Open Thread

by epi on February 18, 2013

Welcome to the Etiquette Daily

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.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Nessy February 18, 2013 at 2:05 am

Hello – thank you for a lovely and helpful website. I have a question that has been bothering me for many years and am hoping for some suggestions.

Both my husband’s sister and my brother have a history of asking very personal questions regarding our financial situation opening with the line “If you don’t mind me asking…”.

I don’t really want them or the family knowing how much money we have in the bank, how much money was received from selling our home and other similar information for a variety of reasons. I really dread these conversations coming up (as they inevitably do). How do you respond to such a response without – a) caving, b) appearing rude, or c) leaving a black cloud hanging over a family gathering? Any suggestions greatly appreciated. Many thanks for any suggestions.

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Elizabeth February 18, 2013 at 8:34 am

Say with a bright smile, “Actually, I do mind you asking. It’s private. Have you tried the bean dip, it’s delicious!” You firmly draw a boundary, and then you redirect so as to minimize any awkwardness. You can also say, “I would prefer not to discuss it.” or “Sorry, we’ve decided not to discuss these matters with anyone outside the immediate family.” or “Why do you want to know?”

Keep in mind that they are being incredibly rude by asking you these sorts of questions. It is not rude of you to rebuff them. However, you can do it in a way that is more or less awkward, and by opening up another line of conversation immediately after you decline to answer, you give them an ‘out’. If they persist in questioning you, they are the ones casting a black cloud over the event, not you.

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Alicia February 18, 2013 at 8:35 am

“Oh how dull lets not talk about money. So please tell me about your underwater basket weaving/golf/ poodle collecting/insert hobby here?”

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Country Girl February 18, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Elizabeth and Alicia gave great advice on rebuffing nosy questions to very directly let the meddler know that their question is inappropriate.

If you are afraid of coming across as judgmental, another (perhaps more comfortable) option that I use is to simply be completely vague in your answer. “How much did you make off your house?” – “Well as you know, it’s complicated with all the costs involved with selling, but enough to put a down payment on our new house.”/ “How much are you making at your new job?” – “Oh just about the same as I was making at my previous job with the possibility of higher pay next year.”/ “How much do you have in your bank account?” – “We have actually been working pretty hard to put a portion of our earnings away every month, so we’ve been able to save some.”/ “How much did your car cost?” – “You know, actually I bought it used so I was able to get a fairly good deal.”

In my experience, most people are satisfied with this type of answer and actually get the hint that you aren’t comfortable disclosing an exact dollar number so won’t push further. And if they do push further, you can at that point always resort to a more direct “Sorry, I’m not really comfortable giving a figure.” answer.

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Nessy February 18, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Thanks so much for all of your useful suggestions! Alicia – you had me at poodle collecting!

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Leigh Fowkes February 18, 2013 at 10:39 am

My husband received an invitation to attend the investiture of a former client. I was not addressed on the invitation. Does this mean the invitation is only to him?

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Winifred Rosenburg February 18, 2013 at 1:02 pm

If it didn’t say “and guest” or anything like that, no you aren’t invited.

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dani February 25, 2013 at 1:32 pm

I have several of the Emily Post Etiquette books and i have perused the website as well as the web in general. I have a friend who is in the chorus of an opera. He performs in the opera for fun (he has a demanding day job and several other commitments during the week). I would like to give him a card and perhaps a gift that woudl help him get through the busy week but cannot find any ideas or if it’s even appropriate to give a “good luck” card or what to even say to someone performing in an opera. Perhaps it’s not appropriate to do anything. Perhaps just showing up at the opera is support enough. Any thoughts / recommendations would be greatly appreciated. I thought about a gift basket – but wasn’t even sure what to include in that. He’s running from his day job to the theater during the week, so thougth perhaps a gift basket with food items or something might be handy for him. I’m just truly at a loss and truly don’t even know what words of encouragement, if any, should be included in the card. Perhaps a quote from the opera?

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Alicia February 25, 2013 at 2:30 pm

This is a specific thing such that you have to go with the more general rules. Is a good luck gift acceptable? Certainly it could be a kind gesture if it is fitting with your relationship with this opera singer. Think about would make him happy? Some nice herbal tea may sooth a hard working voice, or some lovely hard candy, a nice scarf for his neck, you know him better and know what would be appreciated. For one of my exes who was in a theatrical production I brought him a dozen bacon roses on opening night. But go to the show and give applause that counts a lot.

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