Dear Annie: Do you know of any etiquette guidelines for speaking with someone who has a stutter or another speech impediment? I recently befriended a man from the neighborhood who has a stutter. I have a bad habit of finishing other people’s sentences in general, and I find myself wanting to jump in and help him complete his thought when he pauses. I’m assuming that is considered rude. – Wondering
Dear Wondering: The etiquette for talking to someone who stutters is the same as the etiquette for talking to someone who doesn’t. Listen; be patient; make eye contact; and ask for clarification if you missed something. Don’t interrupt, finish his sentences or rush him to get to the point. The only difference is that it’s more important to observe that decorum when talking to someone who stutters, lest you come off as patronizing.
I believe that your friend came into your life for a reason -- to teach you patience and the lost art of holding one’s tongue. Be a good listener to him and you’ll become a better communicator with anyone.
Dear Annie: I have been friends with a group of women since our high-school days. Since then, some of us have moved out of town, but once a year, we all get together. My problem is that my friends are all heavy drinkers. Because I am the only one who doesn’t enjoy drinking, I have always been the designated driver. I didn’t like that role in my teens and 20s, but I really resent it now that we’re in our 60s.
After dinner, my friends insist on going to pubs to continue their “partying” until the wee hours. As the alcohol flows, my friends become drunk and repetitive and are, frankly, terrible company. This year, I would like to break with tradition and head home after dinner, but I don’t know how to do it without their being furious with me. If I were to leave them after dinner and they were to stay out drinking, they would be angry at having to take costly taxis they can’t afford. On the other hand, if they were to leave with me after dinner, they would be livid at my cutting their evening short and being “the party pooper.”
Because of their peer pressure, I now dread our annual get-togethers. Any advice? – Designated
Dear Designated: If these women grow furious with you for wanting to go home after dinner, they’re not friends; they’re bullies. It sounds as if you’re an obliging, sweet person, and this sweetness has spoiled these women over the years, to the point that they feel entitled to your charity. You shouldn’t be punished for not being a lush. And if they can’t afford to take taxis, then they shouldn’t be spending money on drinks in the first place.
In advance of your next get-together, let them know you won’t be the designated driver this year, that you plan on calling it an early night and they should arrange for a cab or use another ride-hailing service. Let them throw their hissy fits; they’ll get over it. If they want to keep you as a friend, then they should treat you less like a chauffeur.
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