Q.My business etiquette problem has happened enough times that I may blow up and ruin my business image.
I own and operate a gallery, with some exhibits open to submissions from local and national artists. After the director and I view the slides and select the art, a selected artist will sometimes decide not to participate in the exhibit. This even happens after a contract has been signed, and the invitations, catalogues, press releases, etc., have been printed that include that individual's name, along with others.
I do not mind that artists decide not to participate; that is their decision. But the dropout does not phone or write to inform me of this decision, and I don't find out until two to four days before the opening, when I'm inquiring when the art will arrive to be installed.
I can't seem to understand why those individuals will not inform me of their decision but leave me to contact them. Is it too much to expect?
Then I start to boil, not knowing what to say (I can think of a lot of words, but the lady in me will not let me use them). Therefore, I remain silent. How should I respond verbally, in a nice way, to these people who have not been instructed in etiquette?
A.Miss Manners could take this as an invitation to play Oh-Those-Irresponsible-Artists! if not for the sad knowledge that people of all callings behave this way now.
This brutal inconsideration is rampant, and not only in business, but among families and friends. If you feel angry about being so treated by strangers, you can imagine, if you have not experienced it yourself, how people feel when their intimates refuse to answer dinner or wedding invitations.
Fortunately, it is easier to solve the business problem than it would be in your social life. You know that contract you have them sign? You insert in all future contracts a wee little clause stating that failure to notify you of nonparticipation by a certain date will require them to pay for your losses and inconvenience.
This is not exactly an etiquette solution, Miss Manners is aware. But she promises you that it will teach them manners.
Q.How does one address a letter to an ex-married couple? In other words, they are no longer married, but still a couple, still living at the same address. Obviously, "Mr. and Mrs. John Doe" is no longer correct, but what is? They're my parents, so I feel a bit odd using "John and Jane Doe" -- I don't call them by their first names. I usually avoid the whole issue by writing each of them separately, but sometimes that can get rather absurd.
A.Miss Manners is aware that she is supposed to answer the questions, not ask them, but sometimes it's tough.
She is not asking you why people who have been married long enough to have a grown-up child want to get divorced if they plan to go on living together as a couple anyway. She is only telling you that she won't be able to sleep tonight from wondering.
But would it be all right if she gives you a question to ask them? She promises there is no unseemly curiosity in this question.
It grows from the unfortunate lack of a recognized standard now for the names of divorced women, so that while your father is still "Mr. John Doe," your mother could be using Mrs., Ms., or Miss, with just about any combination of a lifetime collection of names. (The traditional address for a divorced woman is Mrs., followed by her maiden, and then married, surnames, but individual preferences must be respected.)
Couldn't you ask, "What are you people calling yourselves these days?" They are your parents, after all.
Q.Do I introduce my son as Judge Harry (not his real name), or just "Meet my son, Harry?"
A.Just Harry. Miss Manners knows that this answer will disappoint you, but promises you that it will be all the more satisfying to have people then inquire, as they always do nowadays, what Harry "does."