April 8, 2005 in Features

Positive attitude can soften news

Judith Martin United Feature Syndicate
 
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Dear Miss Manners: I do psychic and tarot readings for the public. I consider myself a professional whose duty it is to assist others, rather like a psychologist.

Many times I find myself placed in intolerable situations. I am torn between honesty and kindness. I oftentimes discover that something terrible will be coming into people’s lives, such as death, betrayal, loss or divorce.

My customers deserve the very best, and I wish I could be totally honest. Is there anything in your vast knowledge and experience that covers the proper etiquette for a psychic reading?

Gentle Reader: Much as she appreciates your desire to count your work among the healing professions, Miss Manners is afraid that you will reject their method for softening bad news. It would probably ruin your business.

A compassionate doctor giving a bad prognosis will emphasize the impossibility of predicting anything with certainty, recommend getting other opinions and then turn to providing what practical assistance he or she can offer. The best way to mitigate the effect of your predictions would be for you to follow that example by stressing the uncertainty of life’s outcomes and your own fallibility.

Dear Miss Manners: I’m a bit of a mix when it comes to body types; my entire adult life I have had difficulty finding clothes that fit me properly. So when I find a new store that has pants that don’t puddle on the floor or a blouse that doesn’t gape open when reaching for the stapler, I rejoice.

However, I have a co-worker who also likes to shop at the same store and has recently become quite abrasive when I show up in something new. Although we have dissimilar tastes, she is positive that we will one day show up to work in the same outfit and the become the laughingstock of the entire office.

I understand even if I don’t support her fear, but she has “barred” me from three stores in the past. To top that off, she has told me I am forbidden from wearing my hair a certain way because she “always” wears her hair in that style.

I have yet to find a polite way to tell her to stop being paranoid or that I don’t lie awake at night devising ways a twin-set sweater can be used to sabotage her career.

I have worked with this woman for several years and over said time we have developed a wonderful working relationship. I would hate to have this turn into an office drama, but I want to be able to get dressed in the morning without fear of reprisal. I’m at a loss, and so I turn to you for help. How can I tell her to stop?

Gentle Reader: If you will tell Miss Manners how you allowed things to get this far.

What you should have said is that such things are personal and not open for discussion. It is high time to say this and to demonstrate that you mean it by refusing to argue about it.


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