Social Etiquette and Good Manners/avoiding discussions on politics

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Question
Hello Jay,

I would really appreciate your advice on a matter. I talk to my elderly parents twice a week by phone. I get on very well with them and we are a close family. I always speak to both my Mom and Dad in turn.

My concern is that Dad (who is a retired professor) likes to talk politics and we end up having 45 minute conversations about this. They are usually based around my Dad complaining about the government, or taxes, or about certain representatives and ultimately these are discussions that end up not achieving anything anyways. These discussions are basically academic as my parents are well off and don't need to worry about anything the government does in reality. Dad is a very bright man and probably enjoys chatting about serious things but I find these conversations draining in the evening. They also work my dad up. My Mom also gets frustrated that my Dad has these long drawn out conversations that get him agitated for no reason. I prefer to have a briefer discussion about family, what my Dad has been doing, and just checking they are fine and healthy. Also, while I am interested in what is going on in the world and country, I actually dislike politics and prefer to focus my energies and time on enjoying my life and not complaining.

May I ask you what is a respectful and effective way to change these conversations (even if over time) away from politics and towards lighter conversations?

Many thanks

David

Answer
Hello David,
Thanks for asking this great question. There is an expression about changing the spots on a leopard that comes to mind, which is not terribly helpful. However, when I find myself embroiled in such conversations, I suggest that the person (in this case your father) take the matters that are of concern to him up with his local or regional politicians directly. Politics is unfortunately an area of discussion that rarely does anything except raise one's blood pressure unnecessarily. Another option, of course, is to simply state that you are no longer interested in these sorts of discussions because they irritate you. I find that sharing how you feel about a situation often changes the focus, taking it away from the subject entirely. The one sentence that struck me in your letter to me was the one about not needing to worry about what the government does anyway because of financial security. I share this philosophy, although it could be argued is somewhat irresponsible. We have a duty as citizens of whatever country we live in to be good "custodians". We far too often take our freedoms and good fortunes for granted. If your father is concerned enough about such matters to want to discuss them twice a week, getting him engaged in an action as opposed to just a rant may be fruitful for him. He is after all a smart man who could lend a lot of value to his government. A simple phone call is a good place for him to begin. Perhaps this might lead to something more fulfilling for your father, and may in fact give you more time to discuss family matters with him, as you have expressed are important to you. I hope this helps. If you want to carry this conversation on, please feel free to do so via email. My email is jay@etiquetteguy.com.
Kindest regards,
Jay

Social Etiquette and Good Manners

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Jay Remer

Expertise

I am happy to answer any questions about social or corporate etiquette as well as questions regarding international protocol. It is important to practice civility. It is contagious.

Experience

I am certified by the Protocol School of Washington as a consultant for corporate etiquette and international protocol. I have been entertaining and giving advise on entertaining for over 40 years.

Publications
Weekly column in Telegraph Journal

Education/Credentials
Graduate of Protocol School of Washington

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