12

I have a childhood friend of 40 years, who is steadily becoming more intolerant of anyone who is not a white anglo male. In the last year alone, he has ranted to me over email (we live on different continents) about how he doesn't like women, Muslims, homosexuals, white collar workers, the Chinese, and probably a few other groups I can't recall.

He is a lifelong cannabis user, and it seems to me that he is growing stupider over time (may just be my perception). I've tried to argue rationally, futilely.

I don't want his negativity in my life any longer. There is no way I would make friends with him today; however, I don't want to sever the friendship for two reasons.

  1. We share a deep connection through shared experiences as children/young men. I find that rare and valuable.
  2. For his sake. I don't think he currently has any other friends. He is clearly bitter and miserable and I fear that losing me would damage his mental health further. I would love for him to rediscover the joy in life.

The question is, how can I communicate these joint goals of a) removing the offensive content from my inbox, and b) help him out of his downward trajectory of hatred and bitterness?

4

Pessimistic people with some mental health issues, cannabis use, and older age can be very, very difficult people to deal with and they can drain energy from people they interact with. Here are some options to consider if you want to continue the friendship but reduce offensive content and be encouraging and supportive.

Option 1: Quietly ignore their offensive content

I don't think that you can change the person, but you can keep trying to distract them with positive things that they like to talk about. If they continue to rant, ignore the rants, and keep talking positively.

Option 2: Calmly inform them that you won't respond to specific content (ranting about groups of people they dislike)

On the other hand, if you let them know that you don't want to see their offensive content in emails they send you. If they send offensive content, you can choose not to reply. Create a new email thread with positive content and completely ignore the offensive content. This subtly communicates that you won't respond to emails that have the content you dislike.

If they question you about why you created the new email thread, you can respond by saying something like

I didn't really want to see the content about these groups you dislike. I understand and respect your opinions but I would rather keep the conversation between us about us, not them.

This refocuses the issue and doesn't make it about your friend's issue, it's about what you want the conversation to be about.

Option 3: Inform them that you don't like what they're talking about, and that they may need to stop if they want to continue being friends with you

This is the method I recommend the least because it is confrontational, and won't get a good response from your friend.

These options range from the least confrontational to the most confrontational, and I recommend the first or second option. Responding positively and encouraging him to pursue happiness in his own way is.

I think it's also helpful to note that if you encourage him to go and get counseling wherever he may be that would probably be the best solution here. However, considering the type of person that your friend is, they may not agree. Continue to be encouraging and supportive.

My experience with a narcissistic person helped me realize that if I confront them they won't give me what I want but if I fake a smile and ignore their offensive content, I will eventually get what I want. I'm not in a good relationship with a narcissist because I decided to break off contact with them, because they were too draining on my energy.

2

I'm currently in a similar situation. A friend I made a couple of years ago has turned out to be very sexist - his views don't seem as extreme as your friends', but he says things like 'makeup is fake marketing' and stuff. He doesn't really have friends other than our group, and we're kind of the reason that he eats regular meals at all.

Our friend group is certain that he's basically repeating stuff that youtubers say, and that he doesn't really mean harm

With that in mind, one approach we use is to reason with him.

Whenever he says something sexist, we kind of break it down to the base assumption (women are for men's consumption, women aren't good at math, whatever), and then prove that wrong. I don't know if he's changing his mind or not but he seems to understand why it's hurtful.

We don't phrase it in an argumentative way, it's more like playing the 'why game'.

eg:

"So she should just go make me a sandwich instead of talking about sports"

why?

"because women don't know anything about sports"

our friend X does

"Oh. Well women should be cooking not talking"

I don't cook

"Other women do"

friend Y/my mom/ your sister doesn't

"Uh"

Are you mad at her for saying your team sucks?

"..."

You can be angry about that - I would. But she can talk about whatever she wants right?

This approach depends on :

  • us having enough patience to go through it to him

  • him being willing to listen to us

  • him having good intentions and not actually wanting to hurt people


I hope it's possible to reason with your friend, but it might not be. This next strategy is one I use when I just can't be bothered to correct my friend in a polite way.

I snap at him. I always feel guilty about it, but I basically say something like "No, that anime isn't cool, it's pedophilic and gross. How can you not see that?"

Generally, he'll change the topic for then. If I do it enough, he won't bring it up again. (Just that particular show though, not other things that could be considered pedophilic)

Note - if you apologize for losing your temper, he might take it to mean that you approve of his views and were just having a bad day. (My friend did, once. I stopped apologizing)

This approach depends on :

  • your friendship being strong enough to withstand a fight

  • your friend picking up on social cues


The last way I know is to distract them. I do this with an acquaintance who loves playing 'devil's advocate'. He's actually very smart, so he'll win any reasonable debate we have. When I'm talking to him, I stay on topics that aren't political - classes, gossip about mutual friends, etc.

Whenever he starts to rant about something, I cut him off with something like, "Yeah, you've told us this. Are we gonna argue this again? Oh, by the way, did you guys see the ..."

This approach depends on :

  • your friend being willing to avoid an argument

  • having other, non-contentious issues to talk about

This is my least favourite approach because I find myself analyzing all of his opinions for influence from political views I disagree with. I'm also a very confrontational person when it comes to some political issues, so I usually need someone else help us stay away from debates.

Good luck!

1

Well, this is not something that you can make suggestions for from far away. After all, you know your friend better. My personal experience says to just fade out of their life when a friend has things that bother you. On the other hand, one should not be selfish in these matters.

What I am trying to say is that if you find only yourself offended or hurt by the things your friend does, it doesn't seem fair to just let go of a friendship like that. In your case, however, the person is a racist and unless they realize that and continue to do so anyway, you have many options to fade out of your friendship and eventually any relationship.

My experience: I had this friend who never complied with traffic laws. When we started our friendship, I didn't know of this and traffic laws may have not been of great value in my relationships. But over time, you become more and more annoyed by things you don't like. Because the friend has now penetrated your heart and they and their emotions/attitudes/beliefs become more important to you. You start explaining to them your expectations, your goals, your extremes only to find them less interested and there is a time you simply give up.

  • Hi Siamak! Welcome to IPS. You say your personal experience has taught you to stop contacting a friend whose values are significantly different to yours. Could you explain a little bit further what was the situation you've encountered that led you to this conclusion? We expect answers to be backed up (in this case with personal experience), and it'd be great for OP to see a situation in which what you propose was tested and effective indeed. Feel free to reach us if you need further info, and have a great time among us! :) – avazula Jun 25 at 8:05
  • Thanks, edited. – Siamak Ensafi Jun 25 at 8:10

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