Imagine it's 5:15 PM and you've been invited over to your neighbor's house for a cocktail. (Remember those days?)
As you cast about for a matching pair of socks, your spouse cautions you against "holding forth on either politics or religion." That might create unnecessary tension. Instead, if you can't say anything nice, she reminds you, don't say anything at all. She's right. You know Fred and Angie's political leanings already by the election signage in their yard. And, having observed the weekly scramble to get on their way, you're almost certain that church service for your neighbors begins promptly at 10 AM each Sunday, and little Candace is always the last to board the mini-van.
Just to be safe, you could make sure to admire the new drapes.
Depending on your sense of peril or the leanings of your neighbors, you may be re-living the "Roaring Twenties" or you may be cloistered like a good Sister Josephine. That aside, assuming that this Friday evening you are there in the company of others like neighbors whom you consider friends...
You ask your host in a moment of conversational silence, the Persian carpet and its buyers having received their due acknowledgment, "So, what's on your mind lately?"
Buckle up, the party is on, and out of the corner of your eye, your wife gives you that look.
We are in a time when there is a lot on people's minds. We may or may not be comfortable sharing all of it. But, without a doubt, we are not alone in having a lot on our minds. And sometimes a little or a lot of opinion spills out. I have no other advice for a listener than that, if you find yourself in the company of a "gusher," the motivated orator is probably relieved to vent. That's healthy, go with it. You may agree or you may not agree. Your role is probably not to question the validity of the opinion, but rather to toast its having gotten air and space. There is a lot going on, and talking about it is helpful.
I don't subscribe to not being with others or not feeling comfortable with sharing convictions. Free to agree or disagree. But these times have front-loaded a lot of thoughts and concerns. Allowing each other to be open about them is decent, civilized behavior. That's my opinion...
Oh, my! Where did you find these drapes?