I work as a veterans advocate for my local government and cannot keep telling people my story, as it is considered inappropriate to talk about your own case with clients. Nor can I be rude and tell them it is none of their business, as I am expected to be polite and helpful to my clients at all times.
I’ve tried being funny and making jokes about it, and I’ve tried telling them it’s a service-connected disability that I’d rather not talk about. Neither way seems to completely satisfy their curiosity.
What is a polite way to tell them to mind their own business without having to get into the details?
GENTLE READER: The professional version is easy. You say firmly, “We are here to discuss your case,” and immediately address a question to the client. There is no reason to have any personal conversation beyond the simplest pleasantries.
What’s harder is when someone you meet socially is clumsy enough to ask. Then Miss Manners suggests you say, “Thank you for your concern, but I’m fine. Are you all right?”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I received an invitation for a discussion relating to my field of work. The invitation states, “To facilitate meaningful educational discussions, guests will not be accommodated.” What does “guests will not be accommodated” mean?
GENTLE READER: It means don’t bring guests. But Miss Manners would think you would not do that anyway, because it sounds as if the meeting will be unnecessarily long and tedious, with 10 words used when three will do.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My wife is planning, with my assistance, a birthday party to celebrate my 70th. We have friends and family who live quite a long distance, and she suggested we not actually invite them. We are limited in terms of numbers and, frankly, I was hoping a smaller, more casual affair would be the order of the day.
It will not be large since we are of modest means, but we do not want to offend friends and those who live far away by not offering them the opportunity to attend. Is there a way to keep this small and comfortable without excluding anyone?
GENTLE READER: You don’t mean “without excluding anyone,” because then you would have a huge party. And Miss Manners hopes you don’t mean to ask for a way to invite them all but make sure they won’t come.
However, you needn’t have everybody at your party. One advantage of not being a monarch (there are many advantages) is that you are not obliged to have public birthday celebrations. Go ahead and have the party you want, but don’t broadcast it, personally or on the Internet.
Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.
2012, by Judith Martin
Distributed by Universal Uclick for UFS