May 29, 2024
Plus: Is there a polite way to tell him he is driving people away?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a dear friend who suffered a stroke as a teenager, which left her with weakness on one side of her body.

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She is now in her 40s and has a wonderful husband and a lovely daughter. She is an avid volunteer and artist.

While she was out in public with me recently, a woman approached my friend and asked if she could lay hands on her and pray for her.

I’m sure the woman meant no offense, but this embarrassed and upset my friend. She later told me that this has happened to her on several occasions, and she is never quite sure what to say to these people.

GENTLE READER: Lately, Miss Manners finds herself having to caution people to consider another’s intent before overreacting. (She started to say “before reacting,” but these days, the two are often synonymous.)

But offers of being grabbed by a stranger, for whatever reason, do not require a carefully crafted response. An emphatic “No!” — while moving away, if necessary — is both acceptable and wise.

To acknowledge the stranger’s benign intent, your friend could add “thank you” after she has reached a safe distance.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: As I waited for the (very late) bus today, I approached the only other person at the stop and asked if he knew whether this bus usually runs late. I thanked him for his input and returned to the bench.

Soon thereafter, he sat down and began talking. His insights were interesting, but he talked at me, not to or with me. After 20 minutes, I was exhausted; after 40, I literally wanted to scream (yes, literally).

It turns out that he and I live in the same small apartment complex, and I am sure to run into him again.

Is there ever a polite way to say to someone, more or less, “You’re a lovely person, and I don’t want to hurt your feelings — in fact, I’m telling you this because I think you’re inadvertently harming yourself socially. You’re an interesting person, but you hold forth rather than engage the other person in conversation”?

I think he’s very lonely. He’s in his late 70s, and he moved here a few years ago to be near some relatives. I’m guessing that he knows few other local people. But he’s not going to make friends with this approach.

I realize that etiquette forbids unsolicited criticism, but I guess I’m asking for permission to share this in the event I move away — that is, if he would be spared the embarrassment of seeing me again. Because I think he’s harming himself, socially.

GENTLE READER: There is not a polite way to express that sentiment. And as your goal is to spend less time with him, rather than more, Miss Manners fails to see the need.

Find, or make, a pause in his lecture, and then excuse yourself, saying that you really must answer this email or finish this chapter. Or you could consider buying your way out by hailing a taxi.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, [email protected]; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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