When the cell phone rings...

There are times that I have to take a call when I’m with a group, or at a party. Is it rude for me to leave the room to take my call?
 No, not rude at all, and in fact, it is the polite thing to do. If you remain where you are, those with you feel they have to stop talking so you that can hear, (and end up listening to your conversation, which is awkward for everyone). Conversely, you have no privacy for your call. By all means, find a quiet corner or another space to conduct your call.

I’ve been invited to a few celebrations where it has been stated on the invitation, “No Gifts Please.” I’m never sure what to do, because if I comply with that request and other guests arrive with gifts, I feel as though I’ve done something wrong. Should I take a gift, regardless?

No, the host or hosts have been clear that your presence, not your presents, are what means the most, and you do not take a gift to the party. Those who ignore this request make it awkward for everyone – the hosts, the guest of honor, and the other guests – when they arrive with a gift in hand. If you would ordinarily give a gift to the guest of honor, you may continue to do so, but at another time, on a personal level.

We have recently moved into a retirement community and I have been made very uncomfortable by all the questions about money. I don’t want to answer them, and don’t feel it is anyone’s business how much we have for our retirement, or how much we paid for various things, or what we earned when we were working. Am I being unreasonable?

You are not being unreasonable. It is not the rule to share your financial life with anyone who enquires, and it is fine to say, “Oh, George, thanks for asking, but I find that to be a personal question and would rather not discuss it.” And then change the subject. There is nothing impolite about your keeping personal matters personal.

Admittedly, I come from an era where people had offices and no one just walked in and started talking. But in today’s cubicle environment, it seems as though everyone thinks it’s fine to stand in the opening and chat. I have a lot of work to do and this is disruptive to me, but I don’t want to ignore them or be rude. What is the right thing to do?

To each interrupter, say, “I’d love to catch up with you but I’m on deadline. Want to try to have lunch together tomorrow?” or “Gosh, Josie, I would love to talk but I am buried in work right now – can we get together next week for lunch or after work so we can compare notes and catch up? I have to focus on this and just don’t have time to talk.”

Questions for Catherine? Send them to michaels.catherine@yahoo.com