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NAME YOUR PRICE AND STICK TO IT

Dear Miss Manners: What do we do with a pesky neighbor who has asked three times to buy our house, although he has been told we are not selling? He wants our house for his children and is already planning how to change it.

There are other houses up for sale in the area, but he wants ours. He is getting on our nerves. We need some privacy.

Gentle Reader: Have you thought of buying his house and knocking it down? This would ensure your privacy.

You may be relieved to hear that Miss Manners also has a cheaper suggestion. It's better than cheaper, actually -- it would either be free, or give you a profit.

This is to play to your neighbor's belief that everything is for sale at a price -- by naming a price. Shall we say 10 times the highest plausible value? Presumably the response will be, "Are you crazy?" to which you can gently reply, "Let me know if you change your mind."

It is remotely possible that he could accept, but then you'd have -- whoops. Miss Manners has just fallen into the trap of assuming it is only a matter of money. Maybe you'd better make it 20 times the value.

Twice-told tales

Dear Miss Manners: It often happens that in the course of conversing with friends and acquaintances, one of you begins to tell an anecdote or story that has been shared before. Is it proper to interrupt the speaker and inform them that you have already heard this particular item?

I believe the speaker must have good reason for sharing the story, and the listener should politely listen to it again in its entirety.

My mother believes it is acceptable to wait for a pause and gently say something to conclude the anecdote like: "Oh, yes, you found the dog at the neighbor's house. I'm so glad he wasn't lost." My husband allows for selective interruptions based on the status of the speaker and/or the length of the story.

What rule applies? And does it change if the speaker informs you at the start to interrupt if you've heard the story before? If you are the speaker and the listener interrupts you, what is the proper response?

Gentle Reader: Funny how this keeps coming up. Even funnier that Miss Manners can't remember if she dealt with it before.

The key factor here is to avoid embarrassing the speaker -- and, if humanly possible, to do so while avoiding hearing that story again. It wasn't all that amusing the first time.

Besides, simple self-sacrifice doesn't always work. There is a danger that one's enthusiastic reception could trigger the speaker's memory and expose the charade -- thus embarrassing the speaker, after all, by the discovery that he or she was being humored instead of humorous.

The art is in catching the story at the right time. Once the speaker gets up steam, it is cruel to make him swallow it.

Even the speaker's instruction to interrupt has a bit of steam behind it, so, as your polite relatives realize, you don't just say, "Yes, I've heard it," much less hold up several fingers to indicate the number of times.

Miss Manners prefers "Oh, yes, that's a wonderful story." If there is another listener present, you can suggest the speaker tell it to that person.

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