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Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Friends' Self-Criticism Doesn't Require Your Response

DEAR MISS MANNERS: How should I handle "compliments" that are really an insult to the person delivering the compliment?

I have friends who frequently say things like, "It's great to see you walking every morning with your kids. I really have no excuse for being so lazy in the mornings," or "You look so healthy! I really need to start eating better."

I never know how to respond to these comments. I work hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to help combat depression that I have struggled with for years. I certainly don't spend any time worrying about my friends' exercise plans or eating habits.

What is a gracious way to accept the compliment without accepting the criticism?

GENTLE READER: You are hardly responsible for their self-flagellation. There are those who are unable to regard other people, even with admiration, without making comparisons to themselves.

So Miss Manners allows you to consider that while the compliment was directed toward you and may be answered with a simple "thank you," the criticism -- with which you can hardly argue -- may be ignored as a note-to-self.

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

Read more in: Etiquette & Ethics | Friends & Neighbors