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

Responding to ‘I Hate What You Teach’

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I meet people I do not know, they ask me what I do for a living. Most often, when I reply what subject I teach, they say, “Oh, I always hated that in college.”

To which I want to reply, “And I am sure that I would hate what your life’s passion is, too. Please tell me what it is.” But I know that would just make matters even worse, as it would put them on the spot and make them apologize. Maybe that is what they should do, but not how it should come about.

Could you please give me a reply that tells them what they said was not very nice, but at the same time not make me an enemy for life?

GENTLE READER: ”I often hear that from people who are bad at ...” whatever it is that you teach.

If you had told Miss Manners your field, she could have helped you make it more specific. For example, “I often hear this from people who have trouble figuring out a 15 percent tip.” She asks only that you deliver it with a smile and a sympathetic tone.