Modern Etiquette: Defuse a thoughtless public blurt

Mon Oct 1, 2012 10:27am EDT
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By Mary M. Mitchell

SEATTLE (Reuters) - People say the most amazing things. Then they expect you to respond, which is difficult at best because you're too busy picking your chin off the floor.

At a recent barbeque, one guest announced that "all you carnivores should be ashamed" to eat the meal.

At the same party (did I say party?), another guest informed me that "only stupid people believe in God."

All I'd done to merit this salvo was to mention that on my way home from church, I noticed something-or-other. Then this same guest found it important to share yet another unsolicited opinion - mercifully, with someone other than myself - that "only poor people live in apartments."

A few days later at a business event, a former neighbor actually said to me: "I haven't seen you dressed up with makeup on. Your eyelashes are so long! Are they real?"

Clumsy as the comment was, it was a compliment, and I took it as such. Humor goes a long way in sticky situations like this, even though it's sometimes difficult to muster on the spot.

In reply, I mumbled something like, "You bet they're real. I grew them myself, organically."

Maybe I am just socializing with the wrong crowd. Still, I wonder if all the time we spend with our computers erodes our sensitivity and ability to be civil and pleasant to others. I also wonder about the best way to respond to such verbal assaults.   Continued...