Advice Columns

Miss Manners: Speak up if you don’t like speakerphones

Q: I have a sibling who oftentimes puts me on her speakerphone when we talk. It is frustrating to me, and I feel like she’s really saying, “I’m busy and don’t have time to talk.” I think it’s rude.

She probably uses her speaker function in her business as a real estate agent, but I would find the habit equally as abrasive if I were a client. I think speakerphones are fine for conference calls, but person to person, it sends a negative message.

How would you handle this, or just let it go? Maybe I am wrong. If so, that answer would suffice.

A: Using a speakerphone during a private conversation is not actually rude, unless that conversation is not actually private. Miss Manners is inclined to be lenient on the mechanics of the situation as long as there is an understanding that any previously unspecified listeners are always announced.

If you find it otherwise intolerable, then you may say, “I am afraid this connection is bad. Sometimes speakerphones can muddy the sound reception — and I don’t want to miss anything. Do you mind taking me off and seeing if it is any better?” And then tell them that it is.

Q: I am about to have my second child, and I am formula-feeding this baby, as I did my first. Any recommendations for a more polite response than “None of your darn business” when asked why I chose to formula-feed? I prefer not to go into my mental health and prescribed medications with anyone but my husband.

A: “Thank you for your concern, but this was a decision made between our doctor and our family.” While you clearly should not have to justify your parenting choices, it is Miss Manners’ hope that citing a professional authority — one not of the internet variety — will quiet these nosy inquiries.

Q: I told a good friend, who was 63 at the time, was still working and had two kids under the age of 18, that he could collect Social Security checks for them until they turned 18, as I did.

At first, he did not believe me; then when he inquired and it was all true, he quit his job that he HATED and has collected over $60,000 in the past three years.

I never received even a thank-you. I dropped a few “you owe me’s,” but they fell on deaf ears. If that was me, I would have sent him at least dinner for two somewhere. I never ignore someone who does me a favor. Any other way to handle this besides letting it go?

A: For three years you have been waiting for this thank-you? If you were involved (as Miss Manners’ own dear father was) in actually setting up the Social Security system, then the whole country owes you a debt of gratitude.

But if this is not, in fact, the case, while a thank-you for the tip might have been nice, your burgeoning grudge most definitely is not. If Miss Manners informed you of a sale at a retail store, would she then deserve a cut of the money you saved? Unfortunately for you, your only choice is to let it go — or to enter a field where a commission is warranted.

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,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.