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Miss Conduct

Advice: How to talk politics with a jogging buddy

Plus, it's a wedding invitation, not an invoice.

Submit questions for Miss Conduct here.

I am volunteering for a political candidate who I’m very excited about. I think my running partner’s politics align with mine, and I’d like to talk about my candidate. What’s the most polite way to ask people to donate or get involved? Particularly if you don’t know their political beliefs. I don’t want to alienate a good running partner if I guessed wrong.

D.G. / Raleigh, North Carolina

People are exhausted by political campaigns in general, but my experience is that they’re usually interested to hear from friends who are involved in a particular campaign. Everyone wants the opportunity to do something meaningful, and sources of information are so hard to sort through these days. A good recommendation from a trusted friend can be a gift, especially when it comes to a local race where volunteers can actually get to know the candidates. So, while it may sound cheesy, don’t ask people to contribute time or money, invite them: “Here’s a chance to make a difference.” And then don’t push. I hesitate to make more specific recommendations, because manners differ considerably between New England and the South. But ask yourself how you’d want to be approached, if the VOTE FOR X button were on the other lapel. Start with that Golden Rule, then pay attention to how people respond to your initial overture and adjust accordingly.

And talk about the campaign! Tell people what you’ve learned, working on it — they might be inspired to volunteer on a campaign themselves. Think of your mission not just as supporting your candidate, but of more broadly working toward a more politically engaged future for everyone. It sounds as though you and your running partner already discuss things besides running, so go ahead and bring up your candidate. Don’t ask for anything, just mention that you’re working on the campaign and see what response you get.

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My son got married last fall. He had two married couples as part of the wedding party. The issue I have is these two couples did not give a wedding gift. My son was in their weddings and gave monetary gifts to both couples when they married. In my day, if you were in a wedding, you gave a gift to the wedding couple, and even if a guest did not attend, they also sent a gift. Am I out of date?

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Anonymous / Boston

The good news is that you aren’t out of date! The bad news is that that’s because the etiquette principles you’re violating are eternal ones. One is that invitations are not invoices and gifts are not the price of admission. The second is that this is wholly none of your business. Your son and his wife are capable of managing their own friendships without their parents running interference for them. The lack of a gift is their issue to deal with or not. If the non-gifters (not grifters!) are in your social circle as well as your son’s, treat them as you always have.


Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.