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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Miss Manners 1/13

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION

DEAR MISS MANNERS: You’ve said it’s considered rude to correct others’ manners. I’ve always been told this, but it leads me to this question: How are others to learn better manners if they’re never corrected when they’re rude?

I realize that it can be difficult to do this kindly if one is feeling insulted by the rudeness. But if it can be done nicely, wouldn’t it be helpful to say, “Shelby, do you realize how rude it is when you do X?”

I don’t expect you to change your mind on this point of etiquette, but I’m genuinely interested in your thoughts.

GENTLE READER: You are correct that if no one’s manners were ever corrected, we would all be eating with our hands and wiping our mouths on the tablecloth.

Miss Manners does not dictate that no one can correct another person’s manners – only who may do so, and sometimes when. Parents may correct their own, growing children. Teachers may correct students.

It may interest you to know that Miss Manners, who, in her profession, corrects everyone, would consider it the height of rudeness were she to correct a friend or acquaintance face-to-face.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a lady who works in retail. What is the correct way to react to a man who walks up to me while I am working and says, with his eyes full of pity, “I wouldn’t want your job”?

The unsolicited comment always feels condescending, but I can’t exactly point that out to a customer. Other than asking the customer if they need assistance, is there something else I’m supposed to say? How am I supposed to answer?

GENTLE READER: It depends on what you hope to accomplish. A cool “May I help you?” rejects – by not acknowledging – the customer’s words, while satisfying the requirements of good manners. Miss Manners thinks this is a great deal. If, instead, your goal is to get into a conversation with your boss about your future in sales, then you may smile and tell him, “Well, I’m keeping it, so you can’t have it.”

Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website missmanners.com.

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