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We're 5 couples that known each other for many years and we decided to have a breakfast in a nice park. During the breakfast we spoke about the US election on a very intellectual level and one of the girls (call her Jenifer) said that she can't see another 4 years with the current president; I told her that there's a possibility that he will win and it's ok. To cut the story short - she lost it. She started attacking me on a personal level that I don't have the right to voice my opinion because I'm not a 'true' American (for the record, I wasn't born in the US but spent most of my adult life here).

Then she switched gears into calling me a moron. I kept my calm and terminated the conversation immediately telling her that the conversation is over and I see no reason to continue.

For the record, she came to apologize later on and started to cry telling me that America is not the same anymore and she has a lot of concerns with the upcoming elections. It was a crisis mode for her and I cold see the emotional turmoil she was under. I didn't say much and simply moved on.

Honestly, I get it. Politics is a very sensitive issue and on top of this there's a lot of anxiety and fear because of the pandemic and this 'blend' did no good for Jenifer.

This issue has nothing to do with my political opinions which we all entitled to have and I can defend and criticize any president as long as its on a very respectful manner.

My question: I got very offended when she tried to exclude me on the basis of my origin. If I could I would simply remove her from my 'list of friends' and move on but that would be unfair for the other couples. How can I communicate with her and explain that her attack was inappropriate and out of line.

Edit:

When she came to apologize, it was for her behavior (her screaming and derogatory comments) but not on the 'you're not an American part' which is the core of the problem. I didn't say anything at that moment because she was under a barrage of emotions and it wasn't the right time to continue any conversation with her. I simply detached and moved away.
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    It sounds like she knows she crossed a line since she apologized. What result are you hoping for? Why did you not tell her when she apologized? Why do you not just tell her now? – Kat Oct 11 '20 at 1:02
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    @Kat, good point. I didn't say anything when she apologized because I felt that she's still 'hot' and seeing her crying I didnt want to inflame the situation again. – ProcolHarum Oct 11 '20 at 1:13
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    Any idea if she's generally anti-racism and pro-equality? Does she complain about Trump encouraging racists, for example? – Kat Oct 11 '20 at 16:32
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    So when you said that trump might win, and that's ok, what did you mean? – DaveG Nov 10 '20 at 19:12
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I'm also Canadian, but I am going to wade into the politics (now that the election has happened). One thing to understand is that "politics are personal", and vice versa. There are people who can separate the two. Those people are called "privileged": society currently Just Works for them, and will continue to no matter what (reasonably) happens.

But for many, it's impossible. For me, for instance, if I had been American, I'd be dead going on 20 years. And many in my home province want to take away what saved my life. Oddly enough, I'm not just "okay" when that party wins either.

DaveG's comment is more important to your interaction than it looks - it could very easily be the key to the whole conversation!

You said "that there's a possibility that [Trump] will win". That's just facts, and not actually a problem. In fact, many Democratic supporters and organizations were pounding on that fact to ensure that the "we're going to win, so I don't have to worry/help/vote" or "I can protest vote third party" thinkers were convinced otherwise.

But then you said "and it's ok." That's not "just a political comment", and for a large number of Americans, not even close to true. Saying "and it's okay" if this continues or goes further, if she is or is connected to one of the people for whom it is not only not okay, but actually life-threatening, is a personal attack. You probably didn't mean it, but it is. In the extreme case, what you said is "and it's okay by me if you or your friends die." That's about as personal as it gets.

If that's the case, even if you didn't or couldn't know, I'm not surprised when the response was also a personal attack.

What she said was insensitive and offensive. I agree. She has apologised for it - at least for the tone. You can choose to accept that apology if you wish; you can decide for yourself how to treat her in future.

But what you said was insensitive and potentially offensive, as well. It maybe didn't seem that way to you, but it was. And perhaps you should investigate what it's like to be not you, how it might not have been "okay" (frankly, still won't be "okay", especially if McConnell stays Senate Majority Leader) had the election gone the other way. And possibly apologise yourself for your insensitive comment, if you end up believing that it's in order. And remember, my statement above goes both ways - she will be deciding for herself how to treat you in future as well.

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  • Hi Mycroft! As I said in my edit comment, please take a look at this meta post. I've edited out the part of your answer that was just discussing politics, as that's not what this site is for. Your answer should focus on the interpersonal skills (behavior used to interact with others), and on answering the question: "how to explain the attack was inappropriate and out of line" (which it still seems to lack an answer to), not on arguing that the attack was indeed appropriate by discussing politics. – Tinkeringbell Nov 26 '20 at 7:20
  • thank you - I was concerned about that. I think "how can I get the person who personally attacked me to realise she was wrong to criticise when I told her that her feelings, her family and possibly her own life doesn't matter" has the answer "don't do that, then", and more politely "pay attention to what you say, or you might get just as careless a response back". – Mycroft Nov 26 '20 at 15:13
  • This addresses the depth of the flaw in both sides, but doesn't seem to address the main question? The main question is: how to discuss about the part that is not yet acknowledged by Jenifer that I still feel is missing from her apology? – justhalf Dec 23 '20 at 3:57
  • To an extent this is a frame challenge. The interpersonal issue is not "how do I get her to discuss what she hasn't apologized for" but "how do I repair this relationship?" And, instead of getting all that the poster wants, and still leave Jenifer feeling like the OP thinks her fears don't matter, maybe the answer is to understand how untrue "and it's ok" can be, and how badly he may have treated her without thinking, and come up with an apology of his own. Who knows, the "not american" might learn something about being american, who doesn't have the option of leaving if all goes belly up. – Mycroft Dec 24 '20 at 4:20
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Let's take the politics completely out of the equation. At its root, you were called a moron and told that you basically didn't have the proper position to have an opinion on the subject. When the person who committed that apologized, she apologized for her behavior but not her actions. Irrespective of politics, those are actions that are considered unacceptable.

Now you are looking for an apology for her actions - the behavior apology was nice, but the lack of apology for her actions may indicate that she saw nothing wrong.

This is hard to get from someone. I've been on the acting end in the past and realizing that I was in the wrong was hard to take. But it needed to happen.

Here's what I would suggest doing. First of all, getting in to a yelling match won't help your friend see that she behaved unacceptably. I've never seen that work. Talking with others present will also only result in her trying to draw others into your argument, which also doesn't get the desired result.

So... first of all, meet with her one-on-one. Pick a place where you can have a frank discussion. Next, frame it in a way that shows its effect on you. In management training, we talk a lot about "I messages". Rather than saying "you hurt me", we learn to say "I was hurt". It puts people a lot less on the defensive.

I'd start with "I want to thank you for your apology and your efforts in coming forth. I am willing to bet that was hard to do and I really appreciate it. There's one thing, however, that still hurts and I wanted to explain that. When I was told that I was a moron and couldn't take part based on where I was from, that really hurt. Frankly, I thought we were better friends than that. I'm not looking for an apology but knowing you feel that way is really hard for me to take." And leave it there. Don't say anything. Let her decide how to act.

If she starts to get defensive, then don't argue. "Thanks for your time. I wanted to explain this and appreciate your willingness to let me do so." And leave.

IF she apologizes for you "I'm sorry you feel that way" or "I'm sorry you are uncomfortable" or something like that, the response is, "I wasn't looking for an apology. I wanted to explain how those comments affected me and changed our relationship. Thank you for your time." And leave.

The whole point here is to point out what was really done poorly and let her make the next step. If she can't apologize, then you know where you stand. If she does, then you also know something. Either way, she may learn that such charged comments have effects on people and hopefully may moderate her behavior in the future.

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    Starting with "Let's take the politics completely out of the equation." Is essentially saying "let's ignore the context of the question". Politics is a sensitive subject with real impacts on people's lives - these can be charged comments too. Bear in mind OP's side of the story is the only one we're getting. – Lio Elbammalf Dec 12 '20 at 8:52
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I'm frame challenging that you should go back at her about the event because I'm not exactly sure what you expect here, imagine being insulted and coming back to that person saying "hey, this was an insult". What is this going to bring to the table, at the end of the day ? Best case, what an apology would do ?

Most likely the other person spoke their opinion somewhat on heat of the debate, and despite the fact you strongly disagree and find it insulting, it is still their opinion anyway. Since you've already expressed disagreement, I would think there is not much to gain from rubbing salt in the wound.

In NonViolent Communication (NVC), what we perceive as insults are to be heard as "tragic expression of unmet needs". There is no such thing as this person responsible for you to feel bad after what they said. The core reason to feel bad is to have an unmet need yourself (understanding, listening etc.), there are ways to bring that up without implying the other person is wrong. Bringing that implication is a step back on the way of satisfying your unmet needs, and in turn, is a tragic expression of unmet needs.

I've also family and acquaintances with various extremist positions and I know well they can be perfectly fine to converse with when we simply avoid a subject where we are too diametrically opposed, or when we do we just draw the line where we agree to disagree. I found benefits in not being too quick to drop judgement on someone because they judged me. If it was for ideological position, and if I did considered prejudices against me as insults, asking for apologies left and right, I also certainly wouldn't be in so good professional shape.

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Let's take this outside the topic of American politics as best we can, since this is not really about politics but about personal friendships. Besides, American politics are too hot to touch right now, especially by a Canadian like me. The core of the problem is the OP being excluded from the right of opinion by reason of not having been born an American. Jennifer, it seems, is unhappy having "foreigners" in "her" country. If--as I presume--the OP is an American citizen, this raises the question: How many thousands of years have Jennifer's ancestors lived on what is now American soil?

I ask because earlier in my life, through a volunteer agency, I worked with First Canadian Peoples. One of the concepts drilled during orientation was that: We (white European descendents) are all immigrants. At the time, it was hard for me to get my head around it, since my ancestors had lived on this continent for more than two hundred years. First Canadians and Native Americans, however, have lived here--not for mere centuries--but for thousands of years. Millennia. The rest of us are all immigrants. This may be something Jennifer needs to hear.

So what if our ancestors invaded the continent four or five centuries ago and wiped out entire populations of Natives by whatever means possible, including biological warfare, we remain invaders and immigrants. We are not original peoples in America or Canada. If we look at what happened in other parts of the world, such as Germany and East European countries during the middle of the twentieth century, people who had lived there for centuries were also driven out or killed because their ancestors had not lived there forever. BASIC CONCEPT: Unless your roots are ancient, thousands of years old, you are a newcomer, an immigrant.

I assume the OP would have mentioned if Jennifer were a Native American. If she is not, she is an "immigrant" too. Perhaps this is an argument you can use to explain the validity of your input to the current political debate in the USA. Then again, perhaps it is too abstract. Or perhaps she is too stuck with her own way of thinking to consider another point of view. Some people are and there is no way to get through to them. Removing them from friend lists is the only way forward at times. But I understand your reason for wanting to try and retain the friendship.

The fact that she was able to participate in a very intellectual discussion, as you describe, suggests that she is capable of seeing the validity of the above argument. If she wants to. You seem to understand the need to approach her at a time when she is emotionally calm. I am thinking she is capable of seeing that, since you have gone through the entire process of becoming a citizen of the United States and swearing allegiance to its flag (I am not sure what is involved in becoming a citizen), you are entitled to an opinion regarding its politics and that she was out of line attacking you.

To summarize, you might try these methods of communicating to her that her attack on you was inappropriate and out of line:

  1. All of us are immigrants.
  2. You have a vested and legitimate interest in American politics after going through the entire process of becoming an American citizen.
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