Making it my business: tact is where it’s at

In which I crush awkwardness with my Southern sense of propriety.

Here’s the part where I give some advice…

Dearest Valerie,

So I have this friend who’s in a band and I occasionally go see him play, just to be supportive. The thing is, the band sucks. What am I supposed to say when he asks me for my honest opinion of how they do?

Chum in a Crunch

The way I see it, Chum, the only reason you would to worry about being 100% honest here is if your friend is planning on quitting his day job to make his crappy music the focus of his life. Then you could voice your distaste under the pretense of being concerned for his future. But, if this is a just a side thing that your friend does, there’s no need to be an a-hole about it. When asked to give your two cents, go with a simple, “You know, this type of music really isn’t my thing, but I’m really impressed with you being able to get up there.” Leave it at that.

And one more thing, Chum. If you’re not going to tell your musician friend that you hate his music, make sure you don’t tell anyone else either. Nothing sucks more than finding out from someone else that a good friend wasn’t being honest. Talk about a-hole.

Dear Valerie,

I have a coworker who I’m not close with at all who is constantly asking me personal questions like when my boyfriend and I are going to get married and my views on political issues like abortion and gay marriage. I don’t want to seem defensive or closed off by not answering her questions, but I don’t think I should have to be put in this position. I have no clue what to do.

Concerned Colleague

Oh, CC. This can be so tricky. You want your coworkers to think that you’re down! fun! and approachable! But, at the same time, you don’t want them to think that all aspects of your life are fair game for discussion while in the break room. Or, from my personal experiences, in the bathroom. Seriously. People *love* to talk to me in the bathroom, whether we’ve met before or not. I need to issue a PSA letting everyone know that once that stall door closes, all conversation stops. I mean, I’m *doing* something in there.

Moving on. You are right to be concerned and hesitant to get into it about these issues within a work setting. Work relationships are complicated enough without bringing personal values into the mix. And hopefully I will validate your concern by telling you that your coworker *is* being inappropriate. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make the situation any less awkward. But, it has to be dealt with.

If your coworker brings up a sensitive or personal issue, just say, “Honestly, Ms. Nosey-Face (or you know, whatever her name is), I try to avoid talking about stuff like that at the office.” try to keep your tone nice and breezy and avoid sounding defensive or accusatory. You don’t need to give any more of an explanation, and she would be intrusive to ask for one. More than likely, she doesn’t realize she’s been crossing the line and will apologize. But, if she gets upset with you, you can rest in the knowledge that 1) she is wrong and 2) she most likely won’t bring it up again.

Ok, RVANews fans. My bank of questions is about to run out, so if anything is on your mind, let me know. Or I’ll be forced to write responses to made up questions like “Valerie, how can I be as awesome as you?”

So, hop to. Email me at

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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