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Posted on Mon, Dec 26, 2011 : 5 a.m.

Ignorant comments

By Carolyn Hax

While I'm away, readers give the advice.

On responding to ignorant comments in shared company:

I find "In my experience ... (contrary example)" or "The information I have from (other source) ... " said calmly and not accusingly, often works.

Cross-politics friendships are really important for our society, because you may be the only person someone likes and respects who presents a different view. We're very Balkanized right now, only talking with those who agree with us and getting our news from agreeable sources. Your measured response can make a difference in how that person sees the world, just as he may make a difference in how you see the world.

And if the response is angry or defensive, try saying, "You know, we really aren't going to come to agreement on this. Let's talk about something else." Works like a charm on a friend's husband who has some pretty out-there political views. But we can still like each other for other things, and each of us knows there are decent human beings who think differently from us.

-- S.

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On showing favoritism -- a cautionary tale:

It wasn't until after their mother's death that my mother and her siblings, all in their 50s and 60s, discovered each had never felt good enough for her. This was because she never praised the child with whom she was talking, but heaped praise on her other children.

Each of her children had spent decades feeling they would never measure up to the other siblings, and it eroded the relationships they had with each other. Although none of them felt true antagonism for their siblings, it was hard for them; they all felt wounded, thinking, "I'm the black sheep."

I hate to say it, but her death was a positive experience for her children. They are now closer, and in contact regularly.

I've always wondered what would make a mother do this.

-- S.

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On having little interest in the child of the person you're dating:

Co-parenting arrangements can, and do, change, often in entirely unexpected ways. The child's other parent could become disabled or unemployed or even die; the child could become disabled through illness or injury, and the other parent could become (emotionally or physically) unable to cope. All kinds of other things could happen, increasing the amount of time the child spends with the parent you're dating, up to 100 percent of the time.

-- C.

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On hating your job:

Maybe it's not the work that's the problem, so much as the structure. Maybe someone needs more, or less. Someone to check up on them, which happens less at higher levels than in more worker-bee jobs. More morning shifts, or more late shifts. Clearer goals.

I work as a nurse. I would hate the self-motivation part of my job if I were out doing home health. But I'm in the OR, surrounded by schedules and doctors and other nurses, and I'm happy as a clam.

-- J.

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On "the one who loves less, controls the relationship":

The person who loves the most also gains the most joy from the relationship. If it ends, this person usually has learned more and carries more into the next relationship.

It's not much fun to be the unloving one, power or no.

-- S.

Email Carolyn at tellme(at), follow her on Facebook at or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at

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