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    Miss Conduct

    My friend’s husband is a candidate, but I don’t want his sign on my lawn

    They want to put his campaign sign on my lawn, but I don’t like his views. Plus, distancing from a bothersome cousin.

    Need advice? Submit questions for Miss Conduct here.

    A friend’s husband is running for office and she asked if we would let them put a sign in our yard. Our politics don’t align with his. She’s more of a friendly acquaintance than a friend-friend, so a heart-to-heart about worldviews seems out of place. Do I need to tell her, “Actually, we can’t really get behind his platform because of X, Y, and Z”? Or can I just avoid her until the election’s over?

    S.E. / Tulsa, Oklahoma

    Please don’t think me a grade-school grammar snarker for replying I don’t know, can you avoid her? You certainly may, as far as I’m concerned, but wouldn’t that doom you to months of overdue library books, the 4 a.m. Zumba class, and the Starbucks on the other side of town?

    Easier to just rip off the Band-Aid! Here’s the good news: No heart-to-heart is required under any circumstance. You can simply reply, “I’m afraid we can’t. I hope you enjoy the campaign! What a great civic learning experience for both of you.” (The Nope-Yay is the kindest way to turn down a request to participate in someone else’s project. The trick is to keep the Nope simple and final, and embed a conversational hook in the Yay.)

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    You can also be more forthcoming. After all, there are only two reasons not to support a candidate you know: Either you disagree with his positions, or you think he’d be god-awful at the job. Which do you think the candidate — or, in your case, his spouse — would rather believe?

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    “We disagree on X” is neither an attack on your friendly acquaintance’s husband nor an invitation to change your mind. If she takes it as such — well, then she’s not suited to be a politician’s spouse, and while I wouldn’t advise telling her that, you can be fairly blunt about the rest of it. “I wasn’t opening up a debate, just telling you why we don’t need a sign.”

    I have a cousin who was bossy and dominant when we were little. I was overlooked as a child but after years of therapy, I’ve grown into kind of a swan and life is good. My cousin can be overbearing and inappropriate and I honestly don’t enjoy spending time with her. I can’t be the voiceless person that I was years ago. I am much more confident and I don’t think she likes that. I grew up in an ethnic family that has always put a lot of value on keeping up family ties. How much time do I need to spend with her annually?

    L.R. / Boston

    Therapy has probably taught you that “I grew up that way” is a good explanation for a neurosis, but not for a value system. Those, you get to pick out for yourself.

    Even if extended family is important to you, that doesn’t have to mean one-on-one friendships with each and every relative. Some strands of the family tapestry are thicker than others, some planets in the family solar system orbit more synchronously.

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    You can love your cousin as family, and chitchat with her at holiday and birthday gatherings, but you don’t need to force a friendship that neither of you enjoys.

    Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology. Send comments to magazine@globe.com. Get the best of the magazine’s award-winning stories and features right in your e-mail inbox every Sunday. Sign up here.