47

To put it broadly, this is about guilty pleasures, that are not accepted in one's social environment. This excludes more serious topics (politics, religion, legal/moral questions etc.). Think of movies, music, sports teams, books and the like.

Furthermore, I refrain from using actual examples to avoid a discussion about them ("But he is right! They are the worst team ever!"). This could be changed upon request, but I don't think it's necessary.

Situation

I enjoy music by band "so-and-so"*. Now I have a nice talk with "Bob". Bob is a good acquaintance of mine, and also a real music connoisseur. Somehow, the discussion strays away a bit from positive topics, and he notes the decline in musical taste. His prime example is, you guessed it, "so-and-so". So he rants about them, their inferior music, lack of talent, cheesiness etc.

I listen to him patiently. He can't know that I like them. And I get a strong impression that he couldn't even imagine it in his wildest dreams, since he knows that I like the music he approves of. And now, that he finished, he asks me after my opinion on them.

I don't want to lie. On the other hand, his critique is spot on, and I don't have rational arguments to support my stance. The ensuing situation is rather awkward.

*Not an actual band, although a quick google search showed, that there are bands of that name, but spelling differs slightly. But I don't know them.

Question

How to avoid, or at least, alleviate such an awkward situation? How to react to Bob to avoid as much of an embarrassment (for both of us) as possible?

Please note that Bob's perceived reaction to my confession would not be laughter, but rather an embarrassment himself (for offending me, in a way). And my concern is not, that he would think less of me (after all, it is about rather trivial matters), but that it would ruin the moment.

  • 27
    Just curious why you'd want to avoid embarrassment for Bob? He's digging his own hole, and if someone lets him fall in he might learn to stop going on a rant like that. – Erik Aug 16 '17 at 13:20
  • @Erik, you are right in a way. Although I may not agree with Bob on this topic, I still don't want an otherwise interesting discussion to deteriorate like that. – Anne Daunted Aug 16 '17 at 14:49
  • 1
    Is he your friend? There's really a lot of music to love or hate. If something has brought me in the mood to rant like Bob, I'd want my friend to disagree at least on some points and counter-argue with the same passion. It would show that you care about the topic and have put some thought into it. And it would make an interesting discussion that widens your and Bobs horizons. – Džuris Aug 17 '17 at 9:21
  • Why do you think Bob wouldn't be able to laugh at the situation? Is that something specific to Bob, or your take on situations like this in general? – 1006a Aug 17 '17 at 16:51
  • @1006a This would certainly be the best outcome. But the awkward situation seems to be the more likely outcome, judging from my experience. – Anne Daunted Aug 17 '17 at 17:11

14 Answers 14

19

if you like discussions, turn it into a discussion

Personally, I love it when someone slams something I like, because it provides an opportunity for discussion and a good discussion can lead to all participants being richer for having had it.

This works especially well in the case provided by the OP: you might respond with something along these lines:

While I see your point and even agree with some of what you're saying, I still think "so-and-so" makes some pretty catchy tunes. So how then do we define "good music"? Is it based on taste and therefore inherently subjective, or does a song need to have a technical complexity to be "good"?

If you don't like discussions, state your opinion and move on

Even if you're less fond of discussions, I still don't think you should remain silent: you like what you like after all and there's no shame in that, even if you agree with (some of) the points. Something along these lines:

I see your point and agree with some of what you're saying, but if I'm honest I still like to listen to some "so-and-so" songs every once in a while. I guess it's a bit of a guilty pleasure.

One of the main goals in both approaches is not to apologise for liking what you like. Taste is subjective and there's no need to justify yourself for liking something.

33

Different people like different things. EL&U

Just listen to what he has to say, and stay neutral about it. There's no need to visibly agree or disagree with him. You like what you like, he likes what he likes.

In my friend circles, rap music, in general, is looked down upon mostly because all they've ever heard of are some of those songs where it's all about "I've got riches, and you don't". While I myself do hate such songs, I don't hate the genre in general. I like how some rappers tell stories, bring emotions, and all. In fact, rap music is my favorite genre, even though it's rare in my place (India).

Whenever any such topic comes up, where my friends go on and on about how terrible something is, I just stay neutral.

Sure, that's possibly true and all, but some people do like these, you know, to each their own.

I don't clearly agree with them, yet I don't counter them or force my opinions onto them. I don't necessarily disagree with their analysis, and I'd avoid furthering a discussion about it.

In some occasions though, when I feel like a good discussion or exchange of ideas is possible, I may actually respond with what I really feel about it:

Those are some valid points, I must agree. But I like them anyway for some other reasons, which are (...)

  • I think those answers will lead to a debate and as he said "I don't have rational arguments to support my stance" – nodws Aug 16 '17 at 14:51
  • 1
    @JimmyJames that was my first thought. Smile, say, "There's no accounting for taste. I actually like them! Guilty pleasure, what can I say?" – Crisfole Aug 17 '17 at 15:02
  • @Crisfole To go a little deeper, going on an on about how terrible a band is (or something similar) is a bit immature. I only engage in this kind of banter to annoy certain friends in a jocular setting like a poker game. When someone does this, it's really quite silly and it's even more silly to get upset about it. It's really not important or even desirable for everyone to like the same things. This is super important thing to understand if you are in a romantic relationship. – user1982 Aug 17 '17 at 15:10
  • 1
    I strongly disagree with this answer, since it leads to suppression of yourself instead of an actual conversation between friends. I think ksjohn's answer is more productive in the long run. – akaltar Aug 17 '17 at 18:24
  • @akaltar Please see the last part of my answer. Is that to your liking? :) – NVZ Aug 17 '17 at 18:26
17

You may need to dissociate yourself from your tastes, they don't define you.

Your friend slamming something you're pretty fond of doesn't have to bring awkwardness and your reaction shouldn't depend on your emotional relationship with the subject.

If the arguments he made make sense to you and you have nothing to say to it, you may want to answer with something along these lines :

Although I have been listening to that band's music for quite some time, I have actually never noticed it/seen it in that light/as a bad thing. <Go on with what you feel>

You should indeed feel lucky when you disagree on some topic with a friend, don't you think? Smooth conversations where everybody involved share the same point of view about things are just that, smooth. Edgeless conversation is forgettable.

Like in real life, that's the irregularities on surfaces that cause friction. You want that, supposedly. A frictionless conversation is something you can have with yourself without much effort while taking a shower, that's kind of worthless.

Different opinions bring new ideas, ways of thinking. It has the potential to make you reconsider your own opinions and belief in the light of what you know, and then either keep or update them.

Without interaction with opposing points of view, opinions rot in your head. That's why people who stay with like minded people often look dumb and/or delusional, that's an extreme case, but that's also what happens when hearing different opinions is so alien to you that you and your opinions become the same and only thing and therefore, any attack on the former is immediately perceived as an aggression.

I'm not saying it's your case, just bringing some perspective here. Be merry, you finally found a point of discordance with a good friend, that's calling for some delightful piece of debate !

  • 1
    This. Exactly. I still remember a conversation I had with a friend-of-a-friend many years ago when I met them for the first time. We ended up having quite a heated discussion to the point where the original friend came over and asked if everything was OK! I honestly can't remember what we were talking about, but the conversation left a lasting impression. It's differences in opinion which can create the best conversations and sometimes be a learning experience for both. – SiHa Aug 18 '17 at 7:59
15

Everybody has to have a guilty pleasure. Nothing more boring than a totally straight and impeccable taste without any internal contradictions! Just admit as much, imperfections will only make you look more affable.

Man, I know it's really bad taste. But guess what, they're kind of a guilty pleasure of mine.

By agreeing to your interlocutor's judgement, you're also still helping them to save face and offering a way out. (E.g. they could admit a guilty pleasure of their own in return.)

  • 1
    Could the downvoter please explain? I would like to improve this answer if possible (or learn something at least). – user510 Aug 16 '17 at 16:11
  • 2
    +1 You develop the theme of the 'guilty pleasure' and its attendant possibilities for saving face whilst speaking truthfully. Good answer :-) – EleventhDoctor Aug 16 '17 at 17:59
  • Maybe the asker doesn't think he should be guilty, it's just the Bob ranting and making this awkward for him? – Džuris Aug 17 '17 at 9:15
10

I don't want to lie. On the other hand, his critique is spot on, and I don't have rational arguments to support my stance.

Anyone who isn't a total snob has had the experience of liking a band/show/movie/food/etc that isn't considered 'sophisticated'. For example, I realize that corn dogs are not fine dining, but there is a reason why corn dogs are popular and sometimes they really hit the spot. I can simultaneously enjoy corn dogs for what they are and agree with all of the reasons why a gourmet chef would never serve them at their restaurant.

Assuming your friend is not a snob, you can just say something like "Yeah, I totally agree with what you're saying! But I have to admit, I really enjoy something about their music." Your friend will most likely respond with understanding, and if they don't, that is a different problem.

6

You might answer honestly but at the same time play it over with humour to signal to your friend you're not offended. Something like

Yeah, they are like a big fat steak, unhealthy, unnecessary, bad for the environment, but I like it.

also directly indicates it as a guilty pleasure. Of course, if you're vegan or don't actually like steak, you'd have to vary the example.

5

I suspect this is more a theoretical problem than a real one. Oh sure, people exist who will rant on and on about how awful X is, without picking up ANY cues from their listener that another opinion might exist -- but these people almost never wrap their rant up by asking you what you think of X. They have already assumed that either everyone shares their opinion or that their brilliant rant has convinced you.

When you let a rant like that get up a head of steam, you are kind of making a decision that you won't challenge it. You can stop these things after a sentence or two, but if you just smile and nod through 10 or 20 sentences, it's jarring to say "actually I completely disagree with everything you just said." It can be done, and I'll do it for things like "women are nontechnical" where I just wait till they're done and then quietly point out some of my accomplishments. But I wouldn't do that for a band. As you say, it can really throw someone off centre to know they were running something down that you like.

So how can you stop a rant like that before it gets too long? Or how can you find something to say in the silence after it? You might like to use humour. One time someone was bothering me about a musician I liked and raving about the musician they liked, and I said "it's all how you say it, right? My musician has a distinctive sound and you can tell a few notes in who is playing the song. But that other group the idiots like? Their songs all sound the same. Right?" And then laughed. Alternatively, you could say something tolerant and accepting like "it takes all kinds to make a world" or "different people like different things". You could point out facts like "they sure make a lot of money and play to big crowds: I guess plenty of people like them fine." Or you could ignore the content entirely and go meta: "wow, you know a lot about music styles and history."

Then, no matter how you acknowledged their speech, divert: "what's your favourite hidden-gem group, one not enough people know about?"

  • By asking you, what you think about "so-and-so", they may get even more ammunition to hit their target - the decline in musical taste (of which "so-and-so's" success is only a symptom). Imagine him slamming "so-and-so's" use of instruments, bad singer and simple songs - and now I point out especially poor lyrics, too. And it may be reassuring to know, that many people share their love/hate for something, which is further reinforced, if actively voiced. – Anne Daunted Aug 16 '17 at 15:00
  • 2
    I follow your logic, but I have never actually met a person who does this. They do the long rant and speech, but ask few questions. However, should you meet different people than me, it's fine: respond in some way, which could be nothing more than shaking your head, but could be humour, something about acceptance and diversity, sticking up for the target generally without identifying yourself as a fan, or just praising their knowledge without mentioning their opinions, and then after the response, the diversion, where you try to get them onto a slightly different topic. – Kate Gregory Aug 16 '17 at 15:05
4

There are two factors here, one is apparently your taste in music, but the bigger problem is that Bob appears to have confused pop music with fine art. Pop music is not fine art, it's entertainment. It's not required to last the ages, it's not required to challenge Beethoven, it's supposed to be fun and bouncy, and possibly even make you want to dance.

What Bob has done is put you in a position where you feel you have to defend something that's a matter of personal taste. Hopefully he'll grow out of that sort of behaviour in due course but for now:

Yes I know, but I like it

Shostakovitch has its place, as does Wagner, but right now I fancy listening to the Vengabus, because it's fun1.

What's more, Bob knows this because that's what cheesiness is, it's pure, unadulterated, innocent, fun.

Why so serious?


1 Eurodance as a genre doesn't pretend to be as classy as pop, it accepts exactly what it is and what it's for.

4

In this instance, because it's about music, simply paraphrase the Rolling Stones (preferably in rhythm).

♪ I know, it's only 'so and so', but I like it. ♫

What the Stones/you are saying is that you understand that Rock'n'Roll/the band in question doesn't have a lot of objective reasons to like it; that the general viewpoint is to look down on it, but regardless, for reasons of pure personal preference, you like them anyway.

2

Most connoisseurs you meet are "sophomoric dolts" and have not had an original thought in a long time. They are just regurgitating established marketed garbage or witticisms as if they were original parlor party pieces. I remember when I lived in Seattle and was trying to figure out Jazz, I would go to the Jazz Clubs to figure out what was good and what was bad. I had a friend who was a sultry jazz singer, and over sipping tequila asked her to define good vs. bad jazz to me. What she told me has helped me in a lot of things, which was "When you listen to jazz, and you like it, that's 'good' jazz. If you listen to a jazz piece and you don't like it, it's not for you."

Even connoisseurs have their dark little secrets, and under the right conditions will bend their tastes (e.g. how cute is the person whose pants they are trying to get into). Discuss the things you agree on, change the subject, and don't put so much stock in other people "expertise." Take what's useful and enjoy their company. Or prepare for "War" and come up with reasons why your favorite band has merit, and figure out why some of their favorites are crap. Only time will tell, less than 10% of the stuff will be considered good in 20 years anyway. Enjoy your guilty little pleasures! If they don't like it, it's not for them. It's not like you like the Barney Song or something.

2

Well, if you're looking for a way to explain why you like them, you don't need one. "Yeah, but I still like them for some reason..." suffices.

If you're looking for counter-arguments for this example of band "so-and-so", you could redirect what "talented artist" actually means.

Let's talk about music, keeping it general.

It's undeniable that some genres of music require more prowess to perform than others, but there isn't always a direct correlation between required prowess and an artist's successful careers. We see this a lot in genres of music where most things are programmed, not "played". Some artists are unable to play a physical instrument yet gather crowds of millions to listen to the songs they composed on computers.

Then there's composition, how "complicated" is the song? Some artists create songs with many arrangements and time signatures etc. and are regarded as geniuses whereas some artists opt for a simpler, yet catchier beat which gets a lot of attention from the public.

So then, what is a talented artist? The one who can play the hardest-to-play songs? The one who can compose the most complicated songs? The one who captures emotions in his/her music?

...or is it the one that generally pleases the most amount of people with their music?

Music is an art. If they get people to enjoy what they do, they are good artists.

If they are popular enough to have gained the attention of "haters" in the general population, it usually means they got a favorable reaction out of millions of people. They may not be talented musicians or be writing "intellectually sophisticated" songs but if they write something millions of people like, they are good artists.

1

Keep it casual by going over-the-top

I have seen many occasions where people talk about things (bands, sports teams) that according to most objective measures are simply not the best for most people.

A method that avoids sadness and keeps the atmosphere light is going against them in a none too serious but persistent over-the-top way. (As an extension to the excellent existing answer that states you can turn it into a discussion).

Example

He: OMG X had another poor performance, they really are as bad as it gets

You: No way, X is the best!

He: Definitely not, they cannot even do

You: Ah, that doesn't matter. I just like

At this time the chat may go on for (quite a) bit, possibly even in stronger wordings from both sides. But really, he will probably have realized that your response is purposely over-the-top and thus all serious negativity should go out of the window.

0

Well that's the thing with guilty pleasures, sometimes you will find people around you (or even yourself in public) criticize or disapprove of said pleasures.

Like politicians you can have a public and a personal opinion, so when he asks just agree with him out of diplomacy.

And since this band is his favorite target, differ the conversation to another band or express that you are fed up with that subject

Yeah I know, you are preaching to the choir son

  • 2
    Agreeing about something like this just to 'keep the peace' isn't the way to honest, nourishing relationships. – EleventhDoctor Aug 16 '17 at 17:56
  • Sure but his request wasn't to generate a conversation, the requirement is "[how to] avoid the situation" ;) – nodws Aug 16 '17 at 20:53
  • But 'preaching to the choir' isn't indicating you are fed up, it's saying "don't waste effort converting me, I'm already on the team". – mcalex Aug 17 '17 at 8:16
  • You are missing the attitude with "Yeah I know...", It's the way you say it and add some hand gestures in there maybe roll your eyes. – nodws Aug 17 '17 at 15:56
0

For me there are only 2 options here.

Change the subject: So how about those {Insert common interest sports team here}? or something similar. This avoids the conflict and lets them know that you are not interested in talking about the previous topic with them.

or

Armed combat to the death!!!! I suppose you wouldn't have to go full blown to the death combat, but really if they hate something so dear to you should you really allow them to live?... yeah lets try the change the subject thing first.

  • I think you've been downvoted because clearly this situation requires unarmed hand-to-hand combat to the death, not armed combat. Maybe one stick between you to start off with would be acceptable. – crobar Aug 17 '17 at 9:21

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