DEAR MISS MANNERS: I live in a southern, tropical state. Though it is delightful and calm for most of the year (hence the tourists in the winter), we have a “hurricane season” that lasts six months, during which we prepare for possible bad weather.
Last season, my family and I survived a severe hurricane that badly damaged many parts of the area. Luckily, we were only slightly affected, the biggest problem being that we were without electricity for nearly a week. We were very thankful that we were spared, but nonetheless, it was a scary and anxious time for all of us.
During the recovery period, we heard from friends and acquaintances, including those from social media, who live in other areas of the country, most of whom were supportive. However, a few lacked any concern or sympathy for what we’d been through, jokingly implying, “What do you expect for living in that part of the country?”
The remarks were as hurtful as they were insensitive. Surely, we’re not the only ones who live in areas prone to weather-related problems, as there are many parts of the country that must worry about earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, fires and the like. We are well aware of the risks of living where we do, but that does not lessen the impact of a catastrophe upon our lives when it strikes, or the hurt from others’ lack of empathy.
How do we politely respond to those who not only make fun of where we live, but use a stressful time to imply that we should be accustomed to disaster?
GENTLE READER: “We appreciate your concern. We were comparatively lucky, and are heartbroken, as you must be, at the suffering of so many others. We certainly hope that Nature will spare you the tragedies and catastrophes that so many have experienced, here and elsewhere.”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My problem when talking with some people is that when I’m asked a question, the person asking does not give me time to answer it.
I do not stall or delay to answer; I open my mouth to speak, but before I can, the person who initially asked the question proceeds to either supply the answer by guessing several options, or just continues on the topic wondering “why such-and-such is so.” All this while I say nothing, because it is impolite to speak when another is speaking.
When she finally takes a breath, and I can say something, what is a polite way of saying, “If you would stop talking, I could fill you in on all the details”? Or would you have me do something other than respond at all?
GENTLE READER: Ah, yes, Miss Manners has met those people. And noticed that when they guess the answer to their own questions, they are always wrong.
Her solution is to remain silent, with a politely expectant smile on her face, while they stumble along. Eventually, they come to a stop, and -- here is the difficult part -- the silence, along with the smile, must be maintained.
They then realize that they have held an entire conversation with themselves, and are forced to restate the original question in order to get things going again. And this time, they tend to let you answer.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)