Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. Political disagreements: The most recent Sanders-Warren spat has angered most of my friends and is slowly destroying my friend circle. I’ve tried disengaging from conversations, but people just browbeat me with the most explosive things and then I get sucked back in. Can you give all of us who are struggling with this a brief, one-sentence statement to repeat ad nauseum for survival during the rest of this primary?
A: This is a general rule, and not just one that applies to political disagreements, but the thing about disengaging is you have to commit to it regardless of provocation. Usually when you’re at the point with friends where you have to say, “I’m tapping out of this conversation permanently,” they’re not tactful/self-aware/restrained/whatever enough to say: “Oh, OK, I understand. Go in peace.” They will try to reel you back in. So assume that they will continue to say explosive things when you try to step back, and don’t take the bait: “I really am done talking about this with you guys. I care about you and I know we share a lot of the same values but this conversation is going nowhere.” Once you’ve said that, I think the briefest possible sentence is just “No.” That’s not to say I think you should never talk about politics with loved ones, even if the conversations get difficult! But there are better ways to spend your political energy than endless, friendship-destroying arguments about presidential candidates; maybe try to engage them on down-ballot items you can all agree on and figure out a way to pursue a shared local goal.
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