Miss Manners: An unneeded apology, handled gracefully

February 3, 2014

Dear Miss Manners:

I felt compelled to apologize to a friend for a careless remark I made at a dinner party because, although it was of a general nature, on reflection I think it might have caused offense. I composed a sincere apology and sent it by e-mail. She replied by saying she didn’t recall anything that was offensive and jokingly asked what had I said.

Should I have politely said, “Let’s just leave it in the past,” and left her wondering? Or am I now worse off for having offered up my stupid statement again, but with fewer words? Our conversation ended amicably, but I am not sure I handled it well.

Your friend certainly handled it well, reassuring you to the extent of claiming that she didn’t even remember your saying anything that could have been construed as offensive. Even her little joke offered you the opportunity to edit your remark, or to add, “. . . but what I meant was” and then declare the opposite of what you said.

You missed doing that, but Miss Manners would not have advised you to leave your friend guessing. You wouldn’t want to challenge her to find something that can be interpreted as rude.

Dear Miss Manners:

My daughter is in kindergarten and was invited to a friendship party hosted by a classmate at a martial arts school. Should she bring a gift?

Yes. The gift of friendship.

Dear Miss Manners:

I was at a restaurant where the first attempt at my meal was burned. When its replacement didn’t appear for another 45 minutes, I asked for the order to be canceled.

The people with me — who had already eaten all three courses of their meals! — were screaming at me (literally) that I couldn’t do that, as it was rude. Is it rude to cancel an order under those circumstances?

Strange things happen to people who patronize restaurants, Miss Manners has observed. They have etiquette panic attacks, out of fear that their servers may sneer at them.

And so they may, as do other workers who deal with the public. But it is only at restaurants that the patrons seem to care. Of course they should behave well at any business, but only restaurants frighten them.

You ordered a decently cooked meal to be delivered in reasonable time. When that expectation was not met, of course you could cancel the order. You would do so in dealing with any other business, and restaurants are businesses that sell meals.

There was ample evidence of rudeness at your table, however. It came from those well-fed people who screamed criticism at you.

Dear Miss Manners:

When I receive a reply from an e-mail correspondent, I am often chagrined that — most of the time — I receive my original message back, in addition to the response.

I always make sure to delete what I have received before replying. Why return what I already know I have written? Is there any protocol concerning this?

It is true that to return a paper letter to its writer is considered an insult. In e-mail, however, it cannot be considered so, because that is the default form.

Mind you, Miss Manners understands that it can be annoying, especially when there are several exchanges and a trail of the entire correspondence keeps reappearing. But while she agrees that it would be tactful to delete what was sent, she asks you to acknowledge that sometimes it is necessary to leave a reminder of what is being answered. Not everyone remembers, and you will admit that this is an improvement over that awkward opening, “In regard to your letter of the 15th . . .

New Miss Manners columns are posted Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays on www.washingtonpost.
com/advice
. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com.

2014, by Judith Martin

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