Wednesday, June 19 2024

Miss Manners: My friends vented to me… about me

Estimated read time 3 min read

Dear Miss Manners: I have been mortified, twice, by close friends while talking on the phone. They each told a story about another friend who repeatedly annoys them with a certain behavior. It was only later that I realized they were talking about me! What does Miss Manners think of this way of criticizing a friend?

That your friends are not as smart as they think they are.

Miss Manners wonders how they would respond to option 1 — “Oh my goodness, you’re talking about me! I had no idea that annoyed you! I am so, so very sorry! Please accept my apologies! I am mortified!” repeating yourself until they cringe in embarrassment — or option 2: “That is completely annoying! How can you stand such a person! Incredible!” and on and on, continuing not to let on that you realize it is you until their heads explode.

Dear Miss Manners: My father passed several months ago, and I need a polite way to ask well-meaning relations to stop calling to check in on me.

I have an extremely large extended family, but we are not close. As I cared for my father in his final weeks, I saw many relatives I hadn’t seen in decades. Prior to that, our only interactions were on social media, and rarely at that. Since then, several have been calling to “see how you’re doing” or to “lend an ear,” expecting that I’ll want to reminisce or receive emotional support.

The problem is that they knew my father as a wise, respected, favorite uncle and businessman. I knew a very different man — one who communicated with a raised voice and fists. As his executor, I have also learned much about his business practices that I wish I hadn’t. I would never divulge that I feel only relief at his passing, nor my reasons for feeling this way, as it serves no purpose to rob others of their treasured memories. I also realize that they may have their own desires for emotional support, but I don’t feel I can offer much in that regard.

I’ve thanked the callers for their thoughtfulness and assured them that I’m fine. I’ve changed the subject, I’ve asked how they are feeling and if they need support, and I’ve delayed returning calls. It all seems only to confirm their belief that “it hasn’t sunk in yet” and that they’ll need to continue to call until I’m ready to discuss my feelings in depth. I’ve come to dread the phone ringing. Is there a polite way to express that I truly don’t have a need to talk about my father’s passing and that there’s no need to continue to check on me?

Society used to recognize that grieving requires a period of mourning — and that sometimes the best way to support a friend’s loss is, when they ask to be left alone, to leave them alone.

Although your situation is atypical, your need for privacy is not, and Miss Manners recommends you assert it. Thank your friends and family for their support, tell them you need some time to yourself now — and, most importantly, turn off the ringer.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

#Manners #friends #vented

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