DEAR MISS MANNERS: I need some help on how to cut conversations short gracefully when acquaintances and strangers start going on and on about their intimate medical problems. I don’t want to seem uncaring and do not want to go around hurting others, but I am frankly fed up with self-centered people.
I am not close to these people, but I am about to start cutting them off with something like: “I am sorry to hear of your illness/misfortune, but I really can’t deal with hearing the details. Please rest assured I give you my best wishes, but I really must be going.”
Please give me something more polite!
GENTLE READER: Would you settle for something more effective (but within the bounds of politeness)?
In your most compassionate voice, say, “Please stop. I feel for you -- so much, in fact, that I get squeamish when I hear about illness, and you won’t want to be around me. I’m really sorry, and I hope you understand.” Miss Manners trusts that they will understand that the physical consequences of nattering on would be dire.