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Chapter 4 Getting Personal > Social Distance - Pg. 25

Ge t t i n g P er son a l 25 A rabs like to ta lk politics with Westerners, and they will readily bring up controversial topics like the Palestine issue, the Iraq wars, and the legacies of colonialism and imperialism. Yet they are not prepared for frank statements of disagreement with their positions on these questions or even inadvertent comments that sound negative toward their point of view or supportive of the opposing side of the argument. The safest response, if you cannot agree fully, is to confine yourself to platitudes and wait for the subject to change, expressing your concerns for the victims of war and your hope for a lasting peace. A f rank, two-sided discussion is usually not constructive if the subject is an emotional one, and you may find that Arabs remember only the statements you made in support of the other side. You will be able to tell when you have brought up a sensitive subject by the way your Arab friend evades a direct answer to your questions or comments. If you receive evasive answers, don't press f urther; there is a reason why the person does not want to pursue the subject. If a sensitive subject arises, it is usef ul to introduce other topics into