While I'm away, readers give the advice.

On responding to ignorant comments in shared company:

I find "In my experience . . . [contrary example]" or "The information I have from [other source] . . .," said calmly and not accusingly, often works.

Cross-politics friendships are really important for our society, because you may be the only person someone likes and respects who presents a different view. We're very balkanized right now, talking only with those who agree with us and getting our news from agreeable sources. Your measured response can make a difference in how that person sees the world, just as he may make a difference in how you see the world.

And if the response is angry or defensive, try saying, "You know, we really aren't going to come to agreement on this. Let's talk about something else." It works like a charm on a friend's husband who has some pretty out-there political views. But we can still like each other for other things.

On showing favoritism:

It wasn't until after their mother's death that my mother and her siblings, all in their 50s and 60s, discovered each had never felt good enough for her. This was because she never praised the child with whom she was talking, but heaped praise on her other children.

Each of her children had spent decades feeling they would never measure up to the other siblings, and it eroded the relationships they had with one another. Although none of them felt true antagonism for their siblings, it was hard for them; they all felt wounded, thinking, "I'm the black sheep."

I hate to say it, but her death was a positive experience for her children. They are now closer, and in contact regularly.