Dear Miss Manners: I live in a condominium association of 241 homes that is governed by a board of owners. I am running for election to the board, having served previously as an officer.
What, if anything, does etiquette say about the response that I should make? Should I:
1. Do nothing; ignore his email.
2. Respond with one of the following: A. You make my point about the lack of civility in discussing issues at the homeowners' association. When you compose yourself, I would be pleased to meet to discuss your views. B. Could you specifically identify the statements you claim are untrue? C. As you requested, you are removed from my email list.
Relationships with fellow condominium owners carry all of the disadvantages of family (you did not, for the most part, choose them, and it is difficult to avoid them) with few of the benefits (unless, perhaps, they are willing to watch your cat while you take a much-needed vacation from them).
Miss Manners therefore proposes the Crazy Uncle Solution, which is to serve your rude neighbor his figurative turkey and let him sit in the corner, while you enlist everyone else’s help and sympathy to minimize the damage he can cause. In this case, that means Option 1: ignoring his letter — but pursuing your goal of respectful behavior at meetings.
Dear Miss Manners: Is there a proper way to ask someone to repeat themselves? I wear hearing aids, but there are still times when I need a second chance to understand the spoken word!
As a child, I learned not to say, "What?" So among family and friends, I find myself saying, "What's that?" (which is hardly any better). With acquaintances, I sometimes say, "I'm sorry; I didn't catch that. Can you repeat it?" — a rather cumbersome trio of phrases.
Some people say, "Excuse me?" but that has taken on such a haughty sound — as it is often used nowadays to express offense taken — that I am uncomfortable using it. "Pardon?" seems odd, because I am not asking for pardon.
When grocery stores started telling their clerks to ask customers how they were doing, Miss Manners was deluged by Gentle Readers perplexed by what they saw as a choice between discomfort (“What business is it of his?”) and dishonesty (“But I was having a lousy day”). She had to reassure them that, like blessing someone who sneezes, not every politeness should be taken literally.
The same can be said of apologies, something she routinely recommends as a way to disarm a wide range of behaviors that might otherwise be taken as rudeness (“Excuse me, you are stepping on my foot”). When said nicely, “What?” is not as rude as you think, but you could say, “I’m sorry, could you say that again?” But only if it won’t make you late for your next errand.
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.
2021, by Judith Martin