Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Etiquette and Unsolicited Advisors

“Oooh! I didn’t know we’d be playing this game tonight! This might be fun, even though we don’t know one another all that well. After you tell me how you feel about my personal affairs, I’ll tell you how I feel about yours.”

Some Wise Advise from Miss Manners

Dear Miss Manners: A business associate in my office has recently found enlightenment through some EST-like encounter group. He is so enthusiastic about his new passion that he is telling everybody friends, colleagues, even clients. He has already told me that he “senses” that I would really benefit from taking this “training.” Since I have to work with this man, I have always been polite and cordial, but I have absolutely no desire to have any kind of personal relationship with him. I am quite close to his ex-wife, and know too much about his personal life from her perspective. Now this man is repeatedly asking me (and others in the office) to lunch, and I'm sure he wants to proselytize. How can I refuse and continue to maintain a pleasant working relationship with him and continue to lunch with other associates? Can I accept on condition he not discuss his new religion? Can I refuse to discuss certain topics at lunch? Can you come up with a more creative option? I don't think I could keep lunch down if I had to listen to his spiel. 

Gentle reader: Unsolicited therapy is one of the curses of our age. People who kindly offer to help one, often suggesting solutions for problems one didn't know one had, are a menace. If you don't learn to defend yourself, you will be at the mercy of everyone who has discovered a new diet, exercise program, astrologist or saint-upon-earth. One must always be polite, but one needn’t therefore suffer the effects of other people’s rudeness. And it is rude, as well as arrogant, to presume to prescribe for others. By declaring that you would benefit from whatever form of help he offers, the proselytizer is making it clear that he finds you unsatisfactory as is. The best way to deal with bores is to avoid them. A good working relationship does not require socializing. You can already declare a lunch date when he asks you, or, failing one, announce your intention to eat alone because you want to think. Should you get stuck, the polite way to say, “Shut up, you're boring me senseless” is, “Yes, so you've already told me,” accompanied by a vacant smile and followed by a change of subject. The polite way to say, “You have your nerve telling me how I should run my life” is, “You’re very kind to take an interest in my personal affairs, considering how little you know about me, but it really isn’t necessary, thank you.” In this case, you are in a position to add, “You know I’ve always put aside any personal information I happen to have heard about you from your ex-wife, because we have such a nice professional relationship. Let's keep it that way.” That is the polite method of blackmail. United Feature Syndicate, 1985

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

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