DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am planning a wedding, and my husband-to-be would like his "Best Man" to be a woman. I have read that this is perfectly acceptable, however, I can not seem to find what we would call her in the program. Best Woman? Best Person? These just do not sound quite right! Help!
GENTLE READER: Best friend, and please put your hair back. You are going to need it to pin your veil on.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My question relates to how a professional should deal with clients who do not have good manners. I am an attorney. Since 1998, I have represented a company in a litigation matter that is still ongoing. At times, I have had almost daily dealings with Ms. X., my client contact; at other times, we can go for several weeks without contact.
Recently, I read that this same client was sued in a matter unrelated to the litigation I am handling for it, but in an area where I have extensive experience for other clients. I called Ms. X and left a detailed voice mail asking her to call me, at her convenience, so that we could discuss the matter. The next day, I followed up with an e-mail in which I listed my qualifications in this area and the qualifications of other members of my firm to assist the client in this new matter.
I also asked her to let me know, one way or the other, whether this was something she would be interested in discussing with me. After three more days, I followed up with a phone call and left a message with Ms. X.'s secretary asking Ms. X to call me about the new litigation.
A couple of weeks later, I called Ms. X to discuss a matter in the case I am handling. When we had finished discussing that matter, she quickly said, "Oh, on that other matter, sorry I never got back to you, I've just been swamped."
In response, all I said was, "Have you been too busy to retain counsel?" She then told me that she had retained other counsel.
One of my partners told me that my response was inappropriate, that I should have said something like, "Oh that's OK" in response to her statement that she was very busy. I obviously disagree, since I do not think it was OK.
Granted, all of my calls were part of an effort to persuade Ms. X to hire me to handle the new litigation, but I still think it is rude to ignore professional phone calls, and that she should have returned my call even if it was simply to thank me for my interest and then inform me that the company had already retained other counsel. Moreover, I do not consider her uttering the word "sorry" to be an apology, so I don't think I was under any compulsion to accept this non-heartfelt apology.
Was I wrong? And, although I do not think it matters, Ms. X has never informed me that she was displeased with how I have handled the ongoing litigation. (My position is that, even if she was displeased, she still should have had the common courtesy to return my phone calls.)
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners trusts that you are one of those rare lawyers who immediately returns all telephone calls and would never dream of keeping a client waiting.
But, are you also so meticulous in responding to solicitations to purchase something?
In such cases, the understanding is that the target responds if interested. If you use an existing social or business relationship to embarrass the person into giving your offer special consideration, you have to allow for the fact that the person will, in fact, be embarrassed.
Sometimes such a person is embarrassed into saying yes when the answer would otherwise have been no; other times, as is the case here, the target simply hides. Your continuing to pursue the matter when the client was obviously not interested sounds to Miss Manners remarkably like hounding.