But it’s not so easy to figure out what the Etiquette Police
will say about other situations. In the spirit of giving, we assembled this guide to help you offend as few people as possible:
1. Should you get your boss a gift? No, says Letitia Baldrige,
author of New Manners for New Times. You don’t want to come
across as an “apple polisher.” A card saying how great it’s been
to work for her is enough. If she gives you a gift? “It
doesn’t mean you have to reciprocate,” says Sue Fox,
author of Etiquette for Dummies.
2. A friend gives you a gift; you didn’t get her one
Resist the urge to buy her something. “Just write the
most beautiful thank-you note,” Baldrige says.
“Otherwise it means you’re giving her a gift because
you feel guilty.” Next time you see her,
just don’t forget a plate of homemade brownies.
3. Dealing with ungrateful children Kids want fun stuff that
makes lots of noise. And when they don’t get it, outbursts like
“Clothes aren’t a present!” and “I don’t like this!” can be
embarrassing. “Humor is a great tool,” says humor consultant
Malcolm Kushner. “It reduces tension.” If you’re the
gift giver, say, “I hated it too. That’s why I’m giving it
away.” If you’re the parent, try, “That’s just his way of saying
thank you.” Later, talk to your child about gratitude.
4. Saying Merry Christmas to strangers It’s fine to say
to the post-office clerk without interrogating him
about his religion. Anyone who responds with a
Scrooge-like remark is the unmannerly one, not
you, says Baldrige. “If they rebuff you, just
forget about it and walk away.”
5. Sending an e-vite For a casual party, e-mail
is fine. But an e-mail to a formal
soirée is akin to wearing jeans to
a wedding, says Fox. When in
doubt, send it by mail.