DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have been in politics professionally for more than 30 years. I also shoot trap and skeet recreationally. Friends and extended family often ask my opinions on any number of political issues, including gun control.
You probably know that means they want to inform me of their opinions, which I already know and do not need any more information. In some cases there are issues I cannot discuss.
For the past few years I have been responding that I prefer not to discuss politics. It's been effective, but I feel I'm being pompous and rude. Any suggestions?
GENTLE READER: As great a believer as Miss Manners is in deflecting nosy questions and avoiding explosive topics, she is astounded at the idea of a professional politician declaring that he will not discuss politics.
You do not say whether you are an office-holder or a strategist, but in either case, you insult members of the public by refusing to talk about political issues.
Yet you already hold the key to a response that is not just polite, but flattering. That is your realization that people want you to listen to them.
Yes, they probably just want to vent. But another name for that is making their views known to someone in a position to make, or at least influence, policy. However much you think you have heard everything they might have to say, it is arrogant and politically dangerous to assume you can dismiss their feedback.
That is not to say that you have to engage in an argument about gun control or other issues. But you do have to hear people out, thank them for their views, and tell them that you are thinking about their point of view, even though you differ with them.