DEAR ABBY: I have practiced law for 40 years as a trial lawyer and counselor, and have served as a mediator for more than 1,000 cases in the last seven years. In my role as a peacemaker and advocate of conflict avoidance, I have reached certain conclusions that might help your readers:
1. Learn to disagree without being disagreeable. It's all right to be assertive, but not aggressive, abusive or abrasive.
2. When someone says something with which you disagree, try not to be judgmental.
3. Maintain eye contact when greeting people, and shake their hands. (Touching is important.)
4. Be kind and courteous to everyone.
5. Remember that civility is a sign of strength, not weakness.
6. Speak softly. (People tune out loud, angry voices.)
7. Saving face is important. Give your opponent the opportunity to withdraw.
8. Your attitude is more important than your aptitude.
9. Mutual respect is the key to avoiding conflict.
10. Give the other person a chance to be heard without interrupting.
11. The shortest distance between two people is a smile. -- PETER S. CHANTILIS, ATTORNEY-MEDIATOR, DALLAS
DEAR PETER: Your suggestions are excellent. (My favorites are Nos. 7 and 11.)
DEAR ABBY: In my 32 years of living, I have spent every Christmas with my family. I am now in a serious relationship. My boyfriend and I recently decided to go skiing this Christmas during our short vacation time.
I called my mother to advise her that we wouldn't be spending Christmas Day with her and my large family, but I would love to come home for Christmas Eve.
My mother hung up on me and we haven't spoken since! She told me I was being unfair and selfish and that I should know how important the holidays are to her. I love my family, but I am an adult and should be able to make my own decisions without feeling guilty.
Isn't it time she let go? What happens one day when I have a family of my own? Is there a right or wrong? -- FEELING GUILTY IN LOS ANGELES
DEAR FEELING GUILTY: Your mother is wrong. Don't feel guilty. You are offering a fair compromise by attending the family gathering on Christmas Eve. And yes, you will want to establish holiday traditions of your own in the future. Why not begin now?
DEAR ABBY: The letter from the woman who complained about the lack of women's magazines in the auto repair waiting room prompts this letter.
I question whether the evaluation of a good auto repair shop depends on the coffee and reading material offered. Until recently, we had a shop where many mechanics took their cars to be repaired. The fellow was honest, but not the most personable man in the world. He charged fair prices and did excellent work. He didn't take advantage of people who didn't know much about mechanics, worked very long hours and died too young.
The new shop in town provides coffee, pastries, large-screen television and the latest magazines. They waltz you in, and a man in a white lab coat comes in to advise you what they'll have to do to your car. Since they jack up the prices if you look prosperous, it's best to leave your jewelry at home. -- RICHARD W. KOWALSKI, NORTHAMPTON, MASS.
DEAR RICHARD: You've made your point. However, all things being equal, many women would prefer to take their business to a woman-friendly environment.
To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600