Miss Manners: Qualified ‘yes’ that means ‘no’ irritates man asking favor

June 28, 2012

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I asked a favor of my 25-year-old stepdaughter, who lives with us, to see if she could watch my son for a couple of hours on a Saturday morning so I could go play golf. Her mother was going to the beauty salon.

She replied: “I usually go to boot camp on Saturday. I was kind of excited to go this week since I haven’t been able to go in like a month, but I guess I can skip it if you really need me to watch him.”

I was very upset with this answer, because I feel like it is worse to say yes with a qualifier that says no than to just say no in the first place. My wife and I had a huge fight about this, and she doesn’t think there was anything wrong with the answer and told me I had no right to be upset.

I have to admit that I would probably have been upset with a straight no since I don’t ask too many favors, but to me this was worse, and I was really offended. Am I overreacting?

GENTLE READER: As you admit, the only answer that would not have upset you would be an unqualified yes. So Miss Manners surmises that although you say you were asking a favor, you thought of it as issuing a command.

Perhaps your stepdaughter knows this from previous experience, and the subtext is, “I will if you insist, but you should know what I’m giving up just so you can play golf.” But even that is only a tone away from the reasonable response that you each have something else planned, and she would yield if yours was more important. Was it?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: The young wife of a young co-worker died suddenly. A colleague who had never met the wife learned from one of the family members’ eulogies that the dead woman’s charitable interests included a charity for which the colleague is currently collecting donations in support of her participation in a marathon run. That charity was listed by the bereaved as among the possible recipients of mourners’ memorial largesse.

The colleague has therefore taken it upon herself to “dedicate” her run to the recently departed wife, and to state this on the Facebook page of the widower, and elsewhere, with a convenient link for donations.

Since this colleague never even met the dead woman (whose cause of death was, by the way, unrelated to the cause promoted by the charity), this seems opportunistic and in terrible taste, but I’m not sure if it’s also in bad taste to say something to Marathon Woman.

GENTLE READER: First you will have to explain to Miss Manners why you think the colleague’s action is in bad taste. One does not need an excuse to memorialize someone, but in this case, the lady knew the widower and the charity is one the family suggested.

Perhaps you think it is a cheap way to avoid making a donation. But are you sure that the family isn’t pleased at the recognition?

In any case, yes, it is in bad taste to go around criticizing other people’s manners. Miss Manners is criticizing yours only because you asked her to.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

2012, by Judith Martin

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