Ask The Lady: Gracefully Declining When Someone Invites Themselves Along

Cherished readers, forgive the Lady for her prolonged absence.

For now, here is a question from my emails…I am slowly getting to all of my correspondence!

Dear Lady Hooper-Brackett, 

I have a business acquaintance who continually hints to me that she would like to travel with me one day. Whenever I mention that I am going somewhere she starts with the broad hints. “We should travel together. I like going to ‘xyz’.” I continue to say nothing and ignore her each time. I would think that she would get the hint that I do not wish to travel with her. She is an extremely high-maintenance individual. Last year for our jobs, we were sent to St. Louis for a week and while everyone else packed all they needed in carry on bags, she packed a huge checked suitcase along with the carry ons. She is petulant and has a fit if she doesn’t get her way or things do not go as expected. The thought of being trapped in a room or a plane with her makes me cringe. How do I handle her pushiness?

Scared of Offending a Colleague

Dear Scared of Offending a Colleague,

Oh my dear, The Lady offers these thoughts as response to your email.

  1. Do you goad this woman into thinking you would be open to traveling with her?
  2. Why do you continue to share your travel plans with her? Is it to show off?
  3. Have you considered that she is lonely and looking for a friend? I am not dismissing your very valid feelings about traveling with her personally. The Lady Hooper-Brackett obviously know nothing about either of you, but generally difficult people become so from insecurity. Perhaps she wasn’t sure about her wardrobe choices being appropriate which is why she packed so much to take with her on your joint business trip.
  4. Might you ‘day trip’ to local places of interest? This would give you both the opportunity to see a new place without the time or space commitment of being in a hotel room.

The bottom line is be kind. One never knows what struggles another has. And keeping peace at work is an important goal.

Best Peaceful Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

 

Manners Monday: Personal Questions

Cherished readers, The Lady had an interesting discussion with a friend on the subject of personal questions. She was amazed that her daughter-in-law actually answered when someone asked her age. I could sympathize with her surprise, but I also acknowledge that the younger generations are generally much more open about things than we ancients are. (The Lady is not really ancient…but she likes to pretend to be of a different era.)

Even with these more open, free social customs, The Lady believes that the following examples fall into the category of personal questions:

-How much money do you make/have/plan to inherit?

-How much did this cost? How can you afford this?

-When are you going to have children/stop having more children/discipline the children you have?

-What exactly is wrong with your health?

-Why are you getting divorced?

-How much do you weigh? (Ha…you knew that one was going to make the list!)

-Did you have some work done? (Referring to plastic surgery, not work on the house or car)

-Is it real? (Whatever it is…a gemstone, bosom, derriere, hair, etc…)

In all things, cherished readers, discretion is your friend. No probing questions.

Best Manners Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

When They Won’t Stop Calling

Cherished Readers, during my weekly lunch with some friends, one mentioned that she is in the midst of dealing with a relative who repeatedly calls her at all hours of the day and night to moan, groan, and complain about her problems. She rarely asks after my friend. Her cup of patience is almost empty. She turned to me for guidance and I told her I needed to think about things.  I believe that these types of situations might be common, so after discussing with my friend, she agreed I could share my insights with you. Below you will find what I advised her. Name changed to protect the innocent.

Dear Dorcas, 

I pondered your situation on the drive home and the first thing that I would like to remind you of is the fact that your phone, be it your landline or cell, is for your convenience only and not for anyone else’s. You are entirely within your rights to only answer the phone when it is convenient for you. I know that you felt guilty letting it go to voice mail so often, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. 

I am very dismayed that this person only seeks out your listening ear to vent and spew complaints and never asks how you are. 

BUT, and it is a big BUT (not like Kardashian sized, but big nonetheless) if you are the only person who listens to her, perhaps there may be an emotional problem that she is suffering from and your being there for her is helping her. Because she is family, I would not cut ties with her; but I would be very honest with her and inform her that because you and your family are very busy there must be a set time when you will take calls. Give her one or two times during the week that you will speak to her and explain that if she calls out of those times, you will not be answering. If there is an emergency, she may text or email. You must control the situation while being loving and considerate. 

I feel that one can set boundaries and still be a good friend and we lose nothing by extending these courtesies. In fact, you may find you regain your sanity when dealing with her. 

Best Telephone Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Why The Approach Was Wrong

Cherished readers, in Monday’s post I commented that I had concerns about the way Mr. Old High School Crush had approached the seeker of advice. I have received two emails asking me to please follow up. Here are my thoughts, for your eager consumption.

The Lady takes exception to:

  1.  Him staring at someone across the room repeatedly and so conspicuously that they notice.
  2. Him approaching the table and asking the lady if she recognized him. Why not say, “Hello, I am Mr. SoAndSo, I believe we went to high school together and wanted to say hello.” Doesn’t that sound better than “Don’t you recognize me?” and putting the innocent party on the spot?
  3. Him standing over a seated person. If an empty chair was at the table, he would have done well to ask permission to be seated. By remaining standing, he called attention to himself and the table.
  4. Him revealing a lady’s age in public by announcing to all gathered what year she graduated from high school. (Oh, the horror!)

Am I being nitpicky in this situation? I don’t believe so. Certainly, having a bit more polish would have been more of a credit to this man. And if he remembered the basic tenets of Putting Others At Ease and Never Calling Attention To Oneself he would have come out smelling like a rose! However, I suppose in his enthusiasm for seeing his old school chum, he forgot and according to the letter, no harm was done. In this case, I will give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, ignoring innocent social flubs should be part of our own code of etiquette.

Best Mannerly Wishes, ‘

The Lady Hooper Brackett

Complimenting a Drastic Change In Appearance

Cherished readers, I recently had a meeting with someone that I’ve been doing business with for years. I have seen this person once per year for the last decade. Imagine my surprise when I noticed a huge change in this person’s appearance! Not only did he lose a considerable amount of weight, but he also got rid of his glasses and stopped wearing his toupee. The result? He looks years younger!

I wanted to praise the improvements, but my conundrum was twofold. How do I comment on these changes without seeming shocked? How do I comment without seeming as though his former appearance was unattractive? I had to choose my words wisely.

I decided to be cautious and not specifically mention any one of the changes he had made. I smiled and said sweetly, “My dear fellow, how nice to see you looking so wonderful!” This afforded him the opportunity to talk about his changes himself, without putting him on the spot (and talk he did! He was rightly proud of his weight loss!) Win-win….he didn’t feel put on the spot and I was able to bring a spot of joy to his day!

Best Tuesday Wishes!

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

 

 

 

Graciously Responding to Someone Who Has Treated You Poorly In The Past

Cherished readers, The Lady Hooper-Brackett received an anonymous email asking for advice on a subject that I am sure we all deal with in our lives.

Dear Lady Hooper-Brackett, 

Recently I was in a restaurant and I noticed a man kept looking over at me. I didn’t recognize him and kept on with my conversation. Suddenly, I noticed he was approaching the table. He stood near my seat and said ,”I wanted to come over and say hello. Do you recognize me?” I didn’t. He then said , “Weren’t you in the class of 1996 at Stamford High School? Didn’t you go on the senior trip to the Jersey Shore?” It was then my heart dropped. This was the guy that I had a huge crush on in school, the man that I childishly pursued. His way of handling it 20 some odd years ago was to humiliate me and make fun of me publicly. 

I was polite and made small talk for a few minutes. He seemed really happy to see me and as though he forgot all of the strangeness from school. Also, I  felt bad for him because time wasn’t kind to him and he has lost his looks. But I wonder if I should have been less than polite to him? 

Thank you

Dearest Emailer, The Lady Hooper-Brackett is more concerned about the way this man approached you in public than with how you handled yourself, but perhaps I will touch upon that in another post. To answer your question about your own reaction, this is what I have to say as far as dealing with this situation:

It will never be incorrect to be polite to someone in the circumstances that you detail. No doubt, in the two decades since you have left high school, you have grown as an individual and would never remake the mistakes of youth. You were right to give him the benefit of the doubt and be polite, after all he has no doubt moved on from the follies of his youth. He may not remember the situation from school the same way that you do. The Lady feels that since he made an effort to come to speak to you, then he was happy he had seen you. I feel you handled things nicely in a surprise situation.

The Lady does believe, however, that there is nothing wrong with taking secret delight in the fact that someone who was once rude to you “lost his looks” as you say. In fact, The Lady believes you should be most pleased that you looked enough the same that someone who knew you so long ago would still recognize you.

Best Polite Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Send your own questions to The Lady!

 

Mobile Manners:The Etiquette of Cell Phone Usage

Cherished readers, The Lady cannot begin to list how many times she has been out with Lord Hooper-Brackett and while enjoying a meal, having the peace shattered by a big mouth at the next table having a loud conversation on his cell. Of course these vociferous exchanges are usually precipitated by an obnoxious ringtone playing a vulgar song about liking large derrieres and not being able to lie.

The Lady has pretty much had enough of cell phone use in public and has compiled a list of things that will help you in not being one of ‘those people’ who annoy others when using your cell phone.

  1. Etiquette and manners are about consideration of those around you. If you remember nothing else about manners, remember this: Do Nothing That Will Draw Attention To Yourself. (The Lady says: Please reconsider your public ringtone)
  2. Speak softly and speak quickly.
  3. Do not discuss private topics or other people in a public place. Voices carry.
  4. Do watch your language and do not curse or swear. The Lady hopes you will do this on or off the cell phone!
  5. Do not repeatedly glance at your phone, text, or check the web while you are conversing with others.
  6. Do not be a distracted driver and use the cell while you are driving.
  7. Silence phones in theaters, libraries, churches, schools, meetings….anywhere that people can be disturbed.
  8. If it annoys you when you see others doing it, it annoys others when you do it. Remember that people and relationships matter; be mindful of your habits and control them.

Technology is a wonderful thing…after all, it allows you to read this blog! How we handle the technology is another thing entirely.  The Lady is hopeful that a day will come when everyone in restaurants looks up at the person they are seated across from and not down at their phones.

Best Cell Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett