I don't want to discuss these opinions or views, but I want to know how to handle a situation when we're out for coffee and I hear something that (to me) sounds insensitive and clueless. I don't like confrontations and I don't want to ghost her. I just don't know what to do.
Clueless Over Coffee: Short answer: Learn to converse! Really. You can get only so close if you aren’t willing to delve into the deeper beliefs you hold, and your rationales for them. And the only choices aren’t the two extremes of “confront” or “run.” In fact, treating those as the only two options can lead to the kind of talk-only-to-people-I-agree-with polarity that’s messing up our politics and government right now.
There are ways to do this within the framework of respect and friendship, including this one:
Friend: [misinformed view.]
You: “Hm. That’s not my understanding of the situation. What are you basing that on?”
Friend: [either information of dubious sourcing, or well-sourced information you did not know about until friend provided it.]
You: Calmly, kindly respond appropriately. Either you point out the unreliability of the source or offer a counter-source you know to be legitimate, or humbly acknowledge you hadn’t heard that information before and are glad for an opportunity to look into it yourself. Then, actually do the work to see whether your view is mistaken.
If the view can’t be justified or tolerated, then see whether you can find sympathy in their journey to it.
If things get heated, even on the friend’s side only, then you might decide this friendship is a nonstarter, and that’s okay — not everyone is meant to be a friend. Feelings count. But if you can say, “I’d rather not discuss this in anger — maybe let’s save it for another time?” or, “I’m not comfortable with where this is going. May I change the subject?” then you might be able to agree to disagree with enough affection to remain friends.
The essential ingredient is to believe your friend — or any holder of an opinion you find problematic — is a fundamentally well-meaning person who merely has different views acquired through different experiences filtered through different senses. We’d all benefit from working that muscle more, in my opinion. And when the person makes plain in some way that s/he is not well-meaning, then there you are.
Amanda Ripley wrote a fascinating piece for the Atlantic last spring on Watertown, in Upstate New York, which is, per data analysis, the “least politically prejudiced place in America.” It describes how people who disagree completely — or, if you will, who see the other as having “several misinformed opinions and views” — find ways to get along. “Instead of provoking rage, these encounters seem to provoke something like complexity.” It’s worth a look before your next coffee date: bit.ly/H2OTown.