Q. I have a "friend" who has the annoying habit of always asking, "How do you feel about that?"
She never asks how I feel about getting a raise or any positive aspects of my life -- only the negative.
I think her questions are an invasion of my privacy. My close friends are empathetic enough to know how I feel. Anyone who has to ask is not close enough to deserve to know.
Please suggest a way I can evade her questions and guard my private feelings without sounding too defensive. I am tempted to tell her to mind her own business.
A. Your friend has been watching too much television. And what's more, she has failed to notice how inane and uninformative the answers always are to such impertinent questions.
The polite social way to let people know that you are prepared to sympathize with them, should they care to explain their feelings, is by greeting bad news with a concerned "Oh, dear." This gives them the choice of ignoring the remark or unburdening themselves.
The polite and effective way to draw people out about their misfortunes is to say, "Is there a lesson in this you would like other people to know?"
And the way to avoid answering the question is to say firmly, "Thank you, but I'm fine now," as often as it takes for your interrogator to get discouraged.
Q. My niece seems to have the strange notion that it is improper to mention money (unless she is asking for some).
When she receives a gift item, she always says, "Thank you." When she is handed a card with cash or a check, she always says, "Thank you for the lovely (or funny or sweet) card." She pretends not to look at the check.
This rude behavior has caused several relatives to stop sending or giving monetary gifts. I am sure the young woman has no idea that she is being rude, and I don't think she would believe her old aunt, who is all of twice her age, but I hate to think of her insulting all the people who are invited to her wedding.
A. If not for that crack about hitting others for money, Miss Manners might have thought that your niece suffered from an excess of delicacy.
It is, in fact, a matter of delicacy not to mention the amount of money given as a present ("Thanks for the $15.").
Feeling incorrect? Address your etiquette questions (in black or blue-black ink on white writing paper) to Miss Manners, in care of this newspaper.