Busy Bee: When Does it Become Rude to Not Have Replied to an E-Mail?

Q: I’m generally a very busy person and often I don’t have enough time to reply straight away to e-mails I receive from family/friends. So, my question is what is the polite response time to family/friends – or to put it another way, after what period of time does it become rude to not have replied?

A: An email should be replied to in less than a week. If it will take you longer than a week to reply, a simple message saying something like “I got your email, I’ve been really busy but I want to catch up with you, I’ll email you back as soon as I get a moment ” would be fine. It acknowledges you have received the email, so the sender won’t be wondering whether maybe they had the wrong address for you, or there was some other delivery problem.

Irrational Implications: Dealing with Friends and Family That Make too Many Assumptions

Q: My husband and I work for the government in very stressful jobs. My in-laws are stuck in the cliche that working for the government is easy and imply frequently when we meet. I find it very offensive. Is there an appropriate way to broach this topic with them?’

A: Sure. Tell them that it hurts your feelings that they don’t take the time to understand that your jobs are challenging and stressful. Say, “May I tell you about just one week on the job so perhaps you understand?” If they brush off this effort, then continue to tell them, every time they comment, that they have upset you with their assumptions. And then change the subject. There is no need to be defensive or rude in return, just be matter-of-fact and move to a different topic.

 

Hedge Help: How can you ask Neighbors to Contribute to Yard Work?

Q: Recently, our next-door neighbors, were evicted from their home. The house now sits vacant, with weeds, tall grass, and newspapers in the driveway. My husband has gone over a few times and mowed the grass (front and back) and I have been picking up the papers. Is there a nice way to ask the neighbors on the other side of the vacant house to help us keep the property up until someone else moves in?

A: Sure. Invite them over for a cup of coffee and ask them if they are as distressed about the condition of the house as you are,  and if so, if they would be willing to lend a hand keeping it presentable until it is occupied again. The worst they can say is no, but it’s worth a try, and it’s also a nice chance to get to know them a little better.

Tired Third Wheel: How can you Handle Being Left out of a Friendship?

Q: I introduced two good friends of mine who didn’t previously know each other one night. One friend is a person I confide in and the other is a person I don’t trust but who always has idle time like myself so we often hang out. They exchanged phone numbers and have become friends. They are leaving me out of their friendship and my friendship with both has suffered. I’m hurt and feel selfish but I wish I could have the strength and security of both friendships again.’

A: It is always so hard when this happens and there is little you can do about it except make a point of keeping in touch and planning a get-together with one or the other, periodically, probably not both since your instinct that they are leaving you out wouldn’t make a threesome comfortable. It is not selfish at all to be hurt when something like this happens, but it is good to be as proactive as you feel comfortable being to maintain the friendships you once enjoyed. Be sure not to talk about the other when with one of them, especially since you don’t particularly trust the second friend and wouldn’t be sure what he would say or not say to your other friend.

Intrusive Inquiries: How can you Escape Personal Questions?

Q: I am graduating from college and just got my first job. I am very excited about it, but whenever I tell anyone, the first thing they ask is If you don’t mind me asking, how much are they paying you? I don’t feel comfortable answering that question. How do I get out of the situation politely? Thank you.’

A: Ask them right back, “Gosh! Why do you ask?  I’m just so excited to be starting this great job. . .” and then go on and say something else about the job. It is only the most persistent person who will go back to the original question. If that happens, reply honestly, “Oh, I’m sorry, but I never talk about salaries and money.” and leave it at that, changing the subject so there is not an awkward silence.