you have taught Fred that coming to you won't = an argument, but you will make him think.  He may or may not want that.

MrTango

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Re: Avoiding a political argument, politely.
« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2013, 11:19:14 AM »
If you really didn't want to discuss it at all with him, you could have said "Hmm.  I haven't had a chance to read that yet.  I'll take a look when I have time."

Virg

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Re: Avoiding a political argument, politely.
« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2013, 03:11:01 PM »
snappylt wrote:

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

I agree with Mel The Redcap that you handled it beautifully.  You may have skirted on an argument, but you avoided getting riled up, you engaged without losing control, you got your info on the issue straight and you turned it back to him with a clear statement about where it would lead, both to defuse the fight and bring it to a close at the same time.  What you did was a textbook case of commanding the issue and guiding the discussion.

For someone looking for advice in avoiding political discussions, you did a pretty darn good job steering one.  You might consider a career in politics yourself.

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oceanus

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Re: Avoiding a political argument, politely.
« Reply #10 on: February 18, 2013, 03:16:46 PM »
Quote
I guess my question is would there have been a better way to have handled it?

"No, I hadn't heard that.  Oh, well."  Beandip.

Don't ask where you ccn find the story, don't comment, don't ask for his thoughts/opinions about it.

Marguette

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Re: Avoiding a political argument, politely.
« Reply #11 on: February 18, 2013, 07:31:03 PM »
I think you scored 100%. Sure, you could have changed the subject right away and not even looked up the article, but then he would have been left punching at the air, and he might have deflected to another target. This way he got to see that even when he got into the topic with you, you weren’t going to give him the argument he was looking for. If you have any doubt you handled it right, look at the outcome: it couldn’t have been better.

mmswm

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Re: Avoiding a political argument, politely.
« Reply #12 on: February 18, 2013, 08:31:49 PM »
If your goal was to avoid a political argument, you succeeded. You did, however, engage in a political discussion, which contrary to the belief of the people I know, are not the same thing. You did a great job in steering the conversation so that it did not devolve into a shouting match.  Good job!

kherbert05

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Re: Avoiding a political argument, politely.
« Reply #13 on: February 18, 2013, 11:18:52 PM »
You have to know your audience. I think you did what you had to do with your uncle. I have a degree in Poli Sci. I have and will in the future engaged in thoughtful and civil discussions nad even debates.

With my brother-in-law I love him but we are polar opposites and he thinks he can get me to change my mind. During our recent Presidential Elections I told him - I'm not going to fight with you. Either drop it or we won't be seeing each other till after the election.

He thought I was joking - but sis made it clear I was deadly serious. He dropped it.
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TootsNYC

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Re: Avoiding a political argument, politely.
« Reply #14 on: February 19, 2013, 11:12:58 AM »
I think you scored 100%. Sure, you could have changed the subject right away and not even looked up the article, but then he would have been left punching at the air, and he might have deflected to another target. This way he got to see that even when he got into the topic with you, you weren’t going to give him the argument he was looking for. If you have any doubt you handled it right, look at the outcome: it couldn’t have been better.

I agree, your tactic let it sort of peter out, instead of sharply cutting him off. And you sort of modeled the appropriate level of intensity for that situation.

You also bought yourself time (I used to count to 3 w/ my kids; my mom criticized me for not expecting instantaneous compliance, but I found that *I* liked the "count of 3" to brace myself for the confrontation and to think of what type of punishment I would inflict if they didn't obey).

I think you did great, and I'm going to use you as an example.