Author Topic: When political discussions get shouty  (Read 2049 times)

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Stricken_Halo

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When political discussions get shouty
« on: June 07, 2014, 09:59:24 PM »
BG: My brother has a friend, "Sam," with whom he has been friends since elementary school; we're talking 50+ years. My brother and his wife live out of the country, but always make it a point to see Sam and his wife "Rebecca" when they're in town. Over the years, I've sometimes tagged along (always invited) to their activities, both before Sam was married and after. When Bro and SIL aren't here, I've become a sort of maintainer of ties with Sam and Rebecca.

The problem is that Sam is a very vocal member of the Orange Party, and at the slightest pretext will announce that anyone who supports the Purple Party is a fool, and/or how terrible all Purple Party leaders are. Even a discussion on the weather isn't safe because of his stance on climate change. He can get really shouty.

My questions: 1) Does the old rule against discussing politics (and religion, but that doesn't come up as often) at dinner parties still apply?

2) Some of my other past guests, who have been Orange Party people themselves (though not as extreme or abrasive), seemed to enjoy arguing with Sam. Should I still beandip if people actually are enjoying this type of conversation? 

3) I know that the standard solution, when you like the wife better than the husband (and you are female), is to plan activities with the wife alone. But in this case, the history with Sam goes back so much further than that with Rebecca that it seems extremely awkward to suddenly refuse invitations to their home or to other activities where they will be present as a couple. Suggestions?

SamiHami

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Re: When political discussions get shouty
« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2014, 10:16:37 PM »
"Oh, Sam, I know you are passionate about your political beliefs and I completely respect that, but I was hoping for some lighthearted, relaxing conversation tonight. Would you mind if we save the political talk for another time?"

If he is unwilling to drop the subject, your only options then would be to leave or to decide to just tolerate it.

Maybe a little mental game of "political zealot bingo" is in order.

What have you got? Is it food? Is it for me? I want it whatever it is!

lady_disdain

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Re: When political discussions get shouty
« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2014, 10:24:56 PM »
If the political conversation was polite and reasonable, I would not think it rude. But, in this case, it is loud and disruptive, therefore, rude.

Today, it seems that a hostess's duty is mainly to distribute drinks, check the food and open the door (ok, I am exaggerating) and that her most important duty has fallen out: that of keeping the evening pleasurable, facilitating conversation and making sure everyone has a chance to shine or that no one dominates the evening. In this case, if some people are enjoying the heated exchange but others are feeling awkward, a good hostess should gently redirect the conversation, if possible, or do so more directly, if it is getting out of hand.

Personally, I like a good political debate but I hate shouting matches. I would redirect him every time the subject came up, before it could evolve into an actual conversational topic.

TootsNYC

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Re: When political discussions get shouty
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2014, 10:25:44 PM »
I agree with lady_disdain--but yeesh, what a lot of work!

Do you like these people for their own sake? I get the impression that you're only friends with them because of their association with your brother.

Fade them out. When your Bro comes to town, you can invite them, or go to gatherings.

Otherwise, just do the big fade.

sweetonsno

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Re: When political discussions get shouty
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2014, 10:26:57 PM »
1. I think this is a "know your audience" kind of thing. An intimate dinner party among friends? I'm not going to be upset about you wanting to discuss heavier subjects so long as everyone can be civil. (That means no yelling and no saying that someone is stupid.)

2. Bean-dipping may work, or you could just straight-up say that you find the impassioned conversation stressful over the dinner table. You could also suggest that they hold their thoughts until after the meal, especially if everyone goes into the living room and breaks into smaller conversational groups over coffee. You could also just turn to the person next to you (if he or she isn't participating in the debate) and chat about something that interests you.

3. Yikes. Has it really gotten so bad that you don't want to go to these events at all? Maybe only accept the ones where your brother and SIL are in town, plus maybe one or two BIG events (where it will be easier to mingle). Could you invite Rebecca out for some one-on-one time every so often?

TootsNYC

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Re: When political discussions get shouty
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2014, 10:36:29 PM »
Oh, also--if you actually like Rebecca, don't have any qualms about getting together with her without her husband.

I think you can't invite her but not him to a dinner party, but you can certainly spend time with her on her own. Or invite her to a girls-only sort of activity.

Stricken_Halo

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Re: When political discussions get shouty
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2014, 09:48:21 PM »
Quote
Do you like these people for their own sake? I get the impression that you're only friends with them because of their association with your brother.
That's exactly the case with Sam. Of course I would never have known Rebecca if not for him, but I like her much better.

I like the suggestions for gently steering the conversation elsewhere, or stating nicely that I'd prefer to keep things lighter. I definitely need to be more proactive as hostess in giving everyone a chance to shine.

bopper

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Re: When political discussions get shouty
« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2014, 10:32:00 AM »
If you feel that people are becoming uncomfortable you could say:

"Hey political discussion group...could you keep it down a bit?"

or redirect entirely....

"Soooooo...how about those Mets?"