How To Talk About The Election Without Murdering Your Friends

I believe there are two types of people in this world–people who love a good debate, and people who would rather set their fingertips on fire than engage in any sort of disagreement, even if it’s presumably respectful and among friends. I tend to be the latter, though I’m trying to own my opinions more. But nothing sets off the latter type like election season. Even if you ostensibly agree with a loved one on which candidate to support, your reasons for support may differ and lead into a whole thing.

However, even though I hate arguing, I don’t necessarily agree with the old adage about never discussing religion or politics at dinner. These are big parts of our lives and should be discussed, but as always, respectfully. So here are some tips on surviving election season, which seems to last forever now.

  1. You will likely not change anyone’s mind. Unfortunately, studies have proved that even in the presence of facts, a lot of people will not change their minds about pressing political issues. Many truths can exist at the same time, contradictory to each other. So yelling in someone’s Facebook feed that they’re stupid if they think everyone should have guns (or, similarly, that they’re stupid if they think no one should have guns) is just going to make everyone mad. If you’re dead set on trying to change minds, focus on why you believe what you believe, not why they shouldn’t believe what they do.
  2. Not everyone debates like you. As I said above there are two types of people, and problems start when they get into political conversations with each other. I have left conversations in tears, confusing friends who thought we were just having a rowdy, friendly debate. Try to read the crowd. If you’re the type who hates arguing and senses the person you’re talking to really wants to go a round, try to excuse yourself. If you love to debate, watch for hesitance in whoever you’re talking to, and back off if you see they’re getting upset.
  3. It’s okay to call out people when they’re really wrong. Okay, the idea of an objective truth may be murky, but there are times when people are flat out spewing lies. You should absolutely call someone out who is being prejudiced, offensive or otherwise wrong. Just make sure that it remains a rebuttal to what they said, not their character. “No, abortion doesn’t cause breast cancer” is much different than “You’re stupid if you’re anti-abortion.”
  4. Keep the conversation to a minimum. While I think talking about politics is fine, too much can get exhausting, and also up your chances of actually getting into a fight with someone. Touch on the subject when you must, but try to change the topic so you don’t get into an hours long conversation about foreign policy.
  5. Why not do something? The thing that bothers me the most about lengthy political debates is that they often take the form of people complaining without action. And politics have a way of making us feel helpless. But if an issue is bothering you so much that you’re bringing it up at every party, try seeing if there’s something else you can do about it. Otherwise, surprise! You may be one of those people who talks about politics just to sound smart! Nobody likes those people.

The Lady Magazine

Where else do you think you are going to find your staff?

Where else do you think you are going to find your staff?

I don’t know why I never thought to look at The Lady until recently. I subscribe to Town & Country specifically because it seemed like it would be a useful resource for Uncommon Courtesy, but for some reason, I never thought to look up and see what The Lady is like, even though I knew it existed. Now, I won’t be subscribing to it because the print version is 70 Great British Pounds which is EVEN more in American dollars, not even thinking about whether they have an even more expensive rate to ship internationally. Happily for me and for you, they have a website!

The Lady is actually Britain’s longest running weekly magazine- founded in 1885. Even more delightful for me, the founder was Thomas Gibson Bowles, the maternal grandfather of the famous Mitford sisters (Nancy was a contributor at one point, natch.)

The Lady has also been mentioned on Downton Abbey several times because it was and continues to be THE place for aristocrats to advertize for household help-even the Duchess of Cambridge does it.

Aside from it’s fascinating history and royal associations, the current The Lady is MAGNIFICENT.

First, there are the world famous ads for domestic help:

“Titled Sir and Lady, without children, require a butler and housekeeper for a couple position in a beautiful country house on their estate in Yorkshire.

The suitable couple will be responsible for the smooth running of the house, chauffeuring when required, care of fine antiques, fabrics and furniture, and must be knowledgeable in laundering full clothing and care of silver.  Traditional and formal service skills are necessary.”

Secondly, a column entitled “Nanny Knows Best:”

“It’s a fine line for parents and carers who instinctively protect and cushion children from life’s difficulties. So I’ve always found that somewhere between a stiff upper lip and a gentle warm heart approach is best. Like a spectrum of sorts. Sometimes a child needs a firm but fair hand. Sometimes lots of love and hugs. And sometimes a “you’ll be right” in that moment they’ve fallen over and not sure if crying or getting back up and playing is what they want to do.

Situations require all manner of approaches and not just constant smothering.”

Traditional British culture- like how to host a Burn’s night!

“Food should be absolutely central to the party. The star of the show is normally a haggis which, in a traditional sit-down dinner, is piped in by bagpipes, toasted with a dram of whisky and pierced with a dagger before being eaten.”

Of course they have their own etiquette column:

“Dear Thomas,
My oldest friend always criticises my Christmas presents and accuses me of getting them from charity shops. This year I thought I’d really try to improve. But I’m completely stuck for ideas. Can you help?
Doris Sydenham, Reading”

And the world’s most perfect horoscopes (this is for Scorpio, which is both Jaya’s and my sign):

“Grace and tact will not diminish the power of what you have to say or write. Think: iron fist, velvet glove.”

So, as you can see, this is a must-read for any anglophile or lover of all things pretentious.