Part of getting along well with others involves choosing when to engage in discussions and when to hold your tongue.

For instance, you’ve probably been in the situation of being in the dentist’s waiting room when another patient is sitting nearby, reading a magazine. They snort, look up at you, and launch into a tirade about the sorry state of the world today. You don’t agree, finding much reason around you for hope.

So what do you do? Should you get involved and try to convince this person that things aren’t that bad? Or should you just ignore them or make non-committal noises? You could even interrupt the tirade and say that you’re not really interested in discussing it and ask them to keep their comments to themselves.

There are pluses and minuses to each response: Engaging in a debate will allow you to voice your opinion, but it’s unlikely you’ll change the other person’s mind and the encounter may leave you all riled-up. Ignoring them could be difficult and uncomfortable, but might make getting into the dentist’s chair more welcome. Clearly expressing your disinterest in talking could be great practice, but it’s certainly no guarantee that the other person will stop their harangue and may even lead to an argument about whether you should be having the discussion!

Of course, there’s no “right” way to respond and your choice will depend on the type of relationship you have with the other person. You can’t respond in-depth to every potential conflict, seeing it through to a mutual understanding, because some relationships just don’t warrant the time and energy required to do that.

But how does the situation change when the other person is your spouse? A disagreement over how the world works may not be at the top of your list of romantic activities, but the discussion may lead to a deeper understanding of each other’s perspective and strengthen the emotional bonds. These discussions can strengthen other long term relationships as well, including those with close friends and family.

Your response could also be a matter of temperament: you may be someone who enjoys interaction in any form. Then again, you might be someone who is less outgoing and resents intrusion into your inner world. Whichever way you usually act, consider expanding your options the next time an unsolicited conversation comes your way. If you typically argue when faced with disagreement, see how it feels to let things go and ignore the bait. You’ll have saved energy for other things. If you generally don’t engage, try speaking-up for your position. You may feel more empowered and less impinged-upon.

There is no one response that fits all situations and the one that works best for you will likely involve your temperament, the nature of the relationship, and how you’re feeling at the moment. Allow yourself to experiment. (As for the Seahawks, the very best response was to trounce the Broncos last week!)