The wording of conventional responses seldom bears up under close scrutiny, as Miss Manners would have told a hypothetical gentleman of a past generation who objected that the clerk was wrong to call his purchase “Very good, sir.”
Dear Miss Manners: My physician is also a family friend of over 40 years. He is now in his eighth decade, and has been quite remarkable in his health and abilities. But after these many years of excellent care, I have noticed in the past year that his skills and mental acuity are failing.
He insists that he will not retire until next year. However, I am concerned that he will make a mistake — if not with my care, then with another patient's. I should like to switch to another physician.
This is a delicate matter because of the long friendship with both our families. Would you be able to guide me in a conversation that will end the professional care, but not damage the friendship?
This is not an easy conversation to have with a very dear friend.
The solution is to seek out an intermediary with whom you are close and who is closer to your physician friend than you. This may be a spouse, another patient who might evaluate your observation, or another member of the practice group who is qualified to judge.
Expressing your concern to that person will be easier for you to do, although Miss Manners recognizes the problem she is thereby creating for the family member or colleague. And she reminds you that speaking to one of the doctor’s colleagues, who can do a professional evaluation, may result in his being retired against his will — an action that may or may not be necessary, depending on his level of professional deterioration.
Meanwhile, you can say that you want to begin transitioning to another doctor in anticipation of his retirement next year.
Dear Miss Manners: My husband and I have been married for 19 years. He has two daughters from a previous marriage. They have actively hated me since the very beginning.
They are now grown women: 41 and 37 years old. After our last visit, I have decided to quietly bow out — it is long past time, and my husband agrees. I will still make sure birthdays, Christmas and other special occasions are observed by their father. As well, he can visit them and they can visit him as they all wish.
I obviously won't be there the next time they're all together. What should my husband say? Neither of us is looking for a huge blowup among them.
“She couldn’t make it this time” — repeated each time as if it were the first.
Miss Manners offers this as the surest path to the quiet you understandably desire. She does not pretend that it will reform bad behavior, mend relationships, or satisfy those who feel that brutal honesty is better for family health than avoiding angry blowups.
2021, by Judith Martin