ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Dear Thelma: What do you say when a friend continually asks you about your finances, says “you must have a lot of money” to travel, or asks how much we have saved? We have no intention of telling him anything, but what could shut him up?
A: You call this person a friend. If he really is one, you should be able to say: “This is something that I don’t discuss. It is private and is only for me to know and consider. Please don’t bring it up again.”
When people start to inquire about friends’ or family members’ finances, they are in a territory where no one should trespass. Finances are one of the most personal pieces of your life.
Despite the fact that we do all know this, there are many people who ignore it. They can be very intrusive and pass a lot of critical judgment based on what they think they know.
Someone I know was approached and scolded for being the only member of a particular board who had not contributed sufficiently to the cause. The person approaching did not know her financial situation but took it upon himself to assume she was in a position to make a large contribution to a board she was already giving a lot of time to. This intrusive gesture may lose the organization a talented board member and any future contribution she may have considered.
We should not ignore the part of ourselves that knows that finances are a sensitive part of every person’s life. They are not for public notice or public discussion unless the person whose finances are being discussed brings them up.
Dear Thelma: My family has members who hold grudges that are 60 to 70 years old and even go back to their parents. How can I get them to understand how damaging that is to the whole family? Why do people do this?
A: The definition I found of the word grudge calls it a persistent feeling of resentment resulting from a past insult or injury and its synonyms include bitterness, rancor, animosity and enmity. These negative feelings and expressions are definitely damaging. A family in this kind of situation faces a lack of sincere relationships. Those relationships simply cannot exist in a family that has surrendered the opportunity to grow its bonds.
The best way to resolve the issue is to face it, and sometimes you must put yourself in the place of trying to make a change even if you’re not the one holding the grudge. Identify the family member who holds the grudge and have the courage and ability to respect that person while addressing the resentment in a way that is not accusatory. Say something like “I feel like we’re missing so much by not dealing with this issue. Is there anything I can do to make things better for you and for all of us?”
The effort may or may not have the desired effect, but you’ll know you worked toward establishing and maintaining your own peaceful mind and loving heart.
Dear Thelma: My brother and his wife and are not nice people and have not spoken to us for seven years. I’m at a loss when people ask me how they are? What do you say?
A: I know of someone who has faced this situation and her response to it seems most fitting. In an even and soft tone of voice she simply says: “I really haven’t seen or heard from him in quite some time.” No further explanation is needed.
Grace and good manners never go out of style.
Agree or disagree with Thelma’s advice? Post your comments or ask a question about etiquette at thelmadomenici.com. Thelma Domenici is CEO of Thelma Domenici & Associates, offering corporate coaching and contemporary social skills development programs to all ages.