Bad Manners to Criticize Other’s Friends

Dear Mrs. McVeigh,
I was at a lunch where I met some new people. A subject came up that involved a public figure in my community. The people I was speaking to made it very clear that they do not like this person. The person is a friend of mine, so I interjected that into the conversation. The person speaking at that moment said, “Well, your friend is wrong,” and kept on bashing her. I was so dumbfounded that I did not say anything back. What would have been the right thing to do? And should I tell my friend?

Dear A.K.,
As soon as you mentioned that this person was your friend, the person doing the bashing should have said, “I am sorry.” Then he/she should have changed the subject, or asked your opinion on where your friend is coming from. A polite debate is always fine, but bashing someone to a friend (or at all) is not okay. If the bashing continued and you were at a table and could not leave, then your choices are to just say nothing (as you did), or try to give your friend’s point of view. However, I have a feeling that the point of view that you could have presented would have fallen on deaf ears. It does not sound like this person is open to hearing about any view but his own.

I would not tell my friend about the incident if you think it will hurt her feelings. If she is in a powerful position, community feedback is good to give her, if you can do it in a constructive way. You can then get some talking points from her in case you need them for the next time.