August 12, 2009 in Features

Miss Manners: Honesty is not always best policy

Judith Martin, United Feature Syndicate

DEAR MISS MANNERS: An acquaintance posted on the Internet some music that he had composed and performed with his band. He then directed friends to the site to listen and offer opinions.

I don’t know how to respond. The music was awful. Not in such a way that it might appeal to someone with different taste than myself, but just plain hideously awful.

I don’t want to encourage him, as its obvious that music will never be his forte, but I also don’t want to be cruel. What can I say to this person other than “Don’t quit your day job”?

GENTLE READER: Your acquaintance is asking for it, isn’t he?

Under the pretense of seeking frank criticism, he is probably trusting that his friends will do the correct social thing, which is to offer encouragement to amateur efforts, which at any rate, they cannot politely squash out of existence.

Many people make that false request for frankness, leaving Miss Manners with the task of convincing their friends not to give them what they deserve. As you say, it would be cruel, and it would be pointless.

However, false encouragement would probably be more successful than you care to have it be. This is the time to fall back on irrelevant enthusiasm, such as “I could tell you were having fun.”

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