Conversation: a two-way street
Q We have a friend who, when asked a question, goes off on tangents about the history of the topic, or some extraneous detail, and sometimes doesn’t even answer the question by the time he’s done. He’s very knowledgeable, but this is maddening. Is there a polite way to stop him?
A The minute he veers off topic, interrupt him gently and say, “John, that’s really interesting and I’d love to hear more about it sometime, but the question was . . .” Then repeat the question. Hopefully, you can help him focus with a little guidance and then get back to his discourse, or not, depending on the circumstances.
Q When we travel, we often hire a town car to drive us to the airport and pick us up when we get home. How do you handle tipping, and how much do you tip?
A When you book the car, ask the dispatcher to include the tip in your bill, which presumably is going on a credit card. If they can’t do this, for some reason (most do), then you would tip 20% of your fare, in cash, directly to the driver.
Q I have a friend who always asks, “Who else will be there?” when I invite her to a party or gathering. I feel like she’s checking it out to see if it’s worth her while to attend, depending on who the other guests are. Am I being too sensitive?
A No, you are not. Once she has replied in the affirmative, it is not quite so inappropriate for her to ask who else might be attending, but she shouldn’t ask before saying “yes” or “no.” On the other hand, when it is a small group of friends or acquaintances, it is nice for you to say, “Sally, we’re planning a small dinner party for next Saturday. We’re hoping you can be here — we’re also asking Chris and Grace and Jim and Linda.” There’s no reason for you to keep that information to yourself, and it helps her understand the scope of your invitation.
Q I’m getting divorced and somebody told me I have to return my engagement ring to my soon-to-be-ex. Is this true?
A No. If an engagement is broken it is protocol to return the ring, but this is not the case for a divorce. The ring is yours to keep or sell, as you wish.
Q A very good friend recently eloped with his long-time girlfriend, whom I have met. Is it required that I send them a gift?
A No, it certainly is not required, but you may send a gift if you would like to, in celebration of their marriage and your friendship. You also may send just a card of best wishes. It is entirely your choice, but it is very nice to acknowledge their marriage. Just because they didn’t have a wedding with guests doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t express your happiness for them.
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