How do you talk about deal-breaker topics?

Guest post by Jules
how to argue about deal breaker topics
I really just want to tell you shut the fuck up. (Photo by: Celia ChamizoCC BY 2.0)

We all have certain values, beliefs, and opinions that are somewhat non-negotiable for each of us as a person — unique to our own makeup of upbringing, education, and personal experiences.

(Un)Fortunately, we can’t always convince everybody to agree with our personal brand of freedom and equality. Also, there are people with whom constant fights about personal values are not recommended, or people who simply refuse to allow any kind of discussion — parents, colleagues, customers, acquaintances, hell even people you consider friends.

By now I have realized that screaming “This is so unfair! Why don’t you want to understand?” is not the smartest way to begin any kind of conversation. Yet, there are topics where this is pretty much my default reaction.

How do you cope with constant mentioning of idealogical deal breakers — homophobic, racist, misogynic, and many other discriminatory comments — with people you can’t necessarily break things off with?

In the past, other Homies have talked a lot about communicating. The Offbeat Empire has also offered great advice on:

But what do you do if your boss/in-laws/neighbor constantly complains about homosexuals/immigrants/women/etc? I don’t really want this to be another lesson in “you need to learn when to let go,” because I can’t.

Okay, Homies: how do you discuss deal-breaker values with people you’re stuck with?

Comments on How do you talk about deal-breaker topics?

  1. I come up against this a lot working as a receptionist at a business frequented mainly by older adults of the conservative variety. If someone is truly incessant, I tell them as nicely as I can “I disagree with you, and I think that discussing this further or bringing it up again in converstion between us is a poor idea” or an appropriate variation thereof. People are entitled to their opinions, you are entitled to disagree, and you are ALSO entitled to set boundaries to help maintain a cordial/professional relationship with those you disagree with.

  2. I used to be all “NOT EVER ACCEPTABLE EVER and if you EVER talk or think that way I want NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU”.

    Recently I’ve softened but only insofar that:

    1.) People don’t always speak eloquently, or clearly say what they mean, leaving what they say up for interpretation or understanding different intentions. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt that they didn’t mean a racist/sexist/homophobic/bigoted comment (I’ll just say “bigoted” for all of the above if I need to list them again) the way it came out.

    Case in point: there is a big “Vietnamese bride” industry in Taiwan, where I live (brides from other countries, too, but they are mostly Vietnamese). I said once that I really abhorred this industry, and unfortunately a friend of mine took that to mean that I was against interracial marriages, or bigoted against Vietnamese women or “why can’t they just marry their own kind” or something. I’M NOT! I don’t think that at all. I’m against the industry because women are forced into it – literally or through subtler economic or social forces – and it’s a for-profit female trafficking, well, industry. You will often see ads for “Vietnamese brides” that say things like “She’s guaranteed to be a virgin – we have the lowest prices! If she runs away we’ll send you a new one”. UGH. Race has nothing to do with my dislike for this!

    But, if someone read my comment the wrong way, they might have thought I had a racist streak.

    So…give people the benefit of the doubt.

    2.) Some people actually aren’t bad people – they say things because they’re in a bad place or something just comes out really wrong, but after some time to think about it they realize how shitty they really sound, and are horrified that they ever said such a thing. It is okay to forgive these people – you do not lose any liberal cred. People can and do realize their mistakes.

    Example – a friend of mine went through a genuinely creeply stalkerific breakup with a borderline abusive partner of another race. For a little while after the breakup she made a few disparaging comments about dating men of that race. I wanted to say…honey, I feel for you and what you’ve been through, but no. It’s really not okay to assume that every man of that race is going to be as bad as your ex. While I would offer very gentle contrary opinions, I realized that her racist statements were more about what she’d just been through than her actual feelings about people of that race. The comments stopped and she was horrified that she’d ever made them. I do not believe these comments reflect who she is inside – and I do not believe she’d make that mistake and say such things again. So I chose to forgive her. Another friend has some homophobic views – “gay marriage is fine but not adoption!” under an argument that could be summed up as “won’t somebody think of the children?!” and some weird metaphorical nonsense about apples and oranges and you need both for good nutrition.

    Honestly, we are not close anymore, and until she changes that viewpoint we probably won’t be. But I didn’t cut her off entirely because she went through depression, then she “found Jesus” (okay…if it suits her, that’s great) but many of the congregations in Taiwan are scary bigoted and she joined one of them. As she’s worked her way out of depression, she’s been unduly influenced by a horribly bigoted pastor.

    I do think there is the potential for her to realize the full bigoted magnitude of what she’s been saying and thinking all this time, and come back to her formerly openminded self. So, I couldn’t bring myself to just end the friendship. I want to be there for her when she does come around.

    3.) Some people really do say shitty things, and they don’t fall under #1 or #2 above. These people I either break things off with, or distance myself from to a level of polite civility and nothing more, if I can’t avoid them entirely. But people can and do change, and if someone shows that they’ve changed, I think it’s better to welcome them into the fold than hold their past, changed views against them forever. We all have growing up to do, in some ways.

    But then there are the people who say bigoted things but show no signs of changing, soon or ever.

    For them, it’s cool civility if I cannot break things off entirely.

    I try to make it clear that I do not agree and will not listen to such talk, and that there is nothing that can be said that will convince me otherwise, nor is there any way to make some talk palatable/excusable/understandable if it’s really bigoted. That there is really nothing the person can do to convince me that their views deserve my time, consideration or respect. That there really is a difference between a reasonable difference of opinion, and bigotry, and that some things don’t get protected under “well I think a different way and that deserves respect too”. And I end the conversation there.

    If it’s a coworker/neighbor I keep it superficial and polite after that, until I have reason to act differently. With my grandmother (who is also like this), we talk about cooking, maybe makeup although I don’t wear it often, jewelry. How my marriage is different from hers and that’s okay (she and grandpa have a marriage based on traditional gender roles – my husband and I do not). My grandfather isn’t so bigoted, so we have a closer relationship (also we can talk about scotch, which I find more interesting than makeup). We avoid talking about religion at all (I’m an atheist and would just like my views to be respected – I don’t try to change anyone’s mind. She’s Christian and that’s cool – although I know if I told her I was an atheist she’d try to “change” me “back”).

    I can maintain a relationship with her, but we’ll never be as close as we probably both would have liked.

    • If it’s at work, I just refuse to discuss any of it. Although if the other person comes out with a bigoted opinion, as above, it’s superficial polite civility from me and nothing more. Until I went freelance that was my entire relationship with my boss, over Taiwanese politics. (I care very deeply about the political situation of the country I choose to call home, and for those who know the situation, you could call me ‘green’ or pro-independence and he’s ‘blue’ or pro-China).

      Also he was sexist.

      Soooooooo we just didn’t talk about it. If he said something along those lines I said “honestly I don’t think that way, let’s not discuss it please”.

      Then I quit. : – ) Not over our political differences, but I was happy to get out of there for a spate of reasons.

      It doesn’t even have to be about political differences: I support the current Sunflower Movement in Taiwan. I don’t need to talk about it with people who disagree with me. They can think what they think and I can wear my sunflower hair clips to show my support. They don’t need to ask me about them. So when a neighbor (not in my building but in my community) started screaming at me over them, I admit, I got mad. I didn’t scream back, but it did get heated.

      Now, I avoid that neighbor. Not because we disagree – I honestly don’t mind. I wish it weren’t so, but she’s entitled to her opinion. But because she screamed at me when it really wasn’t necessary. She implied that foreigners can’t understand “Taiwanese issues”, that I have no right to protest because “if you don’t like it just go back to America” etc. and that was just not okay.

      I won’t move, but I doubt I’ll speak to her again!

    • Another way I maintain a relationship with my bigoted grandma is to write frequent cards and postcards. We travel a lot so every year she gets a new postcard from a cool new place. Christmas and birthday cards too. She can’t see or hold a pen clearly to write back, but if she could, usually handwritten notes tend to focus on just “love you, miss you” without getting into any deeper water.

      It means I call less (the calls always devolve into the usual hectoring on her part, and there’s only so much of that I am willing to take), but we still have a connection. And nobody can push the old “my grandkids never write!” trop on me!

    • Can I just thank you for this great and wonderfully long comment! I think I really need to give people the benefit of the doubt in those dealbreaker situations. Usually I’m the one pointing this out and encourage people to reconsider or/and try to understand the other one’s POV but with certain topics but when it comes to my dealbreakers this turns into my blind spot. It’s funny how things you are good at (like keeping it cool, negotiating during conflicts) all flies out of the window in certain situations.

  3. Oh, the story of my life! My parents are devout Catholics with the most conservative views on sexuality that I have ever encountered (ie no contraception, no touching before marriage kind), crippled with guilt and sin-talk.

    Since teenagehood, I have gone through a million different phases in my relationship to them: not speaking, cordial, openly hostile, forgiving, not seeing them for over a year, to finally talking on the phone a little on a monthly basis.

    Ironically, it’s my sister’s coming out that brought us to more peaceful place. The news came as a shock to them although everyone else had known for years and she was in a very long-term relationship. All the horrible things you can expect from them happened: the judgement, the “where did we go wrong”, “she needs to see a christian therapist”, and worst of all, the pitying… “she’ll never be happy”.
    When my sister moved abroad to never see them again, they were too proud to admit the hurt of loosing her, but started to subtly change things. They wrote postcards addressed to me and my live-in boyfriend. Stopped forcing us to say grace before meals when we were around, or asking us if we went to church (the answer was always no).
    After months of trying, they rekindled communication with my sister and her now wife.

    My parents are people that as strangers, I would hate. They have made growing up impossibly painful for all my siblings and myself, and we’re all still recovering from fundamentalism.
    But their efforts to not loose their adult children showed me there is some kind of unconditional love there, some streak of humanity. Religion aside, they’re a mother and a father. It gets lost in all their clumsiness and principles and judgement, but it’s there somewhere.

    So we talk awkwardly and focus on the mundane. So-and-so is having a baby! Give me the recipe for pumpkin pie. How do I clean a mirror with vinegar? Talk to you soon Mom, love you. And I truly do, finally, at the age of 30.

    • First of all I’m sorry you and your siblings had to go through such hard times. Parental expectations and well meant parenting/protectivness are most difficult to deal with and make sense of for yourselves. It sounds like you’ve found a way to deal with it and protect yourselves and your well-being.
      For myself, I’ve realized in my early teens that my parents are just ordinary people with flaws and problems and I guess like most people this revelation floored me in the beginning but now it makes a lot of things easier because you can acknowledge and talk about some of those “faults” and it makes it more difficult too because especially my father is not comfortable with this shift in our dynamic.

    • Holy crap.
      Did I write this from the future?!?
      For real… replace Catholics with strong fundamental Christians and it’s super super similar.
      I’m still in the fighting-with-them phase, which I can’t get out of it seems like… it’s rough. I recently came out as atheist and it’s still… so…. awkwardly sad :/
      I hope that I can reach the place you’re at in a few years.

    • Thank you so much for sharing this story! I haven’t spoken to my uber-conservative Christian parents since just after Christmas of last year. My girlfriend and I are starting to plan a wedding, and I’m really struggling with the idea that they won’t be there or be involved in any way. This gives me some sense of hope that things may improve.

  4. This is so timely! I just found out that one of my work colleagues thinks I’m racist. Now mind you, I didn’t find out from her. I discovered it on my own once I realized that she wasn’t exactly a rude person, she was acting unprofessional only towards me. I asked around to try and figure it out. Apparently I referenced the Pew research about race & internet use, and she thought I was making stuff up. I am guessing that from there she thought I was telling her that because she’s African American she is destined to be poor and act in a certain way – which was DEFINITELY not my intent!
    I’m doing my best to react professionally to this case of misunderstanding. But it feels awful to be seen as the one making deal-breaker comments.

    • Discussing race is hard, and normally I just don’t do it out of fear that I’ll say something wrong. (Which is totally white privilege…) But it’s something that I need to think about. I grew up in a poor white area with little diversity. So I’m not sure what you should do in your case, but, if you haven’t already, read, read, read. I KNOW I have said ignorant things in the past because I haven’t had to think about race much in my life. It’s also easy to say something benign to you (like quoting a study) without considering the implications for someone else.

      In general, nobody likes to be included in a group and have characteristics assigned to them simply because they belong in that group. Personally, I cringe when I hear someone say “Women are ______” or “White people always ______.” That’s just my experience, so I always try to stick to talking about MY experience when asked. I DON’T know about someone else’s experience just by looking at them, and I shouldn’t assume that one POC can speak for all POC, either.

      We’ve definitely moved (at least younger generations in parts of the US) from worrying about not being racist to not being bigoted, which is harder for a lot of people because it’s more subtle.

      Which brings me to my own recent deal-breaker conversation with someone older I looked up to and has never uttered a racist word in her life. Her daughter started dating a black man, and that broke some sort of flood gate in her for things I NEVER thought she’d say, like “It’s just not okay where we live.” “I don’t want people to gossip about her.” “What if they have kids, their kids will be picked on.” Also, his family didn’t want him dating a white girl. “Isn’t that reverse racism?” (Um, no, that’s not how racism works.) I tend to lose my words when I’m in an awkward and unexpected situation. Did she think that I was a bigot, and that I would agree with her? (I don’t.) Why were these words coming out of the mouth of a “good person?” (Nobody is all bad or all good.) I really didn’t know what to do. I just kept repeating “Well, you DON’T know these things about someone just by looking at them.” “Yes, a lot of people are racist where you live, and they could judge her, but does it matter? Things will never change until people start doing things differently.” We eventually ended up at her not wanting her daughter to be the one to fight the fight. This conversation still makes me sweat just thinking about it, so if anyone has some suggestions for what to say if it comes up again, I would appreciate them.

      • “Discussing race is hard, and normally I just don’t do it out of fear that I’ll say something wrong. (Which is totally white privilege…)”

        Totally also white privilege of me to admit this, but here goes: I feel like in this particular case it seems impossible to win.

        On the good side, I think in most cases if you are genuinely not racist or homophobic, if you say something problematic that doesn’t reflect how you feel but uses language you maybe weren’t even aware was problematic, or hadn’t thought about but once it was called to your attention you can see why those things are issues and resolve to be more aware in the future, that most people will give you the benefit of the doubt and see you for the not-bigoted ally you are.

        But sometimes it does get all Social Justice Warrior-y and one really can’t do right. Say nothing? It’s white privilege that you don’t have to! Say something that comes out wrong? BIGOT! Say something that doesn’t come out wrong to support another community – cultural appropriator! White knight! It is made *literally impossible* to say and do the right thing, and there are people out there waiting to jump on you for the tiniest misstep – a misstep you must take, because there is no way not to.

        This is a very small minority of people, in a very tiny minority of interactions in real life, but it feels like the internet magnifies it.

        Which, I know, even having this “problem” is a sign of privilege that that’s even the sort of problem one could have, and there’s no reason to pity the white straight middle class cisgendered woman for “feeling like she can’t win” with a small number of people. I know.

        The “liberal bullying” post linked to in this article addresses that pretty well I think.

        • This hits so hard for me right now. At work, I told a story to a coworker in which someone told a racist slur to my significant other in reference to a prominent politician. In telling the story, I mouthed the slur. That person is biracial and immediately called me out on it. I was SO embarrassed and apologized profusely for offending them. I still feel like a jackass for saying it. I want to let the whole thing go and just be professional in the workplace, but this person has now triggered a massive HR and managerial backlash against myself and my manager (for waiting a day to reprimand me).

          I feel so conflicted about the whole situation: if I said this to any other person, would this have happened? Am I not apologetic enough? What else have I, as someone with “white privilege, done that may have offended others? I honestly feel like my liberal card needs revoked or at least suspended temporarily.

        • I immediately brought up the situation to my boss, since this work colleague is actually a student in the school where I work (and I have some level of authority over this student). My boss said that I should handle it how I think best, and that it shouldn’t have been so problematic.
          Then I role-played the situation out with a few people, and they said I hadn’t done anything wrong in the context. (Group discussion about using social media as a tool to investigate our criminal cases.) But this student either misunderstood me in the context, or is the kind of person who takes these things personally, for whatever reason.
          This whole situation really freaks me out. My mantra for the past few days is “I did nothing wrong here. It’s okay that I’m concerned. I don’t need to apologize.” And I sent this student a message trying to clear the air and letter her know she can confront me about it if she wants to.

          • I completely understand your thoughts on this and you appear to be handling it very well. Try to clear the air and explain why you made this particular statement and what your intention was. It’s astonishing how much you can turn a conflict around by simply clearly stating your intentions (to someone who is at least somewhat willing to listen). Also I think it’s great that you let her know you are open to talk about it. In situation like this I always feel like it’s super important to let the other one know that it’s personally important to you and that you care about it.

  5. I think that is highly depends on the relationship for the situation.

    If the commentary is clearly in contravention to a stated HR policy at work and it’s making you uncomfortable, swing in an HR person to talk to about it. If the comments escalate, then you’ve already built a relationship with the HR person and can begin a paper trail. It’ll also make others more aware of any more coded ways this person might say things around higher-ups. The choice to escalate entirely falls into your comfort levels, and you can get a good idea of the culture through how HR handles it. Worst case scenario? Start looking for a new job, if you’re able to do so.

    The family one I’m keenly familiar with. I married into a family very different from my own, world-view wise. I come from a middle-class, liberal, educated background. My husband comes from a blue-collar, more conservative, large family with education more-or-less ending at the compulsory level (or maybe a little Community College). The blue-collar world that I walk into when I’m with them, and we gather regularly, is very different than the one I come from. (for clarity, both my husband and I are white.)

    Certain members of his family have views I, frankly, don’t understand when it comes to race relations, gender policing and stereotyping of the “other”. Generally speaking, I tend to just not get involved. If there’s something that’s factually incorrect about what’s being said, then I inject that I don’t agree with the opinion because x actually works like y, but never tilt my full hand down. At this point, they can put together how I feel on certain topics but I’m not throwing my opinions around like gangbusters simply because I’m way more liberal than most of them.

    When it comes to gender issues in particular, I tend to ask the simple, yet sometimes confounding questions, of “well, why not?” I tend to make an argument of personal fulfillment if counter-asked. “I think, if it’s going to help someone be happier and s/he’s not harming anyone, what’s the harm? Is it really our business to decide someone else’s life?” tends to be a good response. They bend towards the personal liberty, low taxes, more tea party side of things and it’s been good at, at least, seeing the wheels turn a little.

    Do I expect anyone to change? No. Why would I expect someone else to change an opinion I have no desire to change myself?

    • I’ve found that works too – very simple questions that basically invite a person to think about “why” they feel that way.

      This actually worked to change my student’s mind once.

      “I was out with my wife and daughter in Ximending [a popular pedestrian shopping area, also the ‘gay’ neighborhood, in Taipei] and I saw a gay man.”

      “Well duh, you were in Ximending. And anyway how do you know he was gay?”

      “He was wearing yellow hot pants.” (I realize one shouldn’t make judgements about another’s inner life based on what they wear but I just didn’t want to argue that point, because honestly, if you’re a Taiwanese man wearing yellow hot pants in Ximending you are probably gay, and if he wasn’t, well, it doesn’t matter in the context of what happened next).

      “So…why are you bringing this up?”

      “It made me uncomfortable. You know, with my daughter there.”


      “I don’t want my daughter to see this kind of gay man!”


      “Because she could see that guy, and think that he’s gay.”


      “So that made me uncomfortable, she’s a kid.”


      “She doesn’t need to be exposed to that.”

      “Exposed to…what?”

      “You know, gay people!”

      “No, I don’t know. Why not?”

      “Because she’s young.”


      “Maybe she never saw a gay man before. It’s weird.”

      “It’s weird?”

      “OK, it’s not weird, but maybe that makes her think about the issue too much.”

      “Too much? Also, you don’t think that’s a good thing?”

      “I don’t know. Maybe she’ll wonder about it.”

      “Does she know what ‘being gay’ is?”


      “So she sees this guy and knows he’s probably gay. So what?”

      “So, what if she asks me about that?”

      “You answer her.”

      “I guess, I just…it bothers me.”


      “I don’t…okay. I know you’re right. Really. But this is new in Taiwanese culture [he meant openly LGBTQ culture, he knows there have always been gay Taiwanese] and I’m a 42 year old man, when I was young we didn’t talk about this, it’s very new for me. But I know it’s OK. I just have to get used to it. But sometimes I still feel uncomfortable.”


      (I have no doubt that he will “get used to it” and he realizes that letting people who are different from you live their lives is the right thing to do. He may even lose his fear of talking about it with his daughter).

      • My default question is basically ‘Why?’. I think it’s most important to question your own behaviour and beliefs. A simply Why works wonders in discussions and dealbreaker situations. Yet while I had a lot of great talks because of a few well placed whys I also had big ugly fights because of it. Maybe I tend to overdo it by digging to deep and making people uncomfortable sometimes but I always feel shocked when some people end conversations with “I don’t knwo why and I don’t want to think about it.” This always makes me feel totally helpless.

        • Oh, I also hear “Facts don’t prove a damn thing!” or “I hope you won’t get emotional and quote meaningless statistics at me”.

          Which, I try not to get too pedantic, but I do think it’s important to ground one’s belief in some sort of fact.

          So when someone says “facts don’t prove a damn thing”, what can I do? I can laugh to myself, and just stop talking to that person, because I’m wasting my breath. If they don’t want to believe in facts…well…

          And I wouldn’t say that if we were talking opinions, but facts are another thing altogether.

    • Professionally, I’ve only been in one situation like this during an internship so my days were literally counted. One of my bosses was a textbook misogynist who was generally very bad at managing his staff. That was a few years ago and I remember being shocked to experience the tense atmosphere where his behaviour and questionable treatment of the staff were open secrets yet nobody ever talked about it openely.

      Family wise I am in a very similar situation which has led to a few big explosive fights in the past and both sides try to accommodate the other one’s opinion but it’s really hard for me to listen to sometimes really off-hand racist/homophobic comments or expectations that a very traditionally gendered (e.g. I am asked to do certrain chores while my SO sits right next to me literally doing nothing and just hanging out although it’s his home not mine which is always very awkward for both of us).

  6. Certain members of my extended family are especially close-minded (of the “this is America–speak English!” attitude), and my response when they start on their tirades about immigrants or different cultures is to walk away from the conversation. Just physically get up and leave the room.

    I know it’s kind of a passive-aggressive response and I’d like to eventually get to a point where I can calmly talk about why that kind of thing is harmful and hurtful. But if you’re like me and afraid that trying to be confrontational in these situations will just make you angry and crying, simply walking away is a way to get the message across that you’re not okay with what is happening and you’re refusing to participate. Maybe that’s the best way to phrase it, actually: “I’m not going to participate in this.”

    • I sometimes have to ultimately walk away from my family’s conversations. (See this comment.)

      But when it comes to my in-laws, I didn’t feel comfortable just bailing. So I’ve started just “checking out.” I’ll stare off into space… check my phone… grab my laptop and start doing work… basically doing anything but participating. It took two years, but they’ve finally realized that if they want me to be engaged in conversation with them — during the ONE time we see them a year — then they have to stay away from those deal-breaker issues. It’s actually sweet now, my mom-in-law will realize that I’m checking out and then rein in my father-in-law: “Okay, sweetie, I think that’s enough of that topic, it’s time to change the subject…”

      • This is what I did the other day! Mother in law went into a big speech blaming victims of domestic violence for their own situation (she knows I’m a domestic violence survivor) and I just got out my phone and ignored her.

    • My dad has been foreseeing the coming apocalypse for about 8 years, every October like clockwork. When he starts getting too nutty, I just get up and leave. Later on he’ll say something about how the conversation clearly made me feel uncomfortable. My family isn’t so good with things like feelings or apologizing, so him merely admitting that he did something that made me feel uncomfortable is a nice gesture. And I think he then tries to restrain himself.

    • I honestly believe that walking away is sometimes the best and most healthy choice. As much as it pains me to admit sometimes there is no way to have a healthy discussion about things and after some failed attempts to talk to some people walking away will keep you sane. So yes I do not what you mean.

  7. I actually recently dealt with this situation. My boyfriend’s family has some polar opposite views on life from both myself and my family. I mostly bit my tongue and didn’t say anything out of respect to them and because I love my boyfriend and I respect that this is his family. However once they crossed over into insulting my family I decided that was a boundary I wasn’t comfortable with them crossing.
    While I had to make the decision to inform them that I would not tolerate them condemning my family, it did not go smoothly at first (lots of defensiveness) but that was something that I had expected. In the end we actually came to an understanding, though our relationship is different now.
    Here was my game plan going in.
    1) Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument. Decide what you want to say, say it and be done. Stay calm!
    2) If this affects someone else, be aware of their feelings. I discussed my feelings and what I planned to say with my partner beforehand. In this case it was his family and the last thing I wanted was to put him in the middle. Much of my concern was that he might also share these hurtful views (he didn’t). We talked a lot about this and once I felt secure that he love me and my family for who we are, I was much happier and secure.
    3) Know and set your boundaries. Pretty simple.
    4) Be open, Be kind. Many of the harsh words came from a place of fear. While I had known some of this, after we talked about the family history I understood (though did not approve) of the feelings they had towards my family’s lifestyle.
    5) YOU ARE NOT AN OPEN BOOK!!!! Unfortunately some people were removed from areas of my life. Like social media, I also decided to limit how I interacted with these people in person. If you can’t handle the information that I choose to share in a mature way, you will not longer be privilege to that information. It causes less stress all around.
    6) Don’t be a martyr. It is perfectly acceptable to be civil but to not be best friends. Be nice, be polite and then walk away!

  8. If the comments are not just an all out rage-fest (those I just walk away from) and are from someone I either do not know very well or know well enough to know they are not normally a mean-spirited individual, then I ask them what they mean by whatever statement they just made. It turns out most of the folks I run into in life are just regurgitating something they’ve always heard. I like to calmly circle them into a discussion about the meaning behind what they are saying and half the time they are horrified that their own words sound racist or bigoted in some way. Sometimes it just sounds like arguing semantics but I’m a huge fan of understanding the words we use and their effect when strung together. When it is comes to someone who repeats something that I’ve already discussed with them (male coworkers who like to use gay as a synonym to stupid, bad, etc.) then I just interject with “that word doesn’t mean what you think it means.” I don’t try to argue with them on it or discuss it any further, I just repeat it every time they say it. I got a lot of eye rolls and sighs but in the end they were so tired of me interjecting that they stopped using the term. And then when I realize I haven’t heard the phrase in a month I do a secret happy dance in Pavlov’s honor!

  9. This is SO useful. My mom lives next door and her political views are polar opposites of my own. Understanding where she’s coming from is useful: she lost my dad a few years ago and she has no one else to talk about this stuff with. It’s so frustrating, though, because I wish she could just think about what she’s saying, instead of regurgitating what she hears on her extreme radio stations. She knows I don’t agree, but will still go on. I mostly smile and nod and wait for her to finish, then change the subject. It’s not terribly effective. Some of the earlier comments are fabulous. Next time, I’ll try a “probably no point in discussing this, so let’s just agree to disagree.”

    • I have a similar relationship with my mom and my dad with the whole ” regurgitating what she hears on her extreme radio stations.” So I REFUSE to talk about politics, or any issues in the news at all. If we keep talk focused on family-only issues, the mundane, or topics we both enjoy in similar ways — home decor, dogs, drinking, and PBS shows — it’s allllllll gravy.

      But deal breaker topics are FORBODEN in my company, and I’m open about that. If one of them starts it up, I either roll my eyes and they stop, and if they don’t, I walk away. Can’t talk about it with me if I’m not there!

      Oh, I also make them turn off Fox News when I’m in the room. I asked for them to not watch it at all when I’m staying with them (it makes them get really negative) but we compromised to just changing the channel when I’m in the room.

      If they understand that you’re asking for them to not talk about these things with you so that you can have fun with each other, it makes it easier to make deals like that.

  10. I have very deeply rooted values, and many rightwing positions revolt me intensly, I honestly can’t stay calm in dicussions with right wing defenders. Until I can honestly listen, I decided to not talk about it. I truely believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion even if I vividly disagree and getting on my high horses does not help communication. What helps me most understanding intolerant people is trying to understand them, listen to them (tv interviews are good, I can’t get mad at them) and place myself in their shoes. For example, I discovered that for a religous guy interviewed, sex before mariage, was a shameful experience, that he felt they were not mature enough to live, and felt he profanated a beautiful act. He suffered, and wanted to prevent others his pain by advocating abstinance. I still believe that this is wrong, but understanding disolved my anger that he could defend a position I juge irresponsible.
    I don’t believe people are evil, we all do our best with what we’ve got, and for me, being understanding of others is the key in front of intolerance.
    Great great book I recommend for leaning non violent communication to deal with the difficult stuff.
    his first book is amazing, can be baught or downloaded

    When confronting people with their convictions, attack and anger only makes people defencive. Understanding and respect opens communication possiblities and possible change of views. It is not an easy feat, but very rewarding

    • Thank you for the book recs!
      You really described my main problem: Some (right wing) opinions just revolt me. I find it really hard to cope with such statements towards others based on their appearances, place of origin, gender etc. although I logically can understand where such feelings can come from I always feel like they are hateful and hurtful. Therefore I struggle to remain calm in topics that are so close to me.

  11. As usual – I’m a big fan of “I feel” statements. It’s my personal answer to just about everything. In this example, I would follow up my statement with a request for what I wanted.

    I feel ______ when _______ because of _________. Can we please ________?

    “Dad, I feel uncomfortable when you use racial slurs because to me they represent hatred and repression. I know you’re not a hateful person. Can we please not use that language when we’re together?”

    He can’t argue with me that I don’t feel uncomfortable because they are MY feelings. And he can’t say it’s not his fault, because I didn’t accuse him of anything. And my gentle request is an easy solution to the problem I just presented. The easiest thing for him to do is just say Yes.

    I personally find this works especially well for a woman trying to explain something to a man. In my experience men hear and understand me quickly and easily when I talk this way.

    Just be careful not to BLAME or JUDGE the other person. Know what you want the end result to be before you start – and make that your request/question. Do you want to never discuss this again? Do you want to change their mind? Do you just want to express that you don’t agree with the situation? “I feel” statements are about you – and how you feel – and what you want out of the situation. I wish you luck with your situation!!

    • Are you, perchance, a Communications major? :-p I am, and the “I feel” statement was a big part of our interpersonal communications class, and I have found it to be highly effective over the years, for the exact reasons you stated!

      People cannot argue against your feelings. If you kindly state that a certain topic makes you uncomfortable to discuss, say so. If the other person pushes the issue, they are just being rude at that point. Another good line I’ve heard and used is to the effect of: “I think this is a very big topic with lots of grey areas, and I don’t feel comfortable discussing it at the moment, so I don’t feel that I have anything constructive to add to the conversation.” It’s a polite way to excuse yourself from a potentially hostile conversation, while not admitting defeat or passively agreeing with the person.

      • The only snag in the plan is when someone WILL argue against your feelings. “I feel sad.” “Well, you shouldn’t feel sad about that, it’s stupid to feel sad about that.” Is that person a jack-ass? Yes. But I run in to people like this all the time. In most cases, they are trying to pawn off the effect of their words entirely on to you. A “friend” of mine likes to use the phrase “offense is taken, not given”, which I take to mean “it’s not my fault if you get offended by what I say.”

        “I feel” statements are only effective if the person in question actually cares about how you feel, and is motivated to change their behavior to help you feel differently.

        I do, however, agree whole-heartedly with thinking about the kind of things you DO want from this person, and asking for it. “I would prefer if we did not talk about this at work.” “Please don’t use that word around me.” Rather than “stop being a racist asshole”. It’s easier for people to change their behavior if they have a “goal” to work towards rather than a set of rules to avoid.

        • “Please don’t use that word around me” would not be honest for me. I understand that it is polite but usually what I want is for them to stop being racist not just avoid a certain word around me. But maybe I am just tired of that sourthen pseudo politeness that lets racism live on in that ‘I’m not being outright racist so its rude of you to not be polite to me even though we both know what I’m getting at’ manner. I vote for “stop being a racist!”

          • I feel that telling someone not to use that word around you is giving a strong message that you don’t agree with their views. I guess at the end of the day, someone is well within their rights to hold racist views if they so wish, it’s about the impact on other people.
            Example: I don’t like drugs. My husband smokes pot. I’ve had to make some compromises (when I met him, I didn’t even want it in my house). It’s important to him though, and he’s given me some feedback about rolling my eyes, making faces when he smokes, and generally even if I don’t say anything, making it really obvious that I hate it. If he says to me “Stop hating it!”, that’s not going to work, and will probably entrench my views further. What works is for him to say “I feel demeaned when you roll your eyes about something that’s really important to me.”. That’s what makes me change my behaviour, and ultimately led to much calmer conversations about why it’s important to him, and how we can both live with each others views.

        • Evee,
          I’m sorry that people demean your feelings. That sucks and no one should do that.

          If you want advise? …If I were in your shoes (and feeling particularly strong one day) I would call her on it immediately. “My feelings are not stupid, and that was a mean thing to say.” If they persist, trying to explain away their own cruelty by putting it on you, I would just get away from that person as quickly as possible. “Obviously we’re not going to see eye to eye here, so I’m just going to get going. Have a nice day.” Hopefully these aren’t people you have to interact with…Best of luck. 🙂

          I was a communications major for about 1 semester – and then I switched. I actually learned about I feel statements in High School in a “Teen Issues” class. That’s just about the only thing I remember from it – but I guess it has served me well since. I use these statements without even thinking about now, and bring them up in just about every “communications” topic here on offbeat home.

    • I love this! Thank you for the advice. Although it’s acutally a clear communications strategy that I’ve seen before seeing it spelled out with your personal experience really resonates with me and I’ll try it out next time.

  12. Not surprised that the topic of family is coming up a lot here. My own big question is somewhat related….what do you do when you knew your inlaws were bigots but you didn’t realize how deep an impression they had made on your spouse?

    While my husband and I are both very live and let live people, I’ve recently come to realize that underneath that he still thinks certain lifestyles are wrong. This isn’t an intellectual response on his part, it’s emotional and faith-driven, and as such very hard to even debate.

    • Have you tried talking it out? That’s what I do.

      It’s usually the occasional “sadly common” racially or ethnically charged phrase. I’ll say “hey, that’s not cool. You’re talking about (person in that group we know).” Relating the phrase/thought to a person gets the wheels turning and associating it with disparaging SOMEONE.

      It also helps that he’s of a traditionally maligned ethic group in terms of stereotypes of intelligence. So, I put it back on him, when needed, and remind him of the things people say about *his* cultural group and how untrue they are.

      I’ve also just had sit-down conversations where we’ve talked about how I don’t think it’s right because racism/ethnicism/sexism.

      The “Why?” method I listed above can be effective here, too. Ask them why the detail of their being whatever (female, black, asian, jewish, etc.) is important to the story. The more you ask, the more they are forced to think about why it’s a detail they are including. Not all identifiers are bad, and it’s learning the when and the how to include them, I think, that takes the learning sometimes.

    • I completely agree with rorsun1’s comment: Try talking it out, ask why he feels like this and why it’s ‘right’ in his opinion and lay out your own opinion.

      If he disagrees with certain lifestyles etc. try to go to events where he is exposed to them or mingles with people representing what he disagrees with. I don’t mean making him uncomfortable by forcing him to go somewhere but rather including the things he disagrees with as normal.

      What I’ve noticed is also very important (for him and your own sanity): acknowledge changes! You both will change over time, your opinions are constantly shifting. Acknowledge this and talk about it! If he gets more comfortable/less judgemental/etc. or contrary his stereotypes get reinforced somehow don’t let it go by unnoticed.

  13. I’m actually really struggling with this right now when it comes to parenting choices. My in-laws think it’s okay to spank, and I really REALLY don’t. This was an intellectual difference before, but now I’m pregnant. Fortunately my partner doesn’t support spanking either, but I’m not sure how to address it with his mother.

    The last time we went to dinner with them she told a story about spanking the three year old she baby sits (not hard, just a quick swat, she said). The important part of the story to me was that this kids parents never spank him. She *knows* he is raised in a no spanking home and thinks its okay to do it anyway. Ugh!

    • It’s especially important to have strong boundaries with family members. If it’s that much of a dealbreaker, don’t let Grandma babysit the child alone. And if you are not present, request that any discipline be done by you or your spouse when you return.
      Personally, I know that when I do have kids, I will need to have a LOT of boundaries set for my mother in law. My husband and I have seen her get over-attached with her 1st grandson, to the point where she thinks she’s his mother, and it’s caused a lot of strife for my nephew’s parents. That is not OK in my book, and I will limit Grandma time if it happens.

    • I think this is where you and your husband put your foot down. It’s especially important that the two of you present a united front if he really does agree with you and you’ve made this parenting decision together. Have a serious and direct conversation with MIL. Tell her, “we acknowledge that you intellectually disagree with us on this topic, but if you want to be involved in our child’s upbringing, we need you to support our parenting decision and not spank him/her.” Or whatever. Something where you acknowledge her opinion, so that she knows you’ve listened to her and know what she believes, but then instead of debating her on the topic, simply state that this is your choice, and she needs to respect it if she wants to be involved. If she refuses, I agree with Cass, don’t leave your child alone with her.

    • I actually was raised in a spanking household and when I met my current SO he was incredibly against it. I couldn’t figure it out until he sat me down and said “If you teach a kid that violence is punishment, he will use that against others as punishment” and such other things. I was pro-spanking just because “it worked for me” until I met him… had never thought about it any other way.

      Hope it all works out!

    • I would also suggest making sure your child grows up understanding that he/she/it should ALWAYS come to you if someone makes them uncomfortable or sad or angry, but never ever tell the child something like, “If Grandma spanks you, come tell Mommy right away.” Your child will probably go through a phase where it enjoys pitting authority figures against each other, and it could (rightly) interpret your comment about spanking as a way to get you and Grandma to fight. It may take you a while to realize that your child is lying, and by then you could have said some things you wish you could take back.

  14. Anyone have any tips on how to navigate a conversation where you don’t want to invite a good friend to events because their significant other is racist/homophobic? How can you tactfully say to a close friend, “You’re awesome and I like hanging out with you, but please don’t bring your boyfriend because he makes us all uncomfortable”?

    • Ooh ooh, I’ve been there. It was surprisingly easier than I thought it’d be. I was throwing a party and got together with my friend beforehand to tell her: “Here’s the deal, I totally love you, and I’d LOVE for you to be there, but the problem is that I know your husband isn’t going to fit in with this crowd. I just really want to avoid uncomfortable moments for everyone. So if you think it’s cool if you come without [husband], awesome! If not, I understand.”

      She basically responded with, “I understand. That’s not the first time someone’s said that to me about [husband]. And I totally get it. I’ll see if I can find an excuse to leave him at home.” Because SHE didn’t want to put up with those uncomfortable moments either!

      tl;dr Your friend probably already knows her boyfriend rubs people the wrong way, so she may be more amenable then you think.

    • Well, I’m an asshole, but I would specifically plan to do events that the group would enjoy but he would hate. Send out a group email with an invitation to such an event. Make it very clear in the invite that you’re going to be supportive, like a fundraiser event or a movie about a certain topic. And then let him decline the invite. Or if he accepts, see if he behaves. If he doesn’t, ask all the “why questions” other people outlined so well above in the comments.

      Also, this is a really tough question, but how do you support a friend in a relationship with someone like that? Does she share his views? I’ve never know what to do when a friend is in a relationship with someone who I don’t particularly like. A (bisexual) friend of mine married a pretty conservative religious person. I think he thinks he “saved” her or something. I had some words with some of the wedding guests at the reception when they started bashing her former “lifestyle.” It’s true that her ex wasn’t RIGHT for her, but it’s not because she was a woman.

      • It’s one of those situations where aside from his bigoted views, he’s a decent human who treats his partner with respect and would never even think of being a jerk to her. I guess that’s where I’m having trouble with what to say/not say.

        The same situation is happening with my sis…these incredibly smart, strong ladies have decided to date people who are kind and respectful to THEM but disrespectful to basically everyone else.

        Basically I don’t want to be a total butt and say “I like you, but the person you love is as unwelcome as a turd in the pool”.

      • I am the woman married to that guy. He and I have got it worked out and he does not disrespect me or my opinions, but he can be sort of a jack-ass to other people; talking loudly to the point where he sounds like he’s shouting at them, talking over them and not letting them get a word in, using harsh language, etc. It gets way worse when he drinks, so we have discussions about how much, if any, alcohol he is going to consume and if there’s a certain topic he just really shouldn’t bring up. Trust me, his behavior towards other people annoys me too, so I do sometimes just go without him to make it easier on me and my friends. It’s a really tough position, though. I want to help (or make) him be better at social functions, but how much is OK to ask him to change? I still wrestle with this rhetorical question all the time, and I have seen some improvements over the years.

        • I find in my own marriage that in these situations where my spouse’s behavior annoys me (or I think could be improved) I encourage good social behavior.
          However, if your workaround isn’t working in your life, a marriage counselor might be a good option. Going to counseling doesn’t mean your marriage is doomed, so don’t feel any stigma about it.

        • I am also this woman married to that man. My husband is an asshole – and everybody knows it. And I publicly call him on it when it gets bad. It’s gotten to the point where when I call him out, everybody (including husband) just laughs it off, finishes their points, and then changes the subject. Or if they keep at it, I’ll leave the conversation – and everybody knows why I’m leaving…

          I was drunk the first time I did it, or I would never have had the nerve, but it worked out really well. I would normally NEVER confront someone in front of their friends/family like that but now it’s just how it is…sometimes he calls himself out now….

          AND it becomes an example for everybody to see that he does treat ME well, that he does respect ME. So it’s a two for one bonus deal for me.

    • I had this exact problem for my wedding. One of my long time friends married a man from another nation who, after a year of working with an Army unit, decided that all servicemen are morons and kool-aid drinkers. He also turned out to be extremely racist and very very vocal about all of these opinions. Since a large portion of my family, friends, and even my husband are veterans, I spent a month agonizing over how to invite her and not him. I came to the conclusion that I would just be honest with her. Tell her that her husband’s negative opinions and insistence on bringing them up to everyone he meets were not welcome but that it would still mean a lot to me for her to be there. And also tell her that I knew I was making here choose between her husband and her friend in this instance and would accept her decision whichever way it meant but that I was not willing to sacrifice the enjoyment of my family and husband during our very military wedding. I made my feelings and priorities known to her honestly and was willing to accept her choices without judgement.

    • i have a great friend who i don’t see often due to distance, and when i do her boyfriend is with her, who is a complete narcissistic ass. and all of our friends who get together feel the same way about him and his high and mighty know it all attitude. pretty much rule of thumb is we ignore him. as in literally everyone in the room. give him liqueur, along with ourselves, and he’s so self absorbed with listening to himself talk, he doesn’t even notice we are ignoring and doing our own thing. we all love her and won’t hurt her feelings by telling her it’s him or us. but we all think and talk about how she could do better. he has the same attitude to her.

  15. I recently went through this as our state legislature was considering passing (and actually did pass. Yay!) marriage equality laws. A very friendly coworker is a Christian who opposes same sex marriage because it “just isn’t right,” and she “doesn’t want to explain to her grandchildren two men who kiss.”

    We got into a civil discourse knowing we couldn’t change each others’ minds, but she was genuinely interested in why I felt the way I did. I explained to her that I was abused by a man, and that I don’t think it’s right that he had the right to marry a woman, beat her, and leave (in the case of his wife, she filed charges against him as grounds for divorce) to do it again while loving couples I know have been together for nearly two decades don’t have the right to be married. She left the conversation with a better understanding of why I felt the way I do. Even if it’s just an isolated incident, it may soften over time.

    I usually just let people talk at me without responding. It’s only when asked that I’ll offer my opinion. When I offer it, I try to pair it with a relational experience from my life. It’s because I realize that these conversations aren’t about changing people’s opinions that I don’t let it go, but I do disengage, like Megan mentioned earlier. I don’t know if this helps you at all.

    • When it was allowed in my state, I said “Wooo-hoooo!” out loud without thinking at work. And then when everyone looked at me, I just owned it and stated all the reasons why it was awesome like being able to visit your significant other in the hospital, etc. And the summer student was just like “Really? I never thought of it that way. I guess that is a good thing.”

      So here I used the opposite approach of just talking… and really hoping nobody would disagree with me. My vomiting words worked in this scenario, for once.

  16. I having this issue more and more with my dad. While we don’t see each other that often, I call my parents 3-4 times a week, so discuss all sorts of things and we run up against these issues sometimes. We’re in a weird position of completely agreeing on some things and me finding him completely backwards on others. My family communicates in sarcasm, so I usually go that route (and he usually gets the message to back off), but I’m still having trouble navigating this space.

    I may have to try out, “If you are saying this because you think that I agree with you, just know that I don’t.”

  17. This article is PERFECT for me right now. My wife, our son and I are being transferred to Tennessee by her company. We are legally married in our state but will no longer be considered a legal family in TN. We will lose all benefits and protections of being a legal family unit. While this is the most important thing I also worry how to KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT when people say racist or especially homophobic crap. Especially in front of our son. So I will be reading everyone’s comments and tips to try to figure out how to handle this issue with no repercussions for my wife or our child.

    • I don’t think you should keep your mouth shut when it comes to homophobic crap, ESPECIALLY in front of your son. It would be good to come up with some standard thing you can say so you’re prepared and able to keep calm, but I think your son should be able to see you not being ashamed or bullied into supressing who you are because of other people’s views.

  18. This always comes into play with my grandparents. The thing is, I am so close to them, and they have supported me in every way possible for my entire life, and continue doing so to this day…but…they’re SO conservative, so fundamentalist, etc. I have made the choice to never cause controversy with them, because I love them, and my relationship with them goes so much deeper than political/religious issues even if those issues are also close to my heart. When they get into stuff I vehemently disagree with, I just keep my mouth shut. I know this doesn’t work for everyone, and the OP specifically said she didn’t want to hear another “just let it go” bit of advice, but really, it isn’t advice. It’s just my personal anecdote on the subject, for what it’s worth.

    My advice on the subject, if you have a situation similar to mine with family members, is to be clear with your significant others about your approach to the situation! For example, when I introduce my serious significant others to them, I explain the whole situation and my views on it to my partner before they ever meet. I tell them how important my relationship with my grandparents is, and how that relationship is more important to me than politics. I warn them specifically of things my grandparents will likely say that will likely be offensive, so that my significant others are already expecting it to happen and are prepared when we all get together. I then politely request that they ignore the comments, out of respect for myself and my family.

  19. So my husband is awesome. He’s also a world-class asshole button pusher. As in, one of the things he will do is to specifically make comments that he knows will bother someone, in order to get a reaction out of them. Luckily, he only does this sophomoric and insanely irritating thing to the people he really loves.

    So yeah, when we first got together and he jokingly grabbed my ass and made some kind of sexist/possessive comment, I about spun through the roof and burnt it down with the flames of my righteous indignation. I’m telling you guys, the fight was epic, cause Mama here can damn sure go for the high drama when she feels the need.

    But the thing was that I loved him. I loved him, and I knew for a FACT that he didn’t really feel that way. He’s always supported my independence. Hell, he’s the one who opted for the traditional gender-role swap in our household. I told him that his comment was sexist and inappropriate, he rolled his eyes and angrily asked me if I genuinely thought that he really felt that way about women… particularly me.

    And the answer was no. He was just being an asshole button pusher. Is that a valid excuse? Probably not. Was I going to change it about him? Not by brute force. Since his goal was to get under my skin, I had to stop giving him what he wanted in this case to get him to stop pushing that particular button. Instead, after I calmed down, I explained to him why that particular comment bothered me so much. He acknowledged the validity of my feelings, while also pointing out that perhaps my reaction had been a teensy bit over the top. 😉 (Upon brutal self reflection, he was 100% right)

    Now, I’m not saying that “ignoring the bullying” is really a healthy course of action. This only worked in this particular situation because of the personalities involved, and because it wasn’t really bullying, if that makes sense. Or at least the apparent sexism/possessiveness wasn’t genuine. But this was definitely a case of a relationship I valued, and a comment I loathed. And that was how it worked out for us.

    • I completely understand this. My close family and friends who know some of my hot-button issues love to make comments that they know will get a rise out of me. It’s not that they’re actually sexist, homophobic, etc., but they’re just looking to rile me up and I have to remember that before I start trying to light them on fire.

    • We may be married to the same dude. This situation totally happened in my house too. I KNOW he’s not a sexist duche bag. He’s proud of me for being the breadwinner in our house and is excited about someday being a stay-at-home Dad. But he likes to role-play misogynistic stuff and the first time he used the word “slut” in our house I hit the fucking roof! He got insulted that I didn’t get that it was sexy-times, not real. Epic battle ensues.

      He likes to push buttons. He takes a much more extreme view in arguments than he really believes just to be “that guy”. He talks loudly and over other people just to see them rise to the occasion.

    • My husband used to often make judgemental and disparaging comments about people, particularly young people or poorer people. Things like “those kids are up to no good” when he sees two teenagers walking down the street barefoot at around 3.30pm (uh, yeah – god forbid they should walk home from school comfortably after being cooped up all day in those shoes!), or “look at all those cars in their yard! You can just tell they’re hooligans!” (yeah, sorry the people in that house are car enthusiasts?).
      I pointed out to him that those comments were incredibly judgemental and made him sound really unintelligent and really unenlightened. This is a man who spends a great deal of his personal time reading books about enlightenment and improving the human condition, and it really struck a chord with him when I said that. As someone that has studied NLP, he knows that the more you say something, the more it becomes your reality, and he said he didn’t really want that in his life.
      We’ve made it into a bit of a joke now, and I call him the “cantankerous granddad” (because that’s totally what he sound like sometimes), so whenever he starts on a rant, I just “shake my fist” at him, and that’s his cue for “you’re doing it again”, and we laugh.

  20. I don’t have much to add in terms of direct advice, but I did want to say that Captain Awkward ( deals with this sort of question fairly frequently. She has great examples of how she dealt with her racist, super-right-wing grandfather but still managed to maintain a relationship with him. They come up fairly quickly when her search her archive.
    *I’m not affiliated with Captain Awkward, I just really like her advice column and have found it really useful in my own life.

  21. I have an entire side of the family who are… well mostly I think they’re just sheltered and scared of change. I was an adult before they started going to church more than once every couple years on Easter, and they still aren’t committed to it. So it’s not that they are being taught this in church or that they are even born-again signing on for it. They do come around to certain things being okay, just rather slowly. A live-and-let-live attitude is the only thing they can adopt, and you know what, that’s all I really ask. They came around to be dating non-white men, and they would come around to me dating a girl, and I just need to be mindful that if I want to avoid the hurtful comments then they need to be informed of any of these situations that are outside their comfort zone in ways that they aren’t on public display. Give them time to digest a bit and put on their game face of “I love my family no matter what.”

    Thing is, I originally set up my FB to be family- and work-friendly. So I have Allllllll my family on there. Including one great-aunt who is very active on FB AND very vocal about being anti- anything perceived as a liberal issue. I’m tired of being attacked, I will never change her mind, and I have been VERY vocal about the fact that if I post something, I welcome respectful comments and I don’t want to change that tack. But she isn’t respectful. And it sends me into panic attacks. And I’m back in the mind of my abused childhood. And it’s not OK. Well, she also hates swearing so I started blocking her from posts with swearing (which are fairly infrequent because see re: family). Then I started blocking her from posts I knew she’d comment on. I don’t do it every time because sometimes I forget, but I refuse to engage and block her from posts when she gets tetchy because my friends WILL engage AND get riled up to defend me when she gets out of line, so to avoid the issue I just block her from the post. She can check out all the pics of my garden and themed kitchen, but when it comes to reminders to check out what your options are with Obamacare or pro-LGBT anything, I opt her out. In respect of her wishes not to be included in that world. It’s the best I can do.

    Tumblr is a whole different ballgame. It’s really hard to check out of those convos when they’re in my face. But I literally visualize myself walking away, and Letting It Go. It is so hard not having the last word. But having the last civil word, that I can do.

  22. The first thing I do is actually listen to the person I’m talking to. You never know when someone might present new data or give you a new point to think about.

    If I can’t agree with them, I try to value their opinion anyway. For example, if my sister wants the government to feed the homeless and I don’t, then I try to find value in the fact that voters like her enable our government to help people while voters like me keep the government from giving away too much (theoretically). I try to focus on how we balance each other out, rather than how our differences divide us.

    I also try to find common ground to start with. Say a coworker thinks that interracial adoptions are horrible because they cripple the child’s cultural growth and I think they’re great because they give a child a home. I focus on the fact that we both think that kids should have good homes and we both respect adoption as a way to have a family. We have different ways of executing our beliefs, but some of the core beliefs are the same.

    If I can’t do those things, then I try to find value in the fact that the person feels comfortable enough to tell me their opinions. Just because I don’t agree with their opinions doesn’t mean I should ignore the fact that by sharing them with me, that person is sharing part of who they are. Just like I don’t want to people to reject me when I share my opinions with them, I don’t want to do that to them.

    In practice, I usually just stop talking until they talk themselves out. If I don’t give them anything to rail against, eventually they’ll stop.

  23. I work in retail so generally I’m not encouraged to talk with my coworkers. When people have brought those topics up it’s generally been customers and it isn’t ok to disagree with a customer openly or engage with them on that topic. Generally I distract to the product on those rare occasions when someone has brought up “welfare queens” or “those stinky homeless people” or whatever.

    Customer: Those teenagers are getting really wild, you’d never see one of us acting that way in public!

    Me: My supervisor is on her way over to talk to them, why don’t you come over here and look at *new product*? *New product* is from *new manufacturer* with these attributes. Do you think your friend would like that?

    Oddly enough the avoidance tactic has leeched into my everyday life except I’m diverting to something I heard about on NPR or the latest thing my daughter did. If someone won’t drop the subject, I bluntly say something like “I’d prefer not to talk about that right now, how about those Nats?”

  24. I find it interesting and slightly offensive that this article is implying that if you’re conservative or anti – feminism you’re “bad”.

    • I’m confused: this article says nothing about conservatives. (Although plenty of the comments do.)

      I know a lot of conservatives who aren’t in any way homophobic, racist, misogynic, or discriminatory. I *also* know some politically progressive folks who struggle with inadvertently saying things that are hurtful (a lesbian family member off-handedly using the word “tranny” comes to mind).

      We ALL need tools to talk about our differing values. Imagine flipping some of these examples…

      For example, what if Liberal Aunt Lily made a disparaging comment about “All those jesus freak bible thumpers”? It would be perfectly appropriate to use the example given up thread: “Hey, that’s not cool. You’re talking about (person in that group we know).” Tolerance goes ALL ways, and no one has the corner on the market for feeling judged.

      • Here’s a flipped example from my real life, if you guys like. I self-identify as an Offbeat Conservative, and I’m a very religious person. I also have a lot of friends from all ends of the political spectrum, as does my husband.

        Shortly after we got married, the extremely liberal atheist wife of one of his friends made a comment at dinner one night that really set me off. (See earlier comment re: spinning through the roof and lighting it on fire with the wrath of my righteous indignation). She said something to the effect of how anyone who believed in a divine being or beings was clearly an uneducated idiot, because SCIENCE!

        I pointed out to her that with my bachelor’s/master’s degree combo, and the equivalent of a PhD in rotary wing aviation, her argument was invalid, since I am a religious person and I have a very close, personal relationship with my God.
        In this particular case, my standing up to her and getting up in her face made her back down. We were never really close friends to begin with, and we’re still not, but we’re cordial for the sake of our husbands, who have been close since childhood.

        But yeah, she hasn’t tried anything like that since. I suspect she’s just the classic bully persona, and responded as bullies tend to do when faced with someone not afraid to fight back.

        • “I pointed out to her that with my bachelor’s/master’s degree combo, and the equivalent of a PhD in rotary wing aviation, her argument was invalid” *Drops the mic, walks away*

  25. I think sometimes when people are worried about this, especially from the angle of being privileged (while, male, cisgender, etc.) and feel like they aren’t allowed to speak, they forget that for some people, these subjects mean life or death. Race, gender, orientation, and so forth can be EXTREMELY dangerous beyond hurt feelings. I cannot associate with people who do not respect queer people because they can out me and get me killed. I don’t associate with even potential racists because they can also get me into physically dangerous situations. For me, these subjects aren’t just something not to talk to grandma about, they are flags for further harm, either from the possibly bigoted person or from their friends and associates. People have threatened to kill me for being a queer person of color before and will again.

    • I think this is where I get hung up. Over the course of my life, studies, and activism I’ve learned that there are certain opinions and values I simply cannot hang around–not just because I disagree with them, but because these are the same opinions and values that are perpetuating the discrimination and, frankly, destruction of people who look like me, dress and identify like those I care about, or love like I do. These are deal breakers for me and go faaar beyond “grandma’s kinda racist and it makes me uncomfortable” or “my coworkers are kinda transphobic and that’s not cool.” So while I’ve tried to have a mentality of acknowledging other people’s opinions as being valid and valued, I can’t. Actually, I refuse to.

      So there have been and will be situations where someone I work with or are related to or whatever will saying something messed up and I make it clear that I don’t share their beliefs, and it likely puts them off to me. I keep things polite for the sake of the work environment unless it’s to a level where our bosses need to be clued in. Thankfully it hasn’t gotten that far yet at my current job. I’m not normally one to mince words when I have issues with someone but I’m still learning how to respect others when, to be quite honest, their shitty opinions have made me lose respect for them. I think it’s more to do with separating their work selves and their personal selves–as long as they do their job I’m fine with them. Just don’t talk to me about anything non-work related and don’t expect us to ever associate outside of work.

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