Social Etiquette and Good Manners/Not observing a holiday

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Question
The last time I went to the dentist, the dental hygienist asked me what my plans for a certain holiday were.  I do not observe this holiday at all.  I did not want to get into a discussion about my personal beliefs.

I would appreciate your advice on how I should have responded.  (I actually told her that I would be celebrating this holiday, but I didn't like saying this, because it wasn't true).

Thank you.

Answer
Dear Alicia:

It is awkward when someone asks us a question which assumes something about us that isn't true.  The best response to any question that makes untrue assumptions is the truth.  If someone asks, "How are you going to spend your Christmas?" and you are Hindu or whatever, the best response would be something like, "I don't observe Christmas but I intend to spend the day hiking up in the mountains outside of town with my kids.  Will you be observing Christmas?  If so, what do you do to celebrate?"  Of course, make up whatever applies to your activities.  

People ask us questions like this not to put us on the spot and make us uncomfortable, but to find commonalities between us.  If you did observe, you might share a tradition your family practices.  When you don't share the commonality, be sure to include the asker what they will be doing.  After all, they are trying to connect with you and it would be rude to not attempt to make that connection in some way.

Social Etiquette and Good Manners

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Cynthia W. Lett

Expertise

Proper manners with friends,family,colleagues,neighbors and everyone else you know.

Experience

I have been an etiquette expert teaching and consulting on the subject worldwide since 1983. I started and serve as the Executive Director of the International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals and am considered a leader in the field of etiquette and protocol training and execution. I edited "Etiquette for Dummies" and have recently written "Lett's Talk - Everyday Etiquette Dilemmas and What to Do about Them". My book, "That's So Annoying:An Etiquette Expert on the World's Most Irritating Habits And What To Do About Them" was published in 2009 and is available wherever books are sold. I taught the Business Protocol class to Master's level students at the George Washington University, Washington, DC for seven years I served as Chief of Protocol for MCI Telecommunications for three years.

Organizations
International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals, ASTD, PCMA, National Speakers Association

Publications
I have been quoted over 700 times in the past 5 years worldwide. Publications include Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Washington Times, NY Times, Washington Business Journal, USA Today, Associated Press, London Times, Newsweek Japan edition, Newsweek US edition and many many more.

Education/Credentials
I am a Certified Etiquette Professional (CEP) and Certified Protocol Professional (CPP) earned by examination through ISPEP. I have a Master's degree in hospitality law and undergrad degrees in Restaurant & Hotel Management and Public Relations/Interpersonal Communications from Purdue University.

Awards and Honors
Who's Who Worldwide,Who's Who of American Women, Distinguished Darden Professor (Purdue University).

Past/Present Clients
World Bank, United Nations,US Dept. of State, US. Dept. of the Army, Pentagon, Barclays Global Investors,Accenture,Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, The White House, Dept. of State, AT&T,Bank of America,American Association of Clinical Pharmacies,Ritz Carlton Hotels, Hilton Hotels, Marriott Hotels,Starwood Hotels,and many more.

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