DEAR MISS MANNERS: A couple who recently assumed a leadership role at my church announced that they wanted to become better acquainted with the families of the congregation. They scheduled 30-minute chats with individual families before and after church services.
They interviewed my husband and me using a prepared script of six pages, which included questions about our marriage, our psychological states and our disabled adult child. We replied truthfully to their questions.
I felt almost as if I had gone to a physician's office and undergone an unwarranted exam, in which we were judged, graded or evaluated. I also felt deceived since I was expecting a conversation, not a one-sided, in-depth interview.
This couple used their church status to obtain information that wasn't their business. My relationship with my husband doesn't involve them. My adult child's activities are not their concern, and neither is my mental state.
The wife now approaches me after services and tries to converse about my interests or activities that were revealed during the interview. I am polite, but distant. I don't want to make an enemy of this person.
How do I make her understand that I would prefer her to leave me alone? I am not angry with her, but I do not care to have these conversations.
GENTLE READER: If you will forgive Miss Manners for contradicting you, you are angry at having been interrogated -- and understandably so. But as you willingly cooperated up to this point, the couple is going to be perplexed if you give them the cold shoulder now.
You are left with two alternatives. The first: Each time you are approached, you can apologize and explain that you cannot talk now. This is less combative, but requires you to be always on the run. The second option is to write a letter -- to the couple or someone higher in the church hierarchy -- clarifying that since the interview was both more formal and more personal than you had expected, you trust that any information shared will be held in the strictest confidence -- like any other intimate information revealed to church personnel.