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Well, I really don't know what to say ....

"Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you -

not because they are nice, but because you are."

- Unknown

It's so easy to be polite when everyone is being nice to us, isn't it? It makes sense because generally, kindness begets kindness.

In Chapter 7 of our book, The Marvelous Millennial's Manual to Modern Manners, we cover how to deal with rude people at work without being a doormat.

But here we're going to talk about dealing with rude people (either intentionally or obliviously so) at social gatherings. While many of us are staying put this Thanksgiving holiday - still others may be going to aThanksgiving Dinner with family, friends and even some friend of friends. (Though, we hope people will celebrate the holidays safely by complying with the COVID protocols of your local area).

So there you are standing near the fire enjoying its warmth, the host has just topped off your glass of champagne and all is good. All of a sudden you turn to face one of these unfortunately awkward scenarios:

  • Your aunt gives you a hug hello, squeezes you a second longer as she asks, "So how is that diet going?"

  • A friend sincerely congratulates you on your new job but then asks, "How much are you making now?"

  • A frenemy (friend + enemy) takes one look at your ring finger and wonders, "I can't believe he hasn't proposed yet, are you two ever getting married?"

  • Your sister-in-law exclaims, "You look great, but why do you always wear your hair down?"

  • A friend of a friend walks over and smiles and asks, "Who did you vote for in this year's presidential election?"

Haven't we all been in a situation like this at least once before. You most likely freeze. You literally don't know what to say. You know what you want to say - but you don't. Why? Because you are a nice and polite person and know that oftentimes one should not say the first thing that pops into one's mind. Moreover, when you're amongst friends and family, and a guest at a special event, you understandably don't want to create a scene. You don't want to be somehow labeled the "Debbi-downer", "Sensitive-Susan" or the "Primly-Paula".

While you could do the social version of the SMOVE (smile (tight-lipped to signal displeasure) and move on - also discussed in Chapter 7) and take another (large) sip of your champagne, provide a tight-lipped smile and walk away, why not learn how to say something while maintaining your graciousness?

What to say? You have options.

If someone you like asks you a nosy question about a sensitive topic but you think they are asking because they're coming from a good place (aunt wants you to be healthy or your friend is excited about your job in the examples above), you should smile warmly, deflect the question and pivot to a new topic, if you want to keep a new conversation going.

In that case, you could say one of these examples, "Oh, let's not get into that right now" or "if I told you I'd have to kill you" or "I can't let the cat out of the bag" or "I really can't say". Then keep smiling as you get past their question by using one of these transition phrases, "That reminds me" (to bridge to a related topic) or "Funny, you should mention that" (to bridge to a related topic) or "Not to change the subject but" (to start a new topic of conversation). The key here is to use your body language (including voice inflection) to convey you friendliness. Some advise turning the tables a bit to ask, "and why do you ask". It is a good question in that it should cause the person to actually stop and think about why they asked such a sensitive question. However, we only advise doing that if you're prepared to continue the conversation on said topic.

When it's someone you don't know who asks you the awkward or personal question - please give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they aren't that good at striking up conversations. In that instance, confidently but kindly signal you don't want to talk about that topic (by using the phrases we provided above) and pivot to a new topic where you are comfortable. Ask them open-ended questions so they do more of the talking as you gather information and determine if you want to get to know them. Remember, sometimes first impressions aren't always correct.

If, on the other hand, you are asked one of those awkward, impolite, personal or just plain rude questions by someone mean and you really don't want to continue a conversation with them, you could just simply say in a confident and in-control tone, "I'd rather not say", "I'd prefer not to talk about this right now", "I don't think it's appropriate to talk about it right now" or "that's a little too personal". Smile, excuse yourself ("I need to go see the host", "I need to refresh this champagne", or "I need to check on grandpa") then, with a slight nod of the head, turn and leave. Don't huff and stomp off, don't rush off. You are elegant, poised and in control. Glide away from them and toward a more pleasant individual. The key here is to not let them see you lose control or be rude or snarky in reply. Reject their invitation to rudeness. They've showed their true colors and now you are going to show yours, by being poised and polite - but no doormat.

Maintain your graciousness by respecting yourself, your host and your surroundings enough to maintain adult self-restraint.

Have a marvelous week and a safe and peaceful Thanksgiving holiday -


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