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Miss Manners: Vacationing with parents and in-laws

Dear Miss Manners: My parents are taking my husband and me on an island vacation with them this summer. We haven’t always had the best relationship, although things have been going well for some time now.

Could you provide some tips on how to vacation with parents and in-laws – what to remember and what to avoid – that might help my husband and I (and others) contribute to the creation of a memorable experience for all?

Gentle Reader: It is all too easy to have a memorable experience when vacationing with relatives with whom you have not always gotten along. Miss Manners would have thought your goal was the opposite.

The answer to your question is: relentless good manners. That would bar any complaints, whether about the conditions of the trip or the history of the relationship, in favor of showing appreciation of this opportunity. Oh, and don’t talk politics.

That may be counterintuitive in an age that considers rudeness more relaxing and therefore more appropriate to a vacation. It might also help to preserve some time for separate activities, which will be easier to do if your island destination is closer in size to Greenland than to Grenada.

Escape from boring people

Dear Miss Manners: Is there a polite way to get away from boring people?

Gentle Reader: There are many, but application – and effectiveness – depends on context.

The person at a cocktail party buffet can be escaped with a simple “Excuse me.” The person on your left at a dinner party can – after a decent interval – be dismissed with the excuse of attending to the person on your right. (But if that person is equally dull, you may have to wait for dessert.)

For spouses and other relatives, Miss Manners cautions that lasting solutions lie outside the boundaries of etiquette.

Cranky, contrite supervisors

Dear Miss Manners: How should I respond when supervisors at work apologize for being cranky?

It is nice that they apologize because they’re cranky. However, I somehow feel that acknowledging that they were cranky could be an insult to them, and so simply saying “thank you” might not work toward my career goals.

Gentle Reader: Illogical as such behavior would be on the part of your supervisor, Miss Manners recognizes that you may be right. The trick is to downplay the impact of the behavior without denying its existence: “That’s kind of you to apologize, but please, don’t worry about it.”

This column was co-written by Judith Martin’s son, Nicholas Ivor Martin.