Join 3,564 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Does it always have to be about oil and water, rubber and glue?
December 28, 2012 8:46 AM   Subscribe

We are a relatively new couple in our friends' lives, both in our 40s, socially functional and generous, but not always gracious. Not always the best and most skilled hosts. We have very different kinds of friends who are unused to each other - some are dedicated to not getting along with each others' philosophies ad beliefs - and we'd like to know how to integrate everyone in our parties in the most fair ways with the best chance of getting folks to know and like each other. We'd like our guests to be comfortable and to want to come back and visit again. There is a fly in the ointment of communal friendship (and, frankly, we're afraid that some of our friends may come to shouting matches with each other) and I'm looking for good coping mechanisms and strategies for achieving this among potentially contentious friends.

The contentiousness is that I come to the relationship largely with Skeptics and pro-science folk as friends and she comes to the relationship largely with Alternative Medicine friends, both folks who trade on and consume those services. My sweetie and I tend to bridge that gap, being tolerant of and having positive experiences from Alternative Medicine, but at the same time being pragmatic and knowing that some empirical knowledge seems to be pretty apt and effective (and knowing and being frustrated by empiricist limits as well).

As separate people, we've become friends with or are friendly with each other's friends, but the challenge is getting our friends to get along with each other.

And while the TCM And homeopath friends are good with getting along with everyone, the Skeptics aren't. The Skeptics are capable of being in the same room with the homeopaths, but it's clear they're not enjoying themselves, that their ire is in conflict with their social graces and they're on edge and feeling incapable of themselves being entirely gracious. I suspect but do not know for sure that this inability to change is near vendetta level (for familial loss).

It would be difficult for us, but not impossible, to do as the gracious people from the movies do and do deep introductions and get folks talking about the things they enjoy and the things they have in common. It would also be difficult but not impossible for us to keep track of who we invite to what gathering and try to keep the oil and water friends separate in separate parties. It would be difficult but not impossible for us to never invite either set of incompatible friends over, to only visit them at their homes.

But our ideal would be for everyone to get along and everyone to enjoy themselves at our parties, and our Christmas Eve party seemed to establish that that wasn't going to happen on its own.

I've done some searching and reading and found some interesting suggestions, among them:
- http://ask.metafilter.com/190159/Shes-the-Vegemite-in-my-friendship-cupboard
- http://ask.metafilter.com/231909/help-me-make-a-party-a-little-fun-at-least
- http://ask.metafilter.com/192901/Should-I-invite-the-ex
- http://ask.metafilter.com/17123/Is-it-acceptable-to-ask-the-bride-not-to-seat-me-next-to-someone-in-particular
- http://ask.metafilter.com/69534/How-do-I-fix-this

I'd like to know what strategies and social graces and other methods you've used to keep friends who are unwilling or unable to get along with each other friends of yours, especially if you enjoy entertaining and, if all other things were equal you'd like to keep your friends close and invite all of them to all of your parties.

It almost feels too obvious to say this, but I'm uninterested in strategies and methods focused on changing friends, fighting with them about their philosophies or not being their friends.
posted by kalessin to Human Relations (42 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
These are all grownups? They can decide if they want to come over to your parties when people with different beliefs than theirs are over.

If things get too contentious, a quick, "Maybe we should agree not to discuss X" might be in order, but honestly, I think both sides are probably used to folks on the other side saying what they think.
posted by xingcat at 8:54 AM on December 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Don't invite people who are dedicated to not getting along with each others' philosophies ad beliefs to parties where they're going to run into people with different world views. There's a social fallacy (see #4 friendship is transitive) that makes otherwise sensible people inclined to invite all of their friends to all parties.

The problem here is your basic assumption that such a thing is desirable or even feasible. Friends who are fighty get invited to fewer events then those who know how to nod and smile when someone says something they don't agree with.*

You invite people you think might get along, despite differing beliefs to an event. If a divisive topic comes up, and conversation gets heated, you redirect and ask them to table it here. If they refuse... no more party invites for them that likes the fighty.

*We're talking stuff like opinions or beliefs that aren't prima facie awful like racist, sexist, etcetera ideas. Plenty of people hold somewhat irrational views, even those who put a capital S in skeptic.
posted by canine epigram at 8:55 AM on December 28, 2012 [11 favorites]


But our ideal would be for everyone to get along and everyone to enjoy themselves at our parties...

The only reasonable strategy to not have friends fight at your parties is to not invite people who have beef with one another. You can only predict how people will behave, but you can never control it. If Frank the Skeptic is practically guaranteed to be an asshole because Bob the Alternative Medicine Guru is in attendance, you have a decision to make: invite both and risk Frank being an asshole, invite only Frank, or invite only Bob. What you can't do is get Frank to not be an asshole to Bob. I mean, you can ask him to do so, but if Frank is dead-set on being a confrontational asshole, it's going to make things worse.

Also, check out Geek Social Fallacy #4: Friendship Is Transitive
The milder form of GSF4 merely prevents the carrier from perceiving evidence to contradict it; a carrier will refuse to comprehend that two of their friends (or two groups of friends) don't much care for each other, and will continue to try to bring them together at social events. They may even maintain that a full-scale vendetta is just a misunderstanding between friends that could easily be resolved if the principals would just sit down to talk it out.
posted by griphus at 8:57 AM on December 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Your last paragraph is certainly not at all obvious. How carefully have you thought this through? Perhaps better answers would be generated if you explained why you want to work on cultivating close friendships with pick-a-fight folk. This doesn't really have a lot to do with skepticism vs woo; this is just about people being jerks.

If I was dead set on maintaining relations with an individual who couldn't behave courteously at parties I would never invite that individual to a party. I very much doubt that the people at risk of getting shouted at would appreciate that their friend is trying to come up with strategies for keeping them socialising with anti-social people.

I am as anti-woo as the next...MeFite, but this sounds ridiculous. One can take 'tolerant' too far.

I do wonder, though, what is going on between you and your partner, and at your parties, that feeds these sorts of scraps. More detail about how the problems flare up might also help.
posted by kmennie at 8:57 AM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Skeptics are capable of being in the same room with the homeopaths, but it's clear they're not enjoying themselves, that their ire is in conflict with their social graces and they're on edge and feeling incapable of themselves being entirely gracious.

These people sound terrible; I would never invite them to a party. If you can't stand to be in the same room as someone who disagrees with you, you're not going to get invited to a lot of parties, and that's just life.

I know people who have strong opinions, don't shy away from voicing those opinions, but do it with grace and courtesy. It is possible. If your friends can't do it, that's their fault and there isn't much you can do to fix it.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:59 AM on December 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


And while the TCM And homeopath friends are good with getting along with everyone, the Skeptics aren't. The Skeptics are capable of being in the same room with the homeopaths, but it's clear they're not enjoying themselves, that their ire is in conflict with their social graces and they're on edge and feeling incapable of themselves being entirely gracious. I suspect but do not know for sure that this inability to change is near vendetta level (for familial loss).

Are we talking about specific people here, or classes of people? I am a Skeptic, and I am entirely capable of getting along with the wooiest homeopath you can find for at least the length of a dinner party. If your Skeptic friends are dicks, no amount of social grace on your part will cause them to not be dicks. Your first strategy should be to examine your friends as individual people and decide on that individual basis if they are the kind of people who you want to have at your social events.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:59 AM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


We recently hosted Christmas dinner where guests included people who don't vaccinate their kids and people who are capital-S-Skeptics.

There was no fighting or unpleasantness, because no one discussed those (or other touchy) topics. Some of my closest friends, for real, are capital-S-Skeptics, but they are not rude or impolite people.

If they were actually unwilling to get along with people who have different views on things and insisted on disrupting social events I was hosting, I would stop inviting them to mixed events, and I would tell them why.
posted by rtha at 9:03 AM on December 28, 2012


My skeptic/Skeptic friends have many characteristics that both my sweetie and I find eminently reasonable, generous, desirable and good. And I think she and I both feel that if we could get beyond the skeptic versus the woo world (alternative medicine, etc.) issues that they'd be excellent friends to our woo world friends. And the reverse as well. If that gap could be bridged.

I find that both my friends and her friends are equally valuable friends in all other aspects aside from not getting along about skepticism versus other systems of interacting with the physics and phenomena of the world.

My sweetie and I are not, as far as I know, interested in nor unconsciously exacerbating those issues between us or between our friends.
posted by kalessin at 9:04 AM on December 28, 2012


I don't know that this is all about skeptics being jerks. In my experience, as a skeptic, alternative medicine people tend to pepper their conversation with casual references to woo--particularly if they "trade on" alternative cures. That's not to say that I haven't been capable of getting along with them, but even with friends who were casually into this stuff, I had to bite my tongue quite a bit when they decided that an appropriate activity for an afternoon was getting one's palm read or figuring out our moon signs or whatever. Attempts to avoid these topics often went poorly; once a friend goaded me into arguing with her religious beliefs (that we're all filled with "energy" and therefore immortal) after I tried to avoid the conversation for well over an hour. Unless you provide distracting party games or conversation, I'm going to guess that similar interactions are happening here.

their ire is in conflict with their social graces and they're on edge and feeling incapable of themselves being entirely gracious. I suspect but do not know for sure that this inability to change is near vendetta level (for familial loss).

So . . . someone lost a family member due to some sort of faith healing and you want them to hang out with someone who makes money off of alternative medical treatments?

No, just no. They don't need to be friends, and probably shouldn't. It's pretty insensitive of you to force these people to hang out.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:05 AM on December 28, 2012 [16 favorites]


I'd like to know what strategies and social graces and other methods you've used to keep friends who are unwilling or unable to get along with each other friends of yours, especially if you enjoy entertaining and, if all other things were equal you'd like to keep your friends close and invite all of them to all of your parties.

If they're unwilling or unable to get along (and these are adults?), the most you can hope for is what you have now, tension and a lack of graciousness when they're in the same room. There is nothing you can do to make everyone actually like each other and have fun at your dinner parties.

Part of this is that the skeptics are unwilling to look past the homeopaths' beliefs to get to know the homeopaths. That's a fault with the skeptics. But a big part of this is that you are not listening to your friends. Your friends are telling you clearly that they do not want to be included in your bridge-building initiatives. They will go to your parties because they care about you but they are adults who get to choose their own friends.
posted by headnsouth at 9:05 AM on December 28, 2012


And I think she and I both feel that if we could get beyond the skeptic versus the woo world...

You're beyond it. You're well past beyond it. It's your friends who aren't. And you can't make someone get beyond something if they don't want to. And you definitely can't make someone want something unless there's consequences (for good or ill) involved.

The problem isn't that you have Skeptic Friends and Woo Friends, and there's a Hatfields/McCoys-style blood feud. The problem is that you have a group of friends who are assholes and don't want to not be assholes.
posted by griphus at 9:07 AM on December 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Why do you insist on having them at the same parties? I just don't see how it is difficult to remember that one group is skeptical and one group is woo, and you invite one group OR the other to things which are mostly about making conversation. (So, movie nights or board game nights or bowling nights are fine to have both groups to.)

If not, try to start smaller -- take the skeptics who haven't lost family over this (death? estrangement?) and the alt medicine people who don't actually bring it up in conversation and try introducing them first.

But it's okay if not all your friends like each other. It really is.
posted by jeather at 9:11 AM on December 28, 2012


I have a friend or two who is really into homeopathic medicine and other alternative remedies, and I am not, not, not. I regularly have parties that combine the highly religious and the militant atheists. We get along and enjoy ourselves because we manage to socialize without making it about our personal health care strategies and religious beliefs. If your friends aren't capable of getting along, then that's on them, and you have to learn to keep them away from each other because one or both of those groups simply aren't good party guests.
posted by deanc at 9:12 AM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I didn't understand (in your OP) the line which PhoBWanKenobi quoted above, but if that interpretation is correct (a skeptic friend's family member died due to devotion to some woo), then I have to agree - at least for that person. If I felt that any philosophy had contributed to a family member's suffering, I would have a very hard time being around someone who made a living by it - or even ascribed to it.

Is this literally *all* of your friends versus *all* of her friends? Or your very closest friends and her very closest friends? If not, surely a balance of friends you have as "group party" friends and friends you have as "only in hand-selected groups" friends would be acceptable?
posted by pammeke at 9:13 AM on December 28, 2012


Exceptional food, drinks, and music. I mean Absolutely Outstanding Food. This relaxes people, activates their imagination, and brings them to some new level of communion. They become less inclined to be fighty and contrary. Of course it doesn't for sure stop anyone from being a jerk, but it can operate miracles.
posted by TheGoodBlood at 9:16 AM on December 28, 2012


I suspect but do not know for sure that this inability to change is near vendetta level (for familial loss).

This is sort of opaquely worded, but if I'm understanding correctly, the Skeptic(s) here are people who are so deeply wounded by the recent death of a family member that they're carrying around a lot of pain and anger that they direct at alternative medicine? In that case this really isn't a symmetrical social situation at all — it's not about two groups of friends who aren't getting along, it's about one group of friends whose life situation precludes them from taking part in the usual party/gathering socializing for a while, until they feel their pain less acutely. I'd just make plans to socialize separately with the grieving Skeptics and leave them out of larger group events for a while.
posted by RogerB at 9:16 AM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


The people I know who are consummate hosts and who seem to pull this sort of thing off usually have enough events that they can invite different sets of people to different events. So this is a different strategy than "Don't mix the friend groups!" but more like have different assortments of people at different things so people get a chance to see if they get on with individual people okay without it always being Skeptics on the one side of the room and Woo on the other. At the same time, consider having events that are less talk-oriented and more activity-oriented. Having Game Night or Bowling Night or Movie Night can give people some proximity to each other without having to make chitchat which, again, might give people a chance to interact in a more structured fashion.

At the same time, jerks are jerks and if either of you have friends who just aren't good in groups, take the time to spend some one-on-one time with them somewhere other than a big deal holiday party. Not everyone enjoys those sorts of parties in the first place (I have many introverted friends who I wouldn't even think of inviting to my big bashes, but I do make the time to see them and have a quiet meal at some other time) and finding the right mix if people to have at an event is part of being a good host. The way I see it, there are a few types of parties

- dinner party types of things with a restricted guest list
- activity types of things with a guest list centered around an event
- open invite "Hey everyone come over!" parties with no structure
- birthday/holiday things where the goal is to bring together the people who are important to you

Only the last two need to be an everyone-is-invited situation, and even then there's room to wiggle. Otherwise it's totally okay to pick and choose the people you are with at various events and to try different groupings of people until you find groups that click. People who have a hard time with them can either be dealt with individually, or you can let them fade as they're maybe not as conducive to being friends with you in your new relationship.
posted by jessamyn at 9:17 AM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why are health-management issues coming up all the time anyway? Would it be possible, when inviting friends to some big event, to tell them "listen, I'd like to also invite X and Z, I think you'd really like them, but you should know that they have pretty strong feelings pro/anti whatever for various personal reasons. Do you think you'd be able to give them a chance and steer clear of that whole topic when you're together? You're all pretty into _____ and _____, so I do think you might enjoy hanging out with them." Or something along those lines.

If people are told in advance that something they personally advocate will push someone else's buttons, and that it would be a kindness to the host for them to find common ground instead of arguing about Rightness, they might find it easier to do you that kindness and possibly even enjoy it.

Might be worth doing only with friends who might actually have common ground, and keeping things more separate in general.
posted by trig at 9:20 AM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


A couple of folks have made mention of insisting and forcing. I'm not interested in threadsitting, but I want to make it clear that I'm not interested in forcing anyone to do anything. All parties described here are putatively adult, including myself. Most have experience of both formal (BDSM) and informal systems of boundaries and consent and all are capable of finding their own ways through life and of choosing their own friends.

Sounds like the answers I was looking for are a mix of GSF4 (thank you for that pointer) and probably keeping track of who we're inviting to which parties, with a salting of everyone needing to put their grown-up pants on.

And as an aside, the vendetta that I suspect is unsubstantiated and the nature of my friendship isn't really close enough with that friend to clarify further - best to let sleeping dogs lie, I think.

Also, the Christmas Eve party I mentioned was the first where we mixed these sets of friends, and I know we share some of the burden of responsibility for their not getting along, which is why I posted the question - to try to get a handle on how to do it differently in the future.

Health management issues are coming up because 1) we're getting older, all of us and 2) we all have pets who are getting older too, so health comes up.

Thank you all for your input and opinions!
posted by kalessin at 9:22 AM on December 28, 2012


I'd like to know what strategies and social graces and other methods you've used to keep friends who are unwilling or unable to get along with each other friends of yours, especially if you enjoy entertaining and, if all other things were equal you'd like to keep your friends close and invite all of them to all of your parties.

Well, there are a few different possibilities.

One is that this is a situation where group A just doesn't have anything in common with group B, and isn't really interested in finding that common space either - not necessarily enmity, mind you. A state of detente. In this case, your best bet is to try to make sure that each gathering has a balance of people from both groups, and ideally a couple people who aren't really in either camp. People who don't really get along great can ignore each other.

But that's if we're talking about people whose level of opposition is that they are essentially neutral on the company of the other. It becomes more of a problem if Group A can't enjoy themselves if anyone from Group B is even in the room at all.

A fairly common thing in skeptic circles is that it's a bit easier to tolerate consumers of hokum than purveyors thereof. Basically, the view is that people who trade on homeopathy or TCM are essentially con men, or worse, people doing active harm by preying on the naive or uninformed. Whereas the uninformed in question are just, you know, uninformed, and there's a bit more sympathy there. Not saying I agree with it, but there it is. I'd think this is why your hardcore skeptic friends are showing so much antipathy.

My skeptic/Skeptic friends have many characteristics that both my sweetie and I find eminently reasonable, generous, desirable and good. And I think she and I both feel that if we could get beyond the skeptic versus the woo world (alternative medicine, etc.) issues that they'd be excellent friends to our woo world friends. And the reverse as well. If that gap could be bridged.


See, the issue here is one of perspective. When it comes to someone who trades in homeopathy, your Skeptic friends are seeing them the way you might see someone who unapologetically scammed an old lady out of her life savings. Maybe it's hard for them to look past that. If it's due to losing family members, as you say, this might be an intractable thing. To them, it's a thing of "Well, other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?" That may not be a perspective you agree on - from where I sit, it's certainly a little simplistic - but it's their perspective and not something that's likely to change. No amount of bridge-building will make them see a homeopath as anything other than a con artist. Maybe a very kind con artist, a con artist who's generous to his friends and gives very thoughtful gifts and downright incredible backrubs, but still a con artist.

But these people need to learn to suck it up and get along, even when they know they're right. A friend of mine was once dating a woman who was into Reiki, and was late for a dinner because she was, and I quote, "receiving light at the dojo." Later on, another friend cracked a tooth at dinner and in the rush to get him to the dentist, she sat next to him in the cab and held her hand over his face and said it would alleviate the pain. This was incredibly silly and frankly pretty stupid, but what are you going to do. The purpose of a party is to have fun. It's not to be the most correct.

Enough of my wittering. Here is your solution: You can't make your friends change or act like grown-ups. If you start concerning yourself with the certainty that person a and person b would be such good friends if only they would do x or not care about y, you will drive yourself completely insane and be bashing your head against a brick wall. Don't invite oppositional groups to parties. Instead of trying to bridge the gap between A and B, invite groups A, B, C, and even D if they don't have any plans, and just let people do what they do. Your skeptic friends may relax a little if the party is not comprised of People I Know and People Who Suck.

And/or, as trig says, take them aside (on both sides of the aisle) and ask them to maybe steer clear from certain topics when the other group is around. If they can't or won't, well...only adults get invited to your things, so there you go.

Also, the Christmas Eve party I mentioned was the first where we mixed these sets of friends, and I know we share some of the burden of responsibility for their not getting along, which is why I posted the question - to try to get a handle on how to do it differently in the future.

It would probably help a lot to have some specific examples of what happened at this party.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:25 AM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


We are very good friends with people who hold 180 degree different political views from us. Our Godson is the child of Libertarians (we're hard-core, bleeding heart Democrats) and our other set of friends are ultra-Conservative. Interestingly enough, we all agree that these are only facets of our total gestalt, and we agree to disagree on certain topics.

When I go to parties at our friend's house, sometimes their guests, not being acquainted with our leanings, will spout off some political belief. If it's not egregious, I let it go. What do I care what some gasbag thinks? If it's easy to do, and won't cause discord, I might say something like, "Now, keep a civil tongue in your head," in a light and breezy way, that lets the gasbag know that his view is not universal. I try not to engage, because neither of us is going to change our mind, and we know it.

I find that very few people are a complete waste of skin, and it you can't find common ground somewhere, you're just not trying hard enough.

Hopefully, your friends feel the same way and can act civilly. If they can't, these folks aren't grown-up enough to go to parties that occur after dark.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:27 AM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


The way to be a good host is to quarantine any friend that can't keep a civil tongue in their head, and make sure they don't cross paths with anyone in whose company they're likely to misbehave.

Seriously. If you invite Asshole Bob knowing that he is an asshole, and he verbally abuses Civilized Sally, you are just as much at fault as Asshole Bob.
posted by tel3path at 9:35 AM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are the homeopathic types looking to drum up new clients or sell their products or services? I'm squarely in the Skeptic community, and I greatly dislike being pitched some snake oil or hands-on-therapy while at a social event. People can network all they like, but no selling aura cleansing at my dinner table. Otherwise, I'd suggest just not trying to mix the two groups very often.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:46 AM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


It would also be difficult but not impossible for us to keep track of who we invite to what gathering and try to keep the oil and water friends separate in separate parties.

You are basically going to have to do this. You can't make people like each other. It's going to end up being really frustrating and exhausting for both you and your friends if you keep inviting them to the same events and try to make them get along. Eventually, you'll have friends refusing invitations to your parties because they know that going will mean hanging out with people they hate or who hate them. Don't subject them to this.

I know it sucks that reasonable people you're both friends with can't get along with each other, but that's reality, and there are no social graces you can apply to fix this other than keeping them apart.
posted by nangar at 10:00 AM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


The one homeopath that I am talking about thinks about homeopathy a lot and it's in her daily vocabulary. It's not that she's seeking new clients all the time but that she lives a life of homeopathy and it's how she thinks about the world. Her elderly lapdog also requires frequent attention and she approaches non-emergency treatment and therapy from a homeopathic point of view, which she talks about a lot while she figures it out and carries it out. It's just the kind of person she is. Our TCM practitioner is a different sort of person who handles her relationship with TCM differently (as do I, frankly). All of us with woo leanings have a very solid empirical background and we know where those boundaries are between woo and not-woo, we just have different ways of expressing ourselves.
posted by kalessin at 10:06 AM on December 28, 2012


This is Purely Opinion (but certainly one shared by my social cricles) that when in mixed company, not being able to shut up about something that is generally accepted as controversial -- whether it is God, homeopathy, Israel or abortion -- is socially unacceptable, regardless of whether you "live a life" of whatever that thing is. This is how a conversation where a Controversial Topic is broached should go:

Alice: "So what did you do this weekend?"
Bob: "Oh, I stayed home with Rover. He's ailing."
Alice: "Oh, that's a shame. Have you tried Homeopathic Remedy?"
Bob: "No, I don't really do homeopathy."
Alice: "Oh, okay then."

If, instead, of politely declining the offer of Homeopathic Remedy Bob says "Homeopathy!? That's some quacky bullshit right there!" or, instead of closing the topic, Alice tries to convince Bob that homeopathy really does work, truly! they are behaving inappropriately. And the key to a good party is to not invite people who will behave inappropriately.
posted by griphus at 10:18 AM on December 28, 2012 [10 favorites]


The one homeopath that I am talking about thinks about homeopathy a lot and it's in her daily vocabulary.

This person is going to rub lots of people the wrong way. The more polite guests listening will be silent about it and snigger about it afterwards on the way home with their significant other. The more strident will call bullshit. Yes, you might want to sideline the combative person, but I can imagine it would grate on people if you're trying to discuss medicine or getting over the flu and there's someone who always chimes in with "OH BY THE WAY DID I EVER TELL YOU ABOUT MY HOMEOPATHIC REMEDY I USE?" which ranks right alongside with, "Have you heard about the Good News of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?" when it comes to buzzkills during a party.
posted by deanc at 10:25 AM on December 28, 2012 [12 favorites]


The one homeopath that I am talking about thinks about homeopathy a lot and it's in her daily vocabulary.

Right, but the thing is, that's not really "good with getting along with everyone." As someone who wants to do anything but harp on about how I don't believe in astrology, or religion, or whatever, I'm perfectly happy not to discuss these subjects and, in fact, am uncomfortable when it comes up. But if this is in this individual's "daily vocabulary," I bet she's bringing it up in a way that feels like proselytizing to the unbelievers. And when that happens, it's easy to get defensive. It's not fair to create a space where it's okay for someone who believes in these things to talk about them, but not okay for those who don't to answer in kind. Either be okay with controversial topics of discussion, or take them off the table entirely--for everyone involved.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:30 AM on December 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think folks are taking my clarifications poorly about my homeopath friend. She is not that kind of person, so I'm not going to mark additional answers based on the uncharitable understanding of said homeopath.

She just natters and isn't evangelical. She isn't looking for and exploiting all opportunities to get evangelical or to proliferate her understanding of homeopathy or how her world works. She just interacts with her world in this way and externally processes a lot. She doesn't really have an expressed opinion about how other folks should interact with their world.

It's true that her way is not as easy to get a long with as my TCM friend who essentially never brings anything about her practice up unless directly asked a question. But the way the homeopath acts is not that different to me from how my skeptic friends act when they trash on non skeptic understandings of the world in normal conversation.
posted by kalessin at 10:36 AM on December 28, 2012


My first instinct was to say that its not very different from 'moderating a thread' but on reading through the thread and OP's additional points, I'm leaning on the side of strategic invitations. In the good old "Miss Manner's" days of etiquette, much thought went into whom to invite, whom to seat next to whom and who couldn't be placed across the table from whom.

As for woo... absolutely nobody knows I have a kid sister who is reasonably well known in her locale for woo up the wazoo, primarily for this reason. Some folks might think its "so cool" that she's a Reiki master who'll pump up your crystals according to your tarot cards, but as far as I'm concerned I'm an only child ;p

There's no requirement that one needs to invite everyone in one's friend list to the same exact gathering. Or relatives.
posted by infini at 10:40 AM on December 28, 2012


kalessin, I understand what you're saying but as someone who is very skeptical (far more than you are, I wager), I'm letting you know, charitably, that this individuals' "nattering" probably makes your skeptic friends uncomfortable, especially if there are emotional issues related to homeopathy in their pasts. If you want these friends to get along, I'd kindly steer conversations away from this topic and provide alternative topics and activities that have nothing to do with homeopathy or healthcare. And this goes for everyone, the skeptics and the homeopathic practitioners.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:42 AM on December 28, 2012 [8 favorites]


I am a skeptic friend, I am not your skeptic friend. Kalessin, I really feel like you and your SO are trying to do a good thing here, but take into account that your friends are probably not interested in joining together to form megafriendgroup. If I had friends in your situation, I would tell them that I loved spending time with them but I would be totally uninterested in hanging out with the other friend group.
posted by crankylex at 11:40 AM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


The fact that you and your SO can bridge these two camps of existence does not mean your friends can or care to even try. People generally attract what they want to be with, so if your non-woo friends have no woo friends, it is an indication that those are not the sort of friends they want.

Or from another perspective, I can spend time with both liberals and conservatives, and with people of faith and rabid atheists. My husband cannot do so gracefully, and so I do not attempt to place him in situations where he will be required to do so.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:21 PM on December 28, 2012


Kalessin, I trash on non-sceptic understandings of the world, but only with people who agree with me and enjoy such conversations. It would be unfair of people to assume that I only talk about that just because I sometimes do.

She might not be evangelising in her mind, but "talking all the time about x" is often seen as evangelising, and even when it isn't it's pretty rude and boring. If you have sceptical friends who talk about everything through a lens of scepticism, they have the same problem.
posted by jeather at 12:42 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


After talking with my sweetie, I think that our approach will be multipronged:

- We will talk with the most outspoken (including the nattering homeopath) about their expression of their beliefs and familiarize them with our house rule which is that while we want folks to get along and enjoy themselves in our house we don't want to interfere with healthy and possibly strenuous debate. We will also inform them that folks of opposite opinions may be in attendance. Thus informed, they can make their own decisions about party attendance.
- For most important holiday parties where it's hard to have two different parties, we'll invite everyone we want to invite and ask those who are potentially contentious to factor in our house rule and let them decide if they want to attend and feel like they can still have a good time.
- For less important parties we'll mix it up between having parties at our house and at our friends' houses and vary invites depending on how friends are getting along and who'll fit in best at different parties with different attendees.
- We'll find things in common for our more contentious friends to talk about and bond over and if the moment seems right, steer conversation between them to those topics (for example, they're all disaster preparedness geeks, many of whom have volunteered to help at disasters and they have good war stories to tell).
- If need be and things get too contentious for getting along in our house, we'll be prepared to step in and either guide the convo or ask folks to visit another day when they're feeling less feisty.
posted by kalessin at 1:24 PM on December 28, 2012


Not to rain on anyone's indoor parade, but I sincerely doubt that these sorts of rules and guidelines for social events at your home are going to have the opposite effect--people seem to greatly dislike being engineered, no matter how admirable the intent. Taking people aside and asking them to curb their conversational styles before a party just means you'll have dwindling attendance. House rules? Really? And I thought taking off shoes was a contentious topic.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:09 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Umm, since you yourself said "Not always the best and most skilled hosts" I will just tell you that the above plan is just awful. Have separate parties.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:32 PM on December 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


It seems like you have a somewhat fixed picture of how you want your parties to be, and you are trying to social-engineer people to conform to that picture. Plainly stated, it reads as a bit controlling.

Part of the fun of parties is letting humans be humans, and just letting the dynamics unfold as they will.
posted by nacho fries at 2:36 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm really not sure where these uncharitable readings of what I'm saying (about my homeopath friend, about what my sweetie and I plan to do) are coming from. Perhaps a more careful reading of my words, assuming good intent?

My sweetie and I are not interested in any malicious social engineering, forcing folks into molds that they do not wish to be in, or making fun parties into forced marches. Though we're not always the best and most skilled hosts, we do think we can do what I outlined above and knowing our friends and our community, we think we can do it respectfully and without unduly influencing anyone or forcing our viewpoints on others (aside from insisting that we'd like folks to do their fighting elsewhere - even though healthy debate is a-okay).

Regardless, I got the feedback and ideas I wanted to from this thread. Thanks everyone for throwing your hats in, even if I ended up disagreeing with your conclusions.
posted by kalessin at 5:14 PM on December 28, 2012


After ten years my partner and I simply do not do parties that involve both sides of the family - the disagreements range from homeopath vs science to local politics to gender and are not restricted just to one side or the other. The only exception is our daughter's birthday and we've decided to do outings because then everyone is focussed on 'yay, picking fruit/going on rides' rather than 'let's have a nice friendly chat with X'.

Talking to them beforehand doesn't work because it primes them for confrontation - the one time I asked my mother to cool it on the homeopath stuff at parties she bought along her friend who is a homeopath. And a druid. Who cannot shut up about either of those things. She didn't mean to cause dramas, she simply cannot say no (her friend was visiting and arrived much earlier than expected), but it caused a major rift because I lost my shit at her. She would never not go to a gathering because a Capital-S Skeptic is there - and she would genuinely try to be nice. But when people challenge your very basic beliefs, it is incredibly hard not to react. And even more difficult to continue having a good time with someone who thinks you're stupid/ill-informed/a charlatan/whatever.

My partner and I love each other deeply, have bridged the believer-non-believer gap in any number of areas. That does not mean our parties, our gatherings, should be where that happens for everyone else. And one person's 'healthy debate' is another person's 'God, they just would not shut up' and the closer a concept is to a person's core beliefs, the harder it is to have a debate.

My guess is after the first few parties where you insist on inviting everyone and expecting them to get along because you think they should, the guest list will drop sharply or be overwhelmingly one-sided. God knows I won't go to gatherings with certain people because they maintain their analysis/dissection/devil's advocating of gender issues is 'healthy debate' while I'm struggling to maintain my composure since gender issues affect every element of my life. External observation is not objective about the emotional impact of debate and it is weird to think you can do this for parties all the time, regardless of how often you inform your friends about who else is coming. I mean, that is just drama bait right there - if X comes, Y can't, or Y needs to be informed and blah blah blah. Separate parties may seem like X and Y can't be at the same party, but it's more about why you are throwing the party in the first place - think about that before the guest list.

But seriously, this is a huge amount of social engineering that can be avoided with one simple rule - invite people to parties where you think they will have a good time and enjoy the company. The uncharitable readings are coming from people who would rather their friends took just a little bit of time and considered them as opposed to being smushed into the singular group of kalessinandsweetie's friends. You don't have to meld every aspect of your life with your partner's, y'know?
posted by geek anachronism at 7:24 PM on December 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


It seems like there is a conceit here that my sweetie and I intend, by hook or by crook, to have all of our friends get along and like each other.

This is simply not true. What can I say or not say that would make this clear?
posted by kalessin at 8:06 PM on December 28, 2012


This is simply not true. What can I say or not say that would make this clear?

Consider just letting it go. You don't need to convince everyone who reads this thread to understand and agree with everything you say. On AskMe as in the world, take whatever advice is helpful to you and leave the rest. Your comment at 8:14 implies you've gotten some good advice, so mark the thread as "resolved" and be done with it.
posted by headnsouth at 8:20 PM on December 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


« Older Friend invited someone else to...   |  How and what to eat after panc... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.