DEAR MISS MANNERS: My parents are taking my husband and me on an island vacation with them this summer. We haven’t always had the best relationship, although things have been going well for some time now.
Could you provide some tips on how to vacation with parents and/or in-laws, what to remember and what to avoid, that might help me (and others) contribute to the creation of a memorable experience for all?
GENTLE READER: It is all too easy to have a memorable experience when vacationing with relatives with whom you have not always gotten along. Miss Manners would have thought your goal was the opposite.
The answer to your question is: relentless good manners. That would bar any complaints, whether about the conditions of the trip or the history of the relationship, in favor of showing appreciation for this opportunity. Oh, and don’t talk politics.
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That may be counterintuitive in an age that considers rudeness more relaxing and therefore more appropriate to a vacation. It might also help to preserve some time for separate activities, which will be easier to do if your island destination is closer in size to Greenland than to Grenada.
Give spell-check a try
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am the president of a homeowners’ association at times I write memos that require answers, but instead of answering the questions, two of our members’ sister-in-laws instead let me know that I miss spelled a word.
Repeatedly I have apologized for my lack of spelling skills, but still they have to go on about how I cannot spell and I should use a dictionary because roof is not spelled roff, a simple error, they understood the content.
Is it rude to tell someone they made a mistake rather then just answer the question?
GENTLE READER: It is. Otherwise, Miss Manners would have pointed out that “misspelled” is one word, not two; it’s “sisters-in-law,” and run-on sentences are exhausting.
In search of good conversation
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is there a polite way to get away from boring people?
GENTLE READER: There are many, but application and effectiveness depend on context.
The person at a cocktail party buffet can be escaped with a simple “Excuse me.” The person on your left at a dinner party can, after a decent interval, be dismissed with the excuse of attending to the person on your right. (If the right-hand person is equally dull, you may have to wait for dessert.)
For spouses and other relatives, Miss Manners cautions that lasting solutions lie outside the boundaries of etiquette.
Tread lightly with boss
DEAR MISS MANNERS: How should I respond when a supervisor at work apologizes for being cranky?
It is nice that they apologized because they were cranky. However, I somehow feel that acknowledging that they were cranky could be an insult to them, and so simply saying “thank you” might not work toward my career goals.
GENTLE READER: Illogical as such behavior would be on the part of your supervisor, Miss Manners recognizes that you may be right. The trick is to downplay the impact of the behavior without denying its existence: “That’s kind of you to apologize, but please, don’t worry about it.”
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
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