DEAR MISS MANNERS: We moved about four years ago to a small neighborhood in a rural area, where the homes are relatively far apart and people tend to like their privacy. We have a fenced area on our property that is overgrown, and it’s been recommended to me to use goats as an environmentally friendly solution to clearing it out.
Our neighbors behind us have goats, which we frequently see grazing freely around their property. We have not met these neighbors personally (as people tend to stick to themselves here) but have heard through other neighbors that they are friendly.
What is the proper etiquette for asking if we could borrow their goats for a week or so? Should I go over with a plate of cookies, introduce myself and then ask?
GENTLE READER: It would be tempting to issue an invitation directly to the goats, if only they could be expected to answer. (“We would love to have you over. We weren’t thinking of anything formal, you understand, just some light grazing.”)
But Miss Manners believes you really ought to get to know your human neighbors first, perhaps with that cookie-laden approach. You may then, in conversation, admire their livestock and steer the conversation, and the goats, in your own direction.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a 25-year-old lawyer who worked as a law clerk for a year before passing the bar exam. When I accompany the partner to hearings where the client is present, I invariably get asked whether I am still in law school or how I like being a paralegal.
What is the appropriate response? Also, when I am in the office, sometimes potential clients will walk in and ask me to make copies for them. I usually do this graciously, but I am wondering if there is something I can say to establish the fact that I am an attorney.
GENTLE READER: Etiquette bans correcting someone’s manners. It does not ban correcting their facts – politely.
The answer to how you like law school is, “I adored it, thank you, but I’m actually an attorney now,” combined with a winning smile that demonstrates (correctly or not) that your feelings have not been hurt.
The request for copies requires you to suppress any resentment enough to remember that while it is not your job to make copies, it is your job to make potential clients happy. This can be accomplished with, “It’s so nice to meet you. I’m an attorney here at the firm, but let me find someone who can do this for you.”
Or you could say with a smile, “You probably don’t want this at my billing rate.”
Being 25 is a time-limited problem, but Miss Manners asks that you remember your dilemma when you are a partner and have 25-year-old associates. That older version of you will be able to save associates from similar embarrassment by always making proper introductions.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com.
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