Try assuming an interested look, and without responding to the attack on your issue, say, “Tell me about your favorite cause. Besides this, what do you think is our most important question of the day?”Her readers add even more useful advice (sometimes even WaPo readers can get a clue). One suggests calling over to a notorious motormouth nearby: "Oh, Catherine dear, I have someone I want you to meet. Do come over and tell us about your weekend in the Hamptons" -- then escape and leave them to each other. Another proposes explaining that she remembers better what she reads than what she hears, so would the antagonized person mind writing her a letter? Better yet, invite him to attend her next scheduled public appearance and discuss the matter there, because if he had really wanted a serious discussion he would have already done one or the other. Another suggests the all-purpose: "I'm so sorry my opinion upsets you. Will you excuse me, please?"
This doesn’t just change the subject, if it works. It challenges such a person to show whether he has ideas of his own, or just goes around attacking others. Miss Manners realizes there are risks. He could be tempted to say, “Stopping wrongheaded people like you,” although personal insults at a party would only mark him as even ruder than the confrontation, which might be passed off as conversation. The real risk is that you will then attack his ideas, and it will be a draw. The way to win is to listen intently, say pleasantly, “Hmmm, interesting you should think that,” and excuse yourself to get a drink.
Not all readers could get the message. One wrote:
Yeah but that is kind of hard to do when the person has been advocating taking away your marriage rights for instance and then you find yourself sitting next to the blowhard at a dinner party. I would take delight in making them as uncomfortable as they have made me in my private life. He should get no pass because he wants down time from his hateful positions. Maybe he should rethink his stand on this issue if so many people are in vehement disagreement with him on it.Fun dinner guest, I imagine. It was interesting that quite a few commenters got hung up trying to guess what the unpopular cause was, as if they couldn't decide whether Mr. Let's-Fight-at-a-Party was rude until they knew whether they agreed with him on the controversial issue.