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Miss Manners: I'm not like a regular MIL; I'm a cool MIL

Miss Manners: I'm not like a regular MIL; I'm a cool MIL

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Dear Miss Manners • Our daughter has been dating a very nice young man for a couple of years, and it appears that a marriage proposal is forthcoming. If and when they decide to marry, we would be very happy for them.

But the hints that are being dropped leave me with one huge concern. I have always had a terrible relationship with my mother-in-law, who I find to be an overbearing, obnoxious bully. Of course, in her turn, I suspect she considers me cold, withdrawn and stubborn, and I am certain she does not understand that there is anything at all wrong with her own behavior.

Though my mother-in-law and I have very different personalities, and I cannot imagine that I would make the same mistakes that she does, I am sure that I have some traits of my own that could make me unintentionally annoying.

Would Miss Manners have thoughts on how to create a warm, comfortable, respectful relationship with a new member of the family?

Gentle Reader • “One can learn as much about parenting from a bad example as from a good one.” So said a wise relative of Miss Manners.

And while it cannot guard against minor annoyances or major personality differences, your being aware of possible pitfalls most likely means that you and your potential son-in-law will get along fine.

Beware, however, of bombarding him with more than the occasional, “How am I doing? Are we OK?” lest you create an entirely new, and possibly worse, source of irritation.

Dear Miss Manners • I have often found that in workplaces, people make harsh criticisms about others — whether they are working hard enough, what their motives are, or that they are making errors.

I talk to people, so I often know the background in these situations. So I gently say, “They are working really hard; the reason for doing it that way is that their profession requires it,” etc. Or, “Everyone has a reason for what they do, so why don’t you talk to them?”

I am a bit on the sensitive side, and the culture of negative talk brings me down. Standing up for other people often results in better working relationships between others, but at the same time, I also get the distinct feeling it does me no favors. Do you have any suggestions for how to handle this?

It happens in social situations too, and I don’t appreciate people complaining to me, in public, about people I have had a completely different experience with. I dislike this both for the recipient’s sake, and also because I would be horrified if people thought I agreed with such comments.

Gentle Reader • “That is not my experience, but if it is yours, then you should talk to them about it.”

Of course, there are situations in which you will want to stand up for others, but Miss Manners recommends that you reserve your energies for only those — and not waste them on people who choose to make snap judgments without sufficient context.

Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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