April 1, 2005 in Features

Reject credit and you’ll raise eyebrows

Judith Martin United Feature Syndicate
 
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(Full-size photo)

Dear Miss Manners: What is the appropriate response when someone comments to us about how attractive they find our shelter dog?

We live in a small, narrow home, and wanted to adopt a small dog without too much energy to burn. On our first visit to the shelter, I noticed and fell in love at first sight with a puppy whose heritage was uncertain. Her littermates all appeared to be black Labradors or something similar – all larger than we wanted – but she bore a remarkable resemblance to the most adorable variety of Australian sheep or cattle herders (also larger, but she was too adorable to resist).

It was early in the day on the first day she was made available for the public to see. We all fell in love with her, based superficially on her color patterns. We immediately decided to begin the adoption process.

Since then, we run into many people at the local dog park who remember her from the shelter, and who comment on how beautiful she is. Other dog owners who never saw her at the shelter compliment us on how attractive she is.

My thought is to tell them that I agree with them and say that we were lucky to have found her before someone else did and that we fell in love with her at first sight. My wife’s thought is to say “thank you,” which strikes me as taking credit for something we were lucky to have discovered.

How should we respond to these compliments on something for which we feel merely fortunate to have found before anyone else did?

Gentle Reader: It is sweet that you are so besotted, but nobody in the world thinks that you are responsible for the good looks of your dog, and nobody thinks you think you are. Miss Manners wants to put your mind to rest about that.

Saying “thank you” for a compliment to you or yours merely acknowledges mild gratitude in response to a kindly meant statement. You are welcome to follow this with a word or two about how lucky you are. It is only when you seem to reject credit that you raise the peculiar question of why you think you must do so.

Dear Miss Manners: I attend a state college and often use their computer labs. I cannot help but notice that many of the students keep the sound on their computers on. This is especially a distraction and annoyance when a “bling” effect happens every time they send or receive a message.

Would I be wrong to ask these computer users to turn the sound on their machine off?

Gentle Reader: Not if you do it politely with a whispered, “I’m sorry, but would you mind…?”


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