Share this article

print logo

Miss Manners: Parry intrusive questions with polite but evasive response

Dear Miss Manners: In the past few weeks, I have noticed several cashiers and bank tellers asking if I have any plans for the day, or asking how my day is going so far (rather than saying, “How are you?”). When I mentioned this to a store manager, the response was that they were merely trying to be friendly.

I do not feel that the answer to either of those questions is any business of theirs, and I am at a loss how to answer the second question especially without being rude. I tend to just not answer.

Gentle Reader: As failing to answer is a bit harsh, even to phony “friends,” you could say, “I do, thank you.” Miss Manners would then steer the conversation back to the question at hand so as to cut off the inevitable follow-up question with, “And I’m afraid I’m running a bit late. Would you mind depositing my funds so I can be on my way?”

Time to limit your availability

Dear Miss Manners: A longtime friend constantly calls me for the “daily run” of her personal/professional activities, but rarely inquires about my own life.

What would you suggest would be the most polite but effective way of bringing her litany to an end?

Gentle Reader: Terminating a telephone call is as easy as apologizing and saying that you really must go. Even inveterate talkers occasionally pause for air.

But it appears to Miss Manners that what you are really hoping is that you can change your friend so that she shows the same interest in your life that you have demonstrated in hers.

Longtime friends are as difficult to retrain as family members, and yours may not be interested in reciprocating, having grown accustomed to your one-sided relationship. If this is the case, you can at least restore the balance by limiting your own availability.

Pass on these friends

Dear Miss Manners: I have a few friends I invite out socially, but some of them have started declining my invitations with a succinct, “I’ll pass.”

I’m in my late 20s, and I’ve always declined invitations by first thanking the person for the invitation, and then expressing apologies for not being able to attend.

I feel that “I’ll pass” is a somewhat rude way of declining an invitation; after all, I’m not passing around a plate of cookies.

Since when has “I’ll pass” entered the vernacular and become an acceptable way of declining an invitation?

Gentle Reader: It has not, neither for the invitation nor for the cookie. Miss Manners reminds you that she stands between the vernacular and the acceptable and refuses to give rudeness a pass.

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