DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a friend who is kind, intelligent and interesting. But she has a habit of doing something that really bothers me, and I’m not sure how to handle it.
She is not the kind of person who hands out compliments, and when she does, it doesn’t feel like one. Right after our youngest daughter’s wedding, she sent me a text to tell me how nice it was, but that she liked our other daughter’s wedding venue better.
I didn’t ask for her opinion. She did the same thing after we moved to a new house. I invited her over and without my asking, she told me our first house was her favorite. Again, I didn’t ask.
Why would you offer a compliment about a previous event or purchase during the current one? It’s so exasperating! And rude. I have always complimented her on her taste, her appearance, etc. and she never seems to have anything constructive to say to me. It seems so petty to let this bother me, but it does, and I’m not sure how to respond to these backhanded compliments. What do you advise?
GENTLE READER: That you get a better class of friends. Miss Manners recalls you starting this question by stating how kind and intelligent your friend was. Evidence seems to point otherwise.
You might respond, ”I am so sorry that you feel that way, but it seems there is nothing we can do about it now. I hope that you were/will be able to enjoy the evening, nevertheless.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: With the proliferation of online and desktop publishing, it seems that anyone with a computer and an idea can become an instant “published author.”
How do we, who would rather choose the books we want to read, respond politely to friends and even remote acquaintances who press their books on us, not just to read, but clearly for praise?
I’ve noticed lately that the energy with which these people pursue five-star ratings and praise -- but not honest critique -- seems to be in inverse proportion to the quality of the work.
The last time I was gifted with a book I would never have picked up, I thanked the person but mentioned that I had several reading projects in front of it. That hasn’t stopped her from checking in frequently for my glowing response.
I did read some of it. Life is too short to continue. How does one deal with this situation?
GENTLE READER: With less effort than you have been. By issuing a time frame for reading the book, you have invited the author to follow up on it by simply waiting a little longer before demanding a response. A simple thank-you for the book -- with no explanation of why there will be no future review -- will suffice.
If one is requested, you may say, “Oh, I thought it was a present. I’m afraid I do not consider myself a critic, or even much of a writer.” Miss Manners hopes that for your sake, this particular book’s author will eventually find the same humility.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)