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

Time to De-escalate This Non-fight

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My wife and I were watching the news when our adult daughter called on the landline. My wife answered, and I muted the TV as she returned to her chair for what ended up being a 15-minute conversation.

When she ended the call, she saw that I was a little annoyed. She asked why, and I said that I thought she was being rude by having that one-sided chat -- she didn’t either leave the room or put the call on speaker so I could participate.

She said she didn’t see the rudeness, and that I could have taken the TV off mute while she continued to talk on the phone. When I asked her to look at it from my perspective, she said she still didn’t see the rudeness.

The rest of the evening was pretty frosty. What do you think?

GENTLE READER: That, like many homebound people during the pandemic, you and your wife are going stir-crazy. There is no reason that so trivial a domestic conflict should have turned your evening frosty.

You list the measures your wife could have taken, but Miss Manners has a similar list for you: You could have gestured that you wanted to be part of the conversation or that she should take the call in another room. Or you could have turned the television sound on low -- just loud enough to have driven her out of the room.

Please tell your wife that you don’t know why you were so upset, so that she can say the same to you. Domestic peace must be restored.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a church-group friend with whom I share a weekly social video visit. We are retired, have much in common, are generous in helping each other, and laugh a lot.

However, now that her political party is out of power, she has been interrupting me often, and she patronizes me if I respond to her diatribes with civility and kindness. She has made presumptuous and negative statements that I consider verbally abusive.

She has said that I am told what to think and do, while she has the actual facts. This, to a woman with an international career and a daily habit of scanning the news in six international papers, in two languages!

I feel that she has now expressed the contempt she actually had for me all along, and wonder how you recommend handling this.

GENTLE READER: Have you tried asking (civilly and kindly) for a ban on discussing politics?

And it doesn’t work?

Next method is to refrain from arguing, and instead to encourage your friend to elaborate on her statements and explain her feelings. Questions should be asked in a neutral tone: Where did you hear that? Have you investigated it? Have you always felt this way? Does your family feel the same way?

That might not work, either. In that case, Miss Manners agrees that it is best not handled. Perhaps when you meet again in person, the friendship can resume if the lady is more respectful.

(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.)