Open Thread

by epi on August 29, 2011

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This open thread is your space to use as you like.  We invite you to discuss current and traditional etiquette. Feel free to ask questions of each other and the community moderators here.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Just Laura August 29, 2011 at 10:54 am

Friends,
This weekend I had the opportunity to meet my husband’s business partner’s fiance. We hadn’t met before because she recently had her second baby and is understandably busy. Unfortunately, by the time I met her, she was “three sheets to the wind” as my mother phrases it. Imbibing doesn’t bother me, but probably explains her actions. For the next half hour, she proceeded to tell me how much she always hated me and why (yes, the word “hate” was used multiple times). As I sipped my diet coke (I was DD), I heard all about my perceived flaws and how angry I have made her. The point of the conversation was to tell me that she no longer hates me, but did because of some things she thought I’d said. As it turns out that I did not say them or they were misinterpreted, she thinks the world of me, and looks forward to spending more time with me. During the time I mostly nodded my head and drained my glass.

I know none of us are on our best behavior when inebriated, but I also believe that true feelings can come out during this time. I was extremely uncomfortable during this encounter, but didn’t put her off because I don’t want my husband’s business partnership to suffer. As it stands, I simply would rather spend minimal time with her in the future. I also wonder, however, if I should let this slide as I realize I’m far from perfect when drinking – perhaps I shouldn’t rush to judge. Still, I was hurt that someone would hate me before even meeting me, based upon statements taken out of context, and then would tell me all about her hatred toward me. I’ve never dealt with this before.

What do you suggest?

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Camille August 29, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Hopefully she is mortified. I agree with your statement that true feelings come out when in a drunken state…….that said……..it seems as if she is actually telling you that she was wrong about her feelings for you. That she judged you before knowing you and she is sorry. ? I like Elizabeth’s advice – give her another chance to be a decent person.

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Vanna Keiler August 29, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Hi Laura. I’m going to take a less forgiving, more professional stand on your situation. The fiance was not your husband’s employer’s fiance, but his business partner’s future wife. That would ring a warning bell to me on behalf of my husband for his partner’s choice in parter (e.g. why did she feel the need to get drunk/be drunk during a supposed business dinner meeting?). Did not your husband or his partner notice her excessive drinking or inebriated state?

I think at a minimum, she left a pretty poor first impression with you, a complete stranger. The onus is on her to apologize for her inappropriate discussion with you, however positive the outcome of that encounter was. However, somehow, I doubt that she will be forthcoming with that apology (call me a cynic or realist). I would absolutely tell my husband about your impression of her, and not have him keep it to himself, but rather inform his partner. For future business purposes, your husband does not want to learn in the future of a horrible business meeting outcome because his inebriated partner’s wife could not control her behavior or her mouth in front of a potential client’s wife…

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Just Laura August 29, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Let me clarify a few points:
My husband owns a pub (so there will always be alcohol involved). The partner is the manager, dependably works there every day, and the partner does not imbibe out of choice. The partner is aware of Fiance’s behavior since he finally retrieved her, explaining to her that it was time for her to go home. My husband and I showed up to the establishment after she had been there for an hour or so (getting a head start, if you will). My husband didn’t witness any of the encounter as he was welcoming new people and speaking with some of the staff. My husband is now aware, and the partner has apologized to me. However, my problem was not with the partner, and I let the partner know I didn’t hold this against him personally.

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Elizabeth August 29, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Vanna makes a number of excellent points. Were you sitting together with your husbands during this episode? What was their respective reactions? Did it make you think that this behavior was typical for her (did her husband act like it was no big deal)? How involved (if at all) is she in the business?

However, absent any other information, I still think it’s possible for this to have been a fluke thing…perhaps something happened to have thrown her completely out of sorts? (This is the best you can hope for, anyway.)

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Kay August 31, 2011 at 5:48 pm

The question I would wonder is why did she have these opionions about you without ever meeting you? Her opinions had to materialize from somewhere/thing since you all never met. What statements did she take out of context? Her unsolicited ‘sharing’ is about her not you and therefore I personally wouldn’t do anything with this. With that said tho, any situation that would make me uncomfortable (like this), I would politely excuse myself and go talk to someone else (no matter who they are!)–particularly if the situation comes up again.

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Just Laura August 31, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Without boring you with details, she thought I had said semi-disparaging things about her fiance (my husband’s partner). I had not, and her fiance had corrected her on a couple of points (which was nice that I didn’t have to). It was a matter of her hearing only part of a conversation, or hearing only what she wanted to hear.
Have you ever tried to excuse yourself from an extremely inebriated woman? Lots of hugging, and social cues get lost in the wind. ah, well.

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Elizabeth August 29, 2011 at 11:19 am

Dear Laura,
Wow…that sounds like quite an evening. It must have been really unpleasant for you, and this woman cannot have made a poorer impression on you. However, now that she’s sobered up, she probably realized the enormity of the gaffe she made and is probably (hopefully) terribly embarrassed.

Without a lot more information, it’s impossible to know whether this woman was just really drunk, or whether she is normally prone to hyperbole, over-sharing, over-emoting and all of the other flaws of poor character she displayed during your time together.

For the sake of your husband and his business partnership, I think the generous thing to do would be to chalk the evening up to her nervousness and insecurity, leading to over-drinking and then over-sharing. It would be nice of you to without final judgment before giving her another chance and getting to know her in her normal sober state. It’s completely possible that she will turn out to be every bit the loathsome person you’ve found her to be, but she also might surprise you.

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Nina August 29, 2011 at 11:30 am

Just Laura, I guess people are a bit different when they are drinking, but I’ve never encountered anyone who could be *that* belligerant and hostile when ineberiated, but lovely and gentle when sober. My advice is to give her wide bearth, be polite but distant when you meet, and never ever say a word against her, at least not to anyone but your husband under the cone of silence.

If you’ve perceived her wrongly, you’ll probably encounter her enough at business functions to figure it out. I certainly wouldn’t pursue social interactions with someone who would lead off on that foot–why would you? If your husband is urging you to do so, maybe it’s necessary, but I’m not sure what to suggest if that’s the case. Maybe try going to the movies together, or something else that would allow you to be silent throughout. Probably the other folks in the forum will have better suggestions.

If it’s any comfort, for a lady who could invent this much drama with someone she’s never met, you’re probably the least of her worries.

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aprilmae August 29, 2011 at 1:20 pm

I recently was at a retirement party and a woman I know was distributing wedding invitations at the event. What are the rules on this ? I thought it was very tacky.

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Winifred Rosenburg August 29, 2011 at 1:34 pm

It depends. Was everybody at the event invited? If so, that’s actually polite in an old-fashioned way when invitations were always given in person. If not, it was extremely tacky.

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aprilmae August 29, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Everyone at the event was not invited.

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Elizabeth August 29, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Yep, Tacky McTackerson all the way.

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Vanna Keiler August 29, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Agreed. Furthermore, if it was my retirement party or I was the host of the party, I would be annoyed someone is walking around giving out invitations for a party in view of others (not invited). It’s inappropriate behavior if it is not condoned/approved beforehand by the host.

Somewhat reminds me of another thread a few months ago, where the photographer was doing business on the side while contracted to work for the bride and groom at their wedding ceremony. If I were the bride and groom at that event, I would have asked for a cut in the action.

Camille August 31, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Tacky McTackerson…. ha ha hahah ha

Shirrine Siminpour August 30, 2011 at 8:35 pm

My little sister called me in tears this morning and explained to me that her bosses fathers funeral was today and she did not attend. The company that she has worked for many years is very family oriented and her bosses expressed to other co-workers that they were disappointed she did not show. She didn’t make it because emotionally she did not know how to handle the overwhelming feelings she was experiencing as she is young and has never experienced a passing before. The day prior of the funeral she did however attend the wake and was very emotionally distraught after-wards which is what prompted her decision not to attend the funeral the next day. She now feels very guilty and is extremely sad with her decision and has confided in me what she should say or do, if anything, to her bosses. Would it be inappropriate for her to try and explain to them why she did not attend? Anything she should or shouldn’t say? Any advice??

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Andy August 31, 2011 at 10:27 am

That sounds like a tough situation, and I’m curious to hear what advice others have to offer. Personally, I think that the explanation that your sister was emotionally overwhelmed might not sound that great to her boss, since he or she was the one who lost a loved one, and was probably feeling significantly worse than your sister, but had no choice but to pull themselves together for the funeral.

It seems inappropriate to express disappointment to co-workers, though, behind your sister’s back. This seems like something that should be between your sister and her boss. Maybe your sister could simply apologize for not attending (was she expected to, and did she know she was expected to?) without offering what may sound like excuses, even if they seemed like valid reasons. Or send flowers with a heart-felt message on the card, if she’s too shy to speak to the boss directly?

Even if she can’t “fix” this, I guess your sister can learn from the experience, and not repeat the mistake, which is always a good thing, right?

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Andy September 1, 2011 at 9:50 am

Good point, Vanna Keiler. I read “family oriented” and thought “family business,” which is not necessarily the same thing. In any case, if the sister was expected to attend (and especially if she was given time off to do so), it’s probably not great that she didn’t. I can’t see this being a career-ender, but if she was truly expected to attend, and that was clear, some sort of apology is probably in order. But I work for a very small, fairly close-knit company, and would not necessarily attend my boss’s family funeral, any more than I would expect him to attend my family member’s funeral, but would express my condolences in some other way. Truly not fair if the sister was unaware of the expectation, and is now being judged for her absence.

Again, though, if she was expected to attend, and was aware of it, I wouldn’t excuse her absence, especially for emotional reasons. As adults, we’re expected to deal with unpleasant situations whether or not we want to, and in this situation, I doubt excuses would be appreciated. To me, it’s kind of like declining an invitation- you just say no thanks, you don’t have to explain why. If the sister is really sorry that she didn’t attend (and it sure sounds like she is), she could just say that, which might sound more sincere. I really think that telling her boss she was too upset to attend would come off as belittling the boss’s own grief (I know I would be less than sympathetic if someone said that to me), but that’s just my opinion!

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Annabelle August 31, 2011 at 2:57 pm

I think that this may be a case where a tactfully worded card could help a lot. Perhaps address it to the family and say something along the lines of

“I am so sorry to hear about so-and-so’s passing, and my thoughts and prayers are with your family. What a beautiful, touching, and overwhelmingly moving wake. Although I was unable to attend the funeral, for personal and emotional reasons, I have confidence that it was an equally beautiful and moving service as well. Please, if there is anything that I can do for you in this time of need, do not hesitate to reach out to me. Sincerely, you.”

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Vanna Keiler August 31, 2011 at 9:24 pm

I’m a little confused. Is this a family business? Family owned and run businesses seem to operate under different business etiquette, sometimes. If this is truly a “family-oriented” organization, where non-family are made to feel like family members, and are treated as such, and the sister has enjoyed the “perks” associated with a family-run organization, she may have been expected to attend, as an honorary family member. If that were the case, I advise her to follow advice from Andy and Annabelle. If this is not necessarily a family run or family owned business, I would be as flummoxed as the little sister and reconsider if I would want to be a part of this business “family” or find another organization to work for where the expectations are easier to guess and follow.

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Winifred Rosenburg September 1, 2011 at 10:39 am

I hope Shirrine Siminpour doesn’t mind me tagging on to her question. I was curious if anyone knows of any guidelines for when you have to go to a funeral? The question of “should I go to the funeral?” seems to come up a lot.

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Country Girl September 1, 2011 at 11:18 am

My feelings are I will attend a funeral if I knew the deceased fairly well, or if I care enough about someone affected by the death to be there to support them.

A funeral is a mourning of passing and celebration of someone’s life, not really a socializing event. I find it strange that anyone not close to the deceased be “expected” to attend a funeral. (Unless of course, as Andy mentions, one was given time off of work to do so.)

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Alicia September 1, 2011 at 11:35 am

Winifred- I’m not sure of the formal answer but my real life answer is the following. When in doubt attend! You will never ever cause offense by attending and supporting the family. These are the tough awful times for folks and support means the world to people. So pretty much always if in any doubt err on the side of attend. You will want folks to attend and to be there for you when it is your time that someone very close to you passes away.

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