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My cousin and I recently moved in together. We have always been close and everything is going great except for a topic he really likes but makes me uncomfortable. This topic is about the bullfighting culture.

For a little context, in Spain bullfighing is usually controversial. There are people who strongly support it (and enjoy it), people who strongly hate it (and most likely would prefer it to be banned) and people who don't really care. There is an emotional component in these opinions, your "guts" tell you it is either right or wrong and no one usually changes their views on this matter.

My cousin really likes bullfighting, he goes to the shows, knows a lot about it and enjoys the culture in general. Me, on the other side, can't stand it. I'm more on the "this shouldn't be allowed" side, and get really disgusted every time this topic comes out. For me it's as brutal as gladiators fighting in the Roman ages, with the difference that the bulls didn't exactly choose to fight...

I have never and don't want to try to change his opinion. That only concerns to him. When he brings up something related to it, I just try to move the conversation into a different subject, or don't show any interest at all. However, I have never expressed my real feelings about it, because I don't want to be offensive (usually telling someone that something he enjoys is brutal and should be forbidden will come out as offensive...)

I think this has made him think that I'm more on the "don't enjoy it too much, but don't really care" side, so he doesn't know how uncomfortable the casual comments or references make me feel.

I would like to come up with a way of expressing to him how I feel and what my real views on this topic are, without being offensive, and clearly stating that I won't try to change his opinion. I would like to keep this aspect of his life to himself.

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    "For me it's as brutal as gladiators fighting in the Roman ages, with the difference that the bulls didn't exactly choose to fight" if I remember my history classes right, those gladiators didn't have much choice in the matter either, but I digress – Dean MacGregor Dec 5 '17 at 18:17
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    @Nelson, sometimes anyway – Dean MacGregor Dec 6 '17 at 4:40
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    If I remember well, the bullf fight because he's harmed before hand to get him angry, so it's even worst than the gladiators. – Walfrat Dec 6 '17 at 8:27
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    Completely off topic, but - In Roman times citizens did sometimes sell themselves to a gladiator school to pay off a debt, and so "chose" to be a gladiator. And the vast majority of gladiator fights did not end in a death - gladiators were expensive to buy, feed, and train. If half of them died in every show it would have been too expensive to happen! (As citation, I offer the documentary series "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" ;-) ) – Grimm The Opiner Dec 6 '17 at 9:19
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    "I have never expressed my real feelings about it" - there's you problem, right there. And your solution – Mawg Dec 6 '17 at 10:03
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However, I have never expressed my real feelings about it, because I don't want to be offensive

I'll recommend Gordon's method, which is applied in three easy steps:

  • Active listening

"I know you like bullfighting..."

  • Reframe on yourself to avoid blaming him

"...but although I've never told you, it really makes me uneasy, I can't help but feel sorry for the poor animal..."

  • No losers (ie this is not an argument)

"...I'm not asking you to stop liking it, I just don't like to talk about it, okay?"

usually telling someone that something he enjoys is brutal and should be forbidden will come out as offensive...

Sure, that's why this method avoids doing that. All it does is express that it makes you feel bad and that the other person should not talk about bullfighting with you because they care about not making you feel bad. It's simple and effective.

If he asks why you never told, you can explain that you didn't want to come out as meaning that "it should be forbidden" and annoy him, for example.

Optional off-topic note: You will most likely not be able to change his mind on bullfighting (this is a very touchy subject). However if animal welfare is an important matter to you, you can always try to convince him to purchase free-range meat (or at least animals raised in decent conditions) instead of industrial farmed meat, for example.

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    Well, I can't upvote because I lack the reputation, but I will try this approach. It will probably be an akward conversation, but I guess it's the only way for me to stop feeling bad about the situation. I will however defer it until the next uncomfortable moment comes up. Also, I might be able to convince him about the meat by argueing that it's more healthy and tasty (I dind't even consider the possibility, thanks for the tip) – user9884 Dec 5 '17 at 12:55
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    You're welcome ;) And, well, at least the fighting bull has a chance to stick a horn into the toreador, which the farm animals usually don't get! – peufeu Dec 5 '17 at 13:02
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"I value our friendship more than I do arguing or letting things fester. You probably didn't know this, but I don't really like talking about bullfighting. It's no fault of yours, as there is no way you could have known. But are you OK with us not talking about it? I'd really appreciate it."

  • I think this is a good way to say it, but generally answers are expected to also back up why they would work. Could you maybe add that in? – Erik Dec 5 '17 at 14:52
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    Really helpful, specially the 'It's no fault of yours', because I should have expressed my concerns before. It's also not my fault feeling how I feel about this, so that insight can easily avoid conflict (it's not a personal thing, we just can't help but disagreeing). – user9884 Dec 5 '17 at 15:11
  • Sure. You are indicating to the person their worth, taking their ego out of the equation (not making it their fault) and making a valid request in a way which does not create opposition. – gitlinggun Dec 5 '17 at 15:13
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This is very common when people talk about sensitive subjects, especially politics, for example.

It takes really little-to-no effort to turn a pleasant night out with friends into a fight, which would not be pleasant any longer for any of the friends.

Been there, seen that.

I learnt to explicitly stop the subject on its first signals of springing up: as soon as anyone asks me about a sensitive subject, I respond with variants of

Well, I don't like talking about politics [optionally add: ...while I'm having a good time out and unwind from a hard work day]

or

Well, this is a subject in which I'm aware that my opinion is not popular and I'd never want to risk starting a fight - I know how these things end up - so, if you don't mind, I'd rather not talk about it.

or, if you've already been talking about that in the past

Well, you know what my opinion is, we've been through that in the past and none of us is willing to change mind, so I say we both keep our own opinions and move on talking about other.

  • This is indeed like politics, and it even has political connotations in Spain. Anyway I don't think we could end up fighting, we wouldn't let that happen. It could easily get akward though. I will definitely aproach the subject just as it comes up next time, to not let if flow any further (he even asks me from time to time if I would like to come with him to a show, obviously not knowing how I feel about it) – user9884 Dec 5 '17 at 15:08
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There are similar 'sports' in other cultures too. Here in the UK there is a tradition of fox hunting which polarises opinion, although a majority are against it.

You need to choose words that make it clear you want to cease discussion of bullfighting rather than enter into a debate about it. For this reason I feel you should avoid expressing any opinion on the subject at all. You clearly respect his conscience which considers the sport to be acceptable - you want him to respect yours.

Most people have a concept of what the 'conscience' is, and it can be helpful to personify it; ie speak about your conscience as a separate entity. We all 'listen' to our consciences. This technique may prevent your cousin from attempting to debate YOU on the subject. For example:

I know that you enjoy bullfighting, and I respect your feelings on that. But I'm afraid my conscience won't allow me anything to do with bullfighting. Even talking about it pricks my conscience and makes me feel bad. Would you mind not talking about it when I'm around?

Of course he may still press you for reasons why, and it is up to you whether you enter into a discussion or not. If he is reasonable then a discussion could end amicably with you 'agreeing to disagree', but these things can sometimes hang in the air and cause bad feeling, with one person always wondering if the other person looks down on them. You could persist with the 'personified conscience' and just keep it a mystery:

I can't explain it. That's just how my conscience is.

Keep the discussion focused on how your conscience makes you feel when he talks about bullfighting, rather than how he makes you feel.

I hope this helps.

  • I'd be careful throwing 'conscience' around so much though, or you risk coming off as self-righteous. Try to keep your words opinion-based instead of based on morals. – Lord Farquaad Dec 5 '17 at 14:35
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    I'd also be careful to disassociate your opinions from your self. It sounds really weird. Like you are not in control of yourself. – Erik Dec 5 '17 at 14:37
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    Well, I can only speak for myself, but if you told me what it says in the yellow block above, I'd think you'd gone crazy. Maybe it's some kind of language barrier, but this use of the word "conscience" is really weird to me. – Erik Dec 5 '17 at 14:51
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    I love the 'agree to disagree' result, that would make both of us know where the other stands, while not trying to make any further discussion or comments and respecting each other. I think the 'conscience' insight could be helpful, and won't probably come out as me teaching him something, as we are friends. Also the word might have different connotations in Spanish than in English. To me it doesn't feel bad. – user9884 Dec 5 '17 at 14:55
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    @LordFarquaad I agree with you on your definition of the conscience, and that is why I believe my answer is valid. The OP wants to express his conscience in a way that is non-confrontational. He can either say that bullfighting IS wrong, or that HE FEELS that it is wrong. But the sport is legal in his country and the law reflects the broadly accepted morality, so saying it IS wrong is open to argument. Saying he feels it is wrong when his cousin believes otherwise could also lead to an argument he doesn't want to have. But to follow one's conscience is admirable. So that's my answer. – Astralbee Dec 6 '17 at 10:09

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