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Be honest with visiting sister about finances

Dear Thelma: My sister called and invited herself and her family of five to our house for a long weekend. That’s five extra mouths to feed for three days not an insignificant expense. Money is tight right now, which my sister is well aware of. If we had invited them, I would never consider asking them to bring some of the food, but since they invited themselves, is it bad manners to ask them to help out?

A: It is perfectly appropriate to have a conversation with your sister about this before she arrives. Talk about how happy you are to have the chance to see her and explain the difficulty. You shouldn’t have to say more than, “Money is tight for us right now. Can you help with the food? We can plan to shop for what your family likes when you arrive.”

Clear, honest and loving communication will do the most to ensure a happy visit and continued good relations with your family. It is better to have this honest conversation than to try to hint at it once she arrives, which will put her in a awkward and confusing situation, or to just sweep it under the rug, which will ultimately upset you. Both of these options have the potential to damage your relationship. Avoid them with an honest conversation.

Anytime you are a guest in someone’s home you should be thoughtful about expenses. Offer to pay for the groceries, make dinner for your hosts or treat them to a nice restaurant meal. Show your gratitude at the end of your stay with a sincere note thanking your hosts for their hospitality and a thoughtful gift. A useful household item, gift certificates or a basket of goodies will be appreciated.


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Dear Thelma: In an all-day seminar I was seated next to someone who chewed gum all day and it was constant sloshing and noisy. I was distracted all day and furious by the end of the seminar. Should I have said something? And what?

A: First I must say that anyone who wants to project a professional image should not chew gum in public. Chew it in your car to freshen your breath. Chew it in your office and take it out before you leave it. If you are going to be interacting with other people, don’t have it in your mouth.

We all know not to chew food and talk at the same time; the same rules should be considered when chewing gum. Those around you can hear the gum, and they can see the gum and the chewer’s tongue. They really shouldn’t have to. Choosing to sit across from you in a meeting doesn’t mean I want to know you and your gum that intimately.

Often when you chew gum you lose sight of how much your gum can distract. You chew noisily and pop your gum loudly to entertain yourself or maybe even without realizing it. Those things intrude upon those around you.

Your situation shows how much of a distraction gum can be. If you knew this person very well, you might say gently, “I can hear your gum from here. Could you tone it down?” If you didn’t know them well or at all, your best option would be to find a new seat during a break from the seminar.

A poem a longtime friend shares on gum chewing should help us all remember to keep gum private:

What is the difference between a gum-chewing person

And a cud-chewing cow?

What is the difference?

I know now.

The peaceful look on the face of the cow.

Chewing privately 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 Thelma Domenici is CEO of Thelma Domenici & Associates, offering corporate coaching and contemporary social skills development programs to all ages.