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Miss Manners: Is it okay to end a conversation at a party and leave the other person alone?

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Dear Miss Manners: In social settings, is it okay to finish a conversation and walk away when doing so leaves the other person awkwardly alone?

I was chatting with someone I did not know at a party. After about 20 minutes of pleasant conversation, I used a pause to say I was going to refresh my drink and asked whether the man would like one himself. He said no, and I walked away and joined friends in another room. He was left sitting alone, and I felt a bit guilty.

I know I’m not obligated to sit with him until someone else joins us, which may not happen, but is there a better way to leave?

The only people who never have such awkward moments — being stuck talking to the same person or being left adrift — are people who refuse to attend these types of parties. And Miss Manners cannot say she blames them.

Had another guest been on the loose in the vicinity, it would have been graceful for you to nab a substitute as you left. But such is not always the case, and your excuse, which implied that the gentleman could have accompanied you to the bar, or that you would have been willing to come back to him with a drink had he wanted one, was polite.

Such parties are hazardous, and the hosts should be on the lookout to draw people together. But there is only so much guests can do to rescue one another.

Dear Miss Manners: I have a friend who asks me from time to time to go shopping with her. Neither of us has a car, so we use public transit, and we always eat out where we shop.

The trouble is, she finds a problem with everything, from the driver of the bus to whatever she has ordered at the restaurant. At a restaurant, for example, she will order more biscuits or a to-go drink after the bill has been presented. She is very loud and repetitive about making her case known. She will keep repeating herself over the person in charge, confusing them and blaming them.

I have told her that her complaints would be more effective if she did not scream repeatedly at the staff, and also that it is wrong to order food after the bill arrives. But she says they expect this, as she has waitress experience — which amounts to about six months over the course of her 58 years. It has left me not wanting to go shopping with her at all.

Other than this behavior, I love her conversation and company. Any ideas on how to deal with her?

Well, not by shopping or eating out, as Miss Manners trusts you have learned.

Why don’t you go fishing together? Or hiking in the mountains? Or skydiving? Then you could enjoy each other’s conversation without causing collateral damage.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

©2022, by Judith Martin

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