Life Advice



Conversation Filler: Don't Overthink It

Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin on

DEAR MISS MANNERS: How in the world did the current conversational filler word become perfect!? And how do we discourage this annoying grading of everything?

Nowadays, it seems, one cannot have any conversation regarding a transaction without one's response being graded as perfect! by the questioner. It often even becomes catlike with a purrrfect judgment of me or my response to their question.

GENTLE READER: The wording of conventional responses seldom bears up under close scrutiny, as Miss Manners would have told a hypothetical gentleman of a past generation who objected that the clerk was wrong to call his purchase Very good, sir.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My physician is also a family friend of over 40 years. He is now in his eighth decade, and has been quite remarkable in his health and abilities. But after these many years of excellent care, I have noticed in the past year that his skills and mental acuity are failing.

He insists that he will not retire until next year. However, I am concerned that he will make a mistake -- if not with my care, then with another patient's. I should like to switch to another physician.

This is a delicate matter because of the long friendship with both our families. Would you be able to guide me in a conversation that will end the professional care, but not damage the friendship?


GENTLE READER: This is not an easy conversation to have with a very dear friend.

The solution is to seek out an intermediary with whom you are close and who is closer to your physician friend than you. This may be a spouse, another patient who might evaluate your observation, or another member of the practice group who is qualified to judge.

Expressing your concern to that person will be easier for you to do, although Miss Manners recognizes the problem she is thereby creating for the family member or colleague. And she reminds you that speaking to one of the doctor's colleagues, who can do a professional evaluation, may result in his being retired against his will -- an action that may or may not be necessary, depending on his level of professional deterioration.

Meanwhile, you can say that you want to begin transitioning to another doctor in anticipation of his retirement next year.


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