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Reblogged:Judith Martin on Insults-as-Icebreakers

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Being an introvert, I have been told I seem aloof in public settings -- which usually suits me. As a result, I can't think of a specific time I could have used the following advice during the years I spent as a part-time stay-at-home dad. Nevertheless, I loved this Miss Manners response to a stay-at-home dad who keeps finding himself on the receiving end of thoughtless or insulting comments being used to start conversations.

Judith Martin answers him in part:
Image by froot, via Pixabay, license.
Answer with a quizzical look, as if you did not understand what was said. After all, it is incomprehensible that a stranger just suggested you would not voluntarily spend time with your own children.

Forcing them to repeat themselves should prompt them to recognize their own inanity, if not their rudeness.
The rest of this is good, too, and is, as always with Miss Manners's wisdom, applicable to a wider variety of situations than the one she addresses.

All I could add to this is to emphasize the stated goal of the father in question: He wants to shut down conversations started in such a manner. I, too, was sometimes on the receiving end of comments like these, which I usually read as thoughtless but well-meaning. But I could tell from the context that these were more of a greeting than an attempt to initiate a dialog.

Even knowing about this jewel of a response, I probably would still do what I did then: Nod or smile (depending on the level of goodwill I felt) and move on. Ditto for the opposite end of that spectrum -- when the comment in no way comes from a place of good will and engagement seems practically guaranteed to be worse than no action at all.

-- CAV

P.S. I just remembered seeing someone do this in a public setting...

Back in my Houston days, I went with some coworkers to hear a talk at another institution by author-neurologist Oliver Sacks. I remember him brushing aside a rude question during his Q&A by claiming to be hard of hearing and having the person repeat himself a couple of times. Then he apologized for still being unable to understand the question and moved on.

I am pretty sure everyone else in the room understood the question, though. Brilliant.

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