Miss Manners: I hate being rude to my voice-activated speaker

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Dear Miss Manners: I have a voice-activated speaker, and for the most part, it’s a useful pleasure all day long. But I have a complaint that I can not find a solution to.

It used to be that when the timer alarm went off, I could say “thank you” and hear some variant of “you are welcome” in return, and then the alarm stopped. Now I still hear “you are welcome”, but the alarm goes off.

I have searched for a solution on the web and found nothing. It feels so much less polite, not to mention less friendly, that I have to say “Stop.”

I’m aware that you are not technical support. But can you help?

Mens Miss Manners shares your frustration, she remains in conflict with the need to be polite to robots (for example, she has no regrets about putting on them).

But she agrees that when it is one’s constant companion – and especially in the presence of children – such entities should be treated with courtesy. She therefore adds her hope that the people responsible for programming these things can find more polite ways in which we can talk. And while they’re at it, they might find a more polite way to get a device’s attention than shouting “Hello!”

In the meantime, you can always add a “please” to your “stop”.

Dear Miss Manners: Is it OK to lick your fingers while eating fried chicken in public?

Only if you supports it on tv.

Dear Miss Manners: A friend asked me to drive her across town to a doctor’s appointment. I did not say no, but told her that I really do not like driving across the city, especially through the center. She got angry and said she would ask a neighbor.

She has been holding grudges for several months now, and several times she has mentioned that she is buying something for someone who has helped her. She comments “what good friends she has” who will “do everything for her.”

I feel like this is an excavation on me. The other day she said, “I will never ask you to do anything again because you said no.” Then we had a quarrel and no longer speak. Am I wrong? Should I apologize?

It is likely not the fact that you said no, but the casual way you effectively said “I do not feel like it” that your friend found so offensive.

Miss Manners does not encourage you to lie, only that it is unnecessary to reveal the whole insulting truth. She wished she could persuade her readers to stop “just being honest” and start using the phrase, “I’m afraid I can not.” Unnecessarily hurt feelings are so often the result of the former.

Dear Miss Manners: I often eat at restaurants alone and I enjoy the solitude. But strangers at a table nearby will often start conversations with me and they will want to keep talking throughout my meal. Is there a polite way to tell them that I’m not interested in chatting with them?

Bring a book, which has a heavier presence than a telephone. And when you are ready to end the conversation, smile and say that you must return to it. Even, Miss Manners suggests, if the pages are blank.

New Miss Manners columns will be announced Monday through Saturday washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners on her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

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