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Dear Flora: Politics and PhDs

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  • Tip Bones

Dear Flora,

I'm almost 30, and recently I've been butting heads with my dad a lot over politics. It's election year, so he likes to go off about his conservative politics that I don't agree with, but if I offer sources and explain myself and my views, he just dismisses my politics and calls me a stupid liberal. I don't want to fight with my dad, but I'm tired of having to hear him out when he won't even listen to me. How do I tell him I don't want to fight with him about politics anymore, without making him mad?

-Peeved About Politics

Dear Peeved,

I'm sure you're not alone in your struggle this year! Families all over the country will bicker and argue the election season away, with absolutely no regard to each others' opinions. It's even worse when it's a family member you respect, and it seems that you respect your father, or at least try to whenever possible. But when you have that familial respect, how do you stand up for yourself without offending them or breaking that understood relationship?

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. There's no way to guarantee that you father won't get angry when you speak to him about this, but if you stay calm and try to create peace, rather than try to get the last word, you might come out of this in a win-win situation. Find a time when you are both calm: the middle of an argument about politics is not at all the right time for this conversation. Sit down with him and be honest, suggesting that you two try to avoid political discussions.

"Dad, I know we have very different political ideologies, and it makes me upset that we fight so much about politics in general. I love you, and I respect that you have different views. I would like it if we can agree to disagree, and try to avoid upsetting each other by debating politics."

Something like this makes your dad feel respected in his views, and protects you from conversations that will make you feel disrespected further. Unfortunately, as you've no doubt recognized, we can't often change people's long-held political beliefs, and while it's good that you have sources and concrete facts to point to, pushing the issue with your dad will never work.

Dear Flora,

I recently finished my thesis for my PhD and showed it to my girlfriend of 6 months. She got one page into it and said, “I think you forgot something” I said, “I certainly hope not I’ve already submitted it”. She then got up in a huff and went to bed. After she cooled off the next day, she said she’s hurt that I didn’t include her in the acknowledgements section. This thesis has been in the works for years and this is a relatively new relationship by comparison. Am I in the wrong for not including her? How should I resolve this?

-PhD Problems

Congratulations on completing your thesis! Years of work deserves celebration, and I'm sorry it was met with this kind of criticism.

It's awkward to say aloud, so I'll say it for you: you don't necessarily know if this relationship will last in the longer-term. Six months is quite an accomplishment for casual daters, but it's a drop in the bucket for many established, committed couples. As such, it would be really awkward if you and your girlfriend break up, and you had to be reminded of it every time you look at your thesis. Possibly, it didn't even cross your mind to include her. Take stock of your reasoning behind not including her, and gear up for an awkward conversation.

Sit down with her when you're both calm, and acknowledge her feelings. I might be assuming here, but it gather that you two live together, or at least spend the night pretty regularly. So she feels as though she's a vital part of your life, and therefore your work on your thesis, even if it was short-term. If she supported you and you have anything to thank her for dong while you finished your thesis, now is the time to do it. Remember that even if you want to include her in the acknowledgements now, the thesis is sent, and it's a bit late to make the change. Let her know that you do care about her, even if you have specific reasons for not including her.

All in all, I don't think you're in the wrong. But damage control is the name of the game here, not total restoration.

That's all for this week! Don't forget to submit your questions, and I'll see you next time!