How do you handle when friends reveal troublesome views?


#1

Hope this is the right category, but this is a question that has been on my mind a LOT lately and I’m really struggling to really work it out. Apologies if this is not the right forum or place for this, couldn’t think of a better one!

I’ve had several instances recently of good friends in my tabletop groups, revealing rather troublesome opinions. One dude has revealed his complete and utter ignorance when it comes to race, and my D&D DM was venting about a player in his other group ‘shoehorning her agenda’ into the game by playing a character with a neutral pronoun. Now I’ve challenged these dudes both times on these views but generally not really gotten anywhere.

But anyway the question I’m posing, is how have you handled when people in your friend circle who you know well reveal troublesome views, and importantly, where do you draw the line? Obviously It’s important that their is a line where people simply aren’t worth your energy any more, no one should be friends with actual Nazis. Is it a question of, do I think I can make progress with this person? On the other hand of course, you don’t want it to descend into both sides-ism / “civility”. Fuck people who don’t understand pretty simple concepts about being a decent person. As I become more and more politically aware I’ve been finding it harder and harder to ignore these kind of things.

There’s a real fascinating article about Derek Black, (google The White Flight of Derek Black) the son of the guy who ran Stormfront and how he was de-radicalized by essentially a group of students inviting him to dinners, building a relationship with him so that they had the trust basis on which to challenge his views, which eventually led to him renouncing it all completely and becoming very left-wing. I keep thinking about that one.

This might be a bit rambly, but what’s people’s takes on this issue? Any personal experiences like this?


#2

I’ve just this week decided to abandon a friendship with a friend because of her radical new ageism. I realise that maybe this isn’t exactly what you were after, but to me those are troublesome views. More and more she rejects all science, and gets all her information from very questionable websites. She is extremely susceptible to conspiracy theories. She doesn’t believe in vaccines, and thinks all politicians are corrupt and in cahoots.

And I can’t muster the energy, in the year of 2018, to suggest to someone that, hey, maybe the scientific method is pretty good?

Cancelling friendships isn’t something I’m promoting, but let’s also throw in the circumstance that I have nothing to talk about with her; she never knows what I’m talking about, and I’m not interesting in anything she has to say.

Sorry, venting.

At the same time I can see the issue with leaving people with troublesome views to roam society freely, without being challenged by those who might be able to sway them. If you do like them, and think it’s worth it, work on them?


#3

When I was younger (in my 20s), I probably would’ve ended a couple of my friendships as they hold some reductive and stupid views. Maybe its bad of me not to challenge things, but I’m 35 now and value their friendship for different reasons. It’s not like they are outright promoting racism and homophobia, but outwardly project what I hope is just a shell of their masculinity.

You have to make your own decision on if their friendship is worth it and outweighs the views they hold (or at least say out loud). Had this argument with myself for quite a while.

It is good to be challenged though, its the only way you learn to understand your own position.


#4

I’ve honestly struggled a lot with this, I’m still part of a small group of online friends and while I recently has become much more aware and for a lack of a better word “woke” ( Probably the easiest way to to describe it ) The rest of them are still stuck in the past and can’t really see past their own white male privilege, when it comes to things such as gamergate or racism. I’ve challenged atleast one of them multiple times on these issues going into long hour long discussions and it doesn’t really go anywhere and it’s just frustrating.

They aren’t bad people they’re just ignorant about a lot of things and it becomes tiring to listen to and deal with, it’s also not constantly but it’s gotten to the point where I just try to avoid mentioning any of those things as to not bring them up and I feel like that is just disingenuous? I don’t know I’ve been struggling with this a lot as well and haven’t really reached the answers either.


#5

I am 100% with you man. That’s the real rub, is that it’s exhausting, and tiring, and honestly right now genuinely affecting my mental health. Especially when it feels like you’re gonna get nowhere with someone. But the last thing I want to do is just accept it and keep quiet?

I guess there’s a balance, you can try and say something like, ‘I don’t agree with that’ when you don’t think you’ll get somewhere with someone so that at least others in the group understand their opinion is not universal, and try and move on, without having to spend the energy engaging on it with people who are unlikely to understand.

I think I need to spend more time thinking about the nitty gritty of HOW I engage with these issues when I choose to, because if you come off as a persecutor and get someone’s defenses up then boom no one is gonna get anywhere. “I love you bro and you’re my friend, but I feel what you just said could be quite hurtful to some people” rather than, “Dude what the fuck, that’s really offensive”

And it’s fucked that we have to spend THAT MUCH mental energy on that, but I haven’t come up with a better answer yet honestly.


#6

I’m a visible minority, and my wife is white. As such, I spend a lot of time a white dominated spaces. I personally don’t tolerate much in the way of ”unwokeness”, and we have gone so far as to cut out my wife’s maid of honor for espousing some vile racist shit and calling me “one of the good ones”. Fuck that shit, there are plenty of people more worthy of my time.

Basically, what I’m saying is that your D&D group members ain’t shit. You can try to engage in good faith, but life’s too short to spend with racists IMO.

The example of the Stormfront dude is interesting, I suppose, but I wholeheartedly reject the notion that it’s our responsibility to guide bigots away from their path.


#7

Here’s the thing. If you decide to burn that bridge and leave a friendship behind, make sure that you are doing for yourself and only you. If you feel like you are no longer getting as much out of the friendship as it is taking from you and stressing you out and draining you of energy, then that is very much a decision worth looking at. As for how you engage with their views, keep chipping away at it. If they value your opinion as a friend some of it will seep through the cracks eventually. lend creedence to the ideas they find ridiculous, and if it comes to that, attack the ideas they hold. A lot of this is hard to make hard rules for, because ultimately it depends on what dynamics are between you and your friends. It takes time and it’s probably not going to be pretty all the time but the most important is to keep at it. And if you feel like it’s going nowhere and it’s taking more out of you than you’re getting back? Maybe at that point it’s time to reevaluate your friendships.


#8

As the only latino growing up in an all white family, I can say from experience that sometimes people are just ignorant and need time before they start understanding things that seem simple to us. Remember, we all had to unlearn a ton of toxic shit to get where we are now. In the OP examples, they sound like people who can be reasoned with eventually.

Now if they go all hail the orange moron, don’t trust science and are apart of a doomsday evangelical cult who wants a war in the middle east to bring the end times, then it’s probably best to cut them out of your life.


#9

It’s really tricky. Part of the reason it’s starting getting to me more has been my growing realisation of my suffering from oppression as a British Romani. I’ll see some ‘friend’ who has said some ‘unwoke’ stuff and it occurs to me, they would likely not have my back or get it in any way if I vented to them about it. And is that person really a friend? Probably not I guess.

Honestly I am learning more your way in some regards as when I do try to engage it hasn’t went well and has been an incredibly exhausting experience.Life is definitely too short to spend it with racists. But I guess I’m trying to find the line between, is this person saying a racist/shitty thing out of ignorance and insecurity, and that person being a racist/shitty person. I think you can generally feel the difference between those.

But maybe that’s just semantics! Maybe it’s a misguided sense of loyalty to people I’ve known a long time. Hmm. I’ll figure it out.


#10

As someone who passes for a straight white cis male and lived in Montana for two years, I can tell you a thing or two about this.

Honestly it’s more complex than I’m gonna make it sound, but here are some important bullet points.

  • Challenging hateful views is, in general, always a good move. Even if you don’t sway them, you let them know that there is opposition to their beliefs coming from a friend. This can feel like you’re making no progress but over a long enough time I swear it pays dividends.

  • Recognize when you should and shouldn’t be debating something. There is a real difference between views like “I’m mad this progressive group is protesting in my schools library” and or “I voted Trump because DEEP-WEB-USA.1488. COM told me Hillary is a satanist”. You can debate the first, but you shouldn’t give the second idea any legitimacy by debating it. Just say it’s wrong, you can give reasons why it’s wrong, but don’t debate if it is or isn’t wrong.

  • Recognize you’re a human with finite time and energy. You only have so much time in the day and so much energy to spend. If someone refuses to better themselves, then maybe consider cutting them out of your life. I’ve had to do it before, and it can be a bummer, but you can’t spend your life trying to make every bigot see the light.

  • Here is my most important one. If you’re gonna challenge someone on a shitty viewpoint, consider how safe it is to do so. If you’re like me, it’s always gonna feel scary, but there is a real difference between nerves and actually this might not be safe for me to speak up in this environment with these people.

Just challenging folks on problematic views can really help in the long run. I have quite a few friends in my gaming group that I’ve challenged again and again and again on their views, and while it rarely feels like I’ve convinced them of anything in the moment. Over the years they’ve all improved so much. That said, I’ve also cut quite a few people out of my life for the things they’ve said and the things they’ve done. Some were relatively new friends, a couple were older ones, and I only regret one of them.

This stuff’s hard and it sucks but it’s worth doing.


#11

Well, the first disclaimer is probably always going to be that you should do whatever you can handle, don’t feel obligated to try and change someone else if it’s sending you into anxiety spirals.

For me personally, I mostly draw the line based on intent. I know plenty of people who are kind and inclusive and also have bad old beliefs that they’ve never critically thought about before because it was ingrained through culture and media and seemed natural when they were younger. Actually, that definition most likely includes everyone on this forum unless anyone here happens to have transcended their human brain and become a being of pure enlightenment. That’s why I’m generally happy to explain anything to someone if I think their response would be “I didn’t realize, thanks for telling me”.

If they want to argue with you though, that’s a different story altogether. Especially if they’re part of some kind of troubling sub-culture like, say, the anti-vaccer movement. You’ve got constant work ahead of you if you want to change their minds then because chances are they’ll have ten different news sources on Facebook all feeding them stories every day about how a doctor did something bad or how a vaccine didn’t work or how an anti-vaccer was persecuted unfairly, and they’ll also have friends who share those stories on their feeds too. In that case you’re dealing with a bubble, meaning that even if you offer some good points and they consider it, they’ll naturally drift back in the wrong direction later unless they get different news sources and new friends. If anyone figures out how to solve that one, let me know because it would make my life easier lol


#12

A friend of mine got pretty deep into the “it’s actually about ethics in video games journalism” hole when gamergate was at its height. We would argue about it a lot. Eventually I got to the point where I just couldn’t handle it anymore and told him that I didn’t want to speak with him anymore. We had been tenuously working on a video game together, me doing the programming and him the art, and I just threw all that out because he was defending a movement that I found to be repugnant.

My aunt is a lifelong Republican, voted for Trump because she loathed Clinton, but now supports him I guess because he’s on her team and also it turns out she is incredibly racist. I would do the same thing with her as I did with my friend, but it’s harder to cut off a family member. Especially when the rest of the family thinks similarly to my own views. Going up there to her place for holidays and whatnot, not doing that would mean I wouldn’t get to see the rest of my family as well and that’s not exactly fair. Depending on how this November goes though and what her reaction to that is I could see me choosing to just avoid any contact with her entirely though.


#13

I was at a bar with some friends, and one friend in particular refuses to be critical about his homophobic language and often drops the word “gay” as a pejorative in casual conversation with me, who’s openly queer. Makes me wonder if “gay” is his less offensive insert word for the F slur, honestly.

I had had a few beers and against my better judgement finally just snapped at him. His only retort to my anger was “my other queer friend thinks it’s okay.” and like. My dude they probably don’t, and if they do then fine but don’t use the “well I have a * insert marginalized identity here * friend” argument because its the oldest trick in the book and doesn’t validate shitty behavior. It also made me realize that I’m literally one of two queer people this dude knows, and even then both of us are bi, white and cis and if you check those three boxes you can sure as hell pass as straight in most circles. Neither of us are qualified to speak to every queer experience, nor should we be expected to.

The problem for me is that if I stop hanging out with him I basically stop hanging out with the otherwise fine friend group who actually had my back at the bar, which I didnt expect. When I woke up the next morning I realized I should have come at the topic sooner (and with less booze), and been more confident in the rest of the group to know something was wrong. they just needed someone to say it, which is unfortunate but common in these situations.

So basically: ask others in your group how they feel, and if theyre happy to be complacent thats a huge issue. likelihood is at least some of them arent, though, and you can come at this together.

If the shitty person doubles down and absolutely refuses to change then axe it. It’s not worth your time and energy to argue with a brick wall.


#14

CW: General shitty views of LGBTQ+ people.

One night last year I ended up having a night out with some friends that ended up causing me to distance myself a lot from them.

They are all christians and know a trans woman who goes to their church, who they’ve known since before she transitioned / came out. All of them have varying problematic views on trans people, things ranging from trans people are mentally ill to it going against their faith and not wanting to enable it.

Since I knew I wasn’t going to change any of those views (especially not in one night) I ended up just trying to get the point across to them to never ever misgender them, which is something they do in casual conversation any time she’s referenced. In that situation it came down to whether I was enabling them in any way by being passive. That night ended up being more about trying to limit the damage they do with their actions rather than trying to change deeply held beliefs.


#15

It really depends, I think. Thinking in terms of gamergate and gaming, just as a thing, I’ve known people who got all their info from bad youtube sources but were otherwise fine. With those people, I was able to push back and help them realize “oh, wait, this is some bullshit” and come around to a different point of view.

I don’t think that works for racism, though, because racism involves deciding “this is how I’ve decided the world is, all evidence to the contrary be damned” (aside from socially-encouraged manifestations of racism that we all tend to fall into and have to work on). The only thing I’ve seen that worked on racism was peer pressure, and you need an actual group behind you and time for that. So I don’t know.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have friends who called me out on my bullshit and helped me to see things better. But the person has to be willing to actually listen and admit that they were wrong.


#16

When it’s someone in one of my friend groups, I normally try to fake “civility” when talking to them and just focus on roasting their views. I find that making fun of them with a smile on my face is the best way to actually get them to listen to me, since yelling just makes them feel “attacked” and they put their guard up. I normally do that until the subject is changed or I feel like punching them. Not sure if it’s the best way but it’s the only way I can get a dialogue going without getting too angry or them getting too defensive. I stop hanging out with them one-on-one though.

Keep in mind I’m a straight cis lightskinned dude who often gets read as white so I probably have more patience dealing with sexism/transphobia or anything else I’m not constantly dealing with than someone who is.


#17

When it comes to this question, I think of two really influential moments in my life: Louis CK (the dude is a piece of shit, but he said a few good things) has a bit where he is talking about how to apologize and he has a line that basically made me decide to be a better person where he says “you don’t get to decide whether you hurt someone with what you said or did”. As a person of mixed-race (the two majority races in my west Texas small town), I never had a problem using homophobic slurs or racially charged terms, even around my friends who might have been hurt by that kinda thing. I was really grieved that about how shitty I had been and swore to try and be someone who didn’t actively hurt other people with my words.

The second was in a situation much like you’re describing, a new friend who I was spending a lot of time with used homophobic slurs very frequently, and usually the way that a lot of people from my part of Texas do, like it is a funny way to curse or queer people shouldn’t be offended because he did’t actually have a problem with queer people, he just wanted to be vulgar for funsies. About two days after I expressed that I didn’t agree with ever using those words and we had a small argument about it the Giant BeastCast had an episode where Vinny Caravella went on a tear about how PewDiePie and many of his fans was choosing to die on a hill over his use of slurs and something about that really spoke to me. I showed the segment to my friend afterwards and I guess it spoke to him too.

It was really awkward and difficult to explain how even if an issue didn’t personally affect me, I couldn’t let other people be hurt by careless words if I could help it. At first the change was hard for me (and the friends I have spoken to about these kinda issues) but now a lot of my friends want to talk about how to be more inclusive and sensitive. The ones who want to die on the hill of ignorance and hate are allowed to, but I try (as a privileged member of society) to help the less privileged by challenging the people I know to be better.


#18

personally the measure for friendship with me is if you respect me enough to stop doing something which is bothering me if i ask you to stop. if someone stops and then asks in good faith why, or wants to talk about that, i’m happy to do that, but if someone doesn’t respect me enough to take very basic steps in moderating their language and behaviour around me (within reasonable limits!) then any conversation about it is likely to be a dead end anyhow

one of my oldest friends has somewhat different politics to me, but he’s respectful enough to just, not do or say certain things around me. don’t get me wrong, i’d really like him to not do or say those things around anyone - and he is more than aware of that, and to be clear he’s not a secret klansman or anything like that - but that basic level of respect is the foundation of most productive conversations, in my experience.

i’ve walked away from a bunch of friendships with people over this, even in some cases where their politics were generally good. life’s too fucking short to flatten my skull against the wall of someone who wasn’t listening before you even started talking.


#19

I’m not saying you should go out of your way to keep trying to change someone’s point of view who is clearly stuck in it but at the same time I think figuring out why it is they have those views can lead to discovering what the actual problem is and can move the conversation forward in a way that helps them to understand why they are wrong.


#20

OP Here: Just wanted to say there are some fantastic responses here and it’s really properly helping me sort through an issue that has been causing me a lot of stress. Sending my love to all you fine folk.