DEAR MISS MANNERS: I started a new job about a year ago, in a position that I’ve long hoped for and finally achieved. The issue I am experiencing is with a co-worker whose desk is near mine.
On top of frequent pacing, he talks to himself constantly, and it’s usually of a complaining nature. He also exclaims “God!” rather often.
While eating at his desk, he smacks his lips as he critiques the food to himself.
I’ve tried asking “Excuse me?” to let him know he’s thinking out loud, but the hint doesn’t seem to hit home. The use of a radio to drown out some of the comments has helped a bit, but I can’t play it too loudly, especially when needing to answer the phone.
Other than the annoying habits, he’s actually nice. Any suggestions?
GENTLE READER: It is endlessly confusing to Miss Manners that people who talk to themselves feel they are justified in being offended when another person responds. It seems to her that that is how communication works, and fair warning should be given if it is going to go otherwise.
She therefore suggests that you say, “I am afraid that it’s difficult to focus on clients when you are speaking out loud to yourself. Perhaps you can take your conversation to another room?”
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My mother-in-law is always telling me about things that I already know. I don’t want to sound like a know-it-all, but unfortunately she has lived a strait-laced life, and the things that shock her are nothing new to me.
I get a lot of news and things instantly through social media, whereas she is getting it later because she reads the daily newspaper or magazines. How do I tell her I already know something without sounding like a know-it-all?
GENTLE READER: Ask for more details: “I did hear about Brexit. But tell me, what’s the latest?”
There are always varying angles and different accounts to report, as well as the actual conversational part — asserting your own opinions. If politics prove to be too contentious, however, Miss Manners suggests you stick to less fraught subjects — if, that is, you can find them.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A friend of 40-plus years has again asked me not to have any contact with her married adult daughter.
Although she and her daughter are estranged, I prefer not to have conflict and to be impartial with family or friends who are having disagreements. In addition, I am 70 years old and do not appreciate being told who I can and cannot associate with.
GENTLE READER: “I cannot promise that, but I do swear that I will not act as a go-between or divulge any private details from either one of you.”
Miss Manners warns you, however, that once your old friend realizes that she has lost a valuable intelligence agent, she may reconsider her position.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, [email protected]; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.