DEAR MISS MANNERS: We have a relative by marriage who seems to feel that her family is superior to ours, which is her prerogative.
However, over the years we have discerned that she seems to lack a filter in expressing arrogant and insulting opinions and thoughts. Whatever enters her stream of consciousness seems to come out of her mouth.
I can generally ignore this, except when she insults members of my immediate family such as my mother or brother. I say nothing, but then deeply regret not defending them afterwards. At our last family luncheon, she made a comment about me, TO me, that was so offensive it was actually quite amusing. She was not perceptive enough to grasp this. (This woman has a master’s degree, so she does not lack intelligence.)
Should I continue to ignore her slights, or should I gently respond, without reflecting anger or annoyance? I’ve read that confronting bullies can encourage them to back away.
GENTLE READER: So does laughing at them, although Miss Manners recognizes that this can backfire. If it happens again, you could follow up by saying, “Oh, I am so sorry. You were serious. I have never been addressed that way before and did not know how to respond.”
If she is insulting your family members, however, you are well within your rights to defend them. “I am afraid that we do not speak to each other that way in this family,” said in a calm and friendly tone, should accomplish the desired effect -- while also reinforcing that she is not, in fact, an original member of your family and had better mend ways if she would like to act like one.