Dear Uncommon Courtesy,
What is proper etiquette when you spot a diamond ring on the left ring finger of…your therapist?
Awkward On The Couch
Miss Manners says that back in the day, it was rude to remark on anyone’s possessions, but she concedes that those days are long over. Since Miss Manners spends a lot of time talking about how to deflect personal questions, I think her advice would be more along the lines of not asking personal questions, especially in a business situation.
Jaya: I think this ties well into bringing up any noticeable life change you see in another person. Engagement, pregnancy, tattoo, etc.
Victoria: Miss Manners has mostly dealt with people grabbing the engaged lady’s left hand or asking to try it on. Which are both pretty rude!
Jaya: Just because they have a public display of something doesn’t mean they want to talk about it. Oh god, those people are terrible.
Victoria: Have people been grabbing you? (ed: Jaya recently got engaged!!)
Jaya: They have! It happened this a few weekends ago at a family party.
Jaya: Some family friend I’ve never met but who apparently knew ALL about me.
Jaya: And would not stop asking questions about the wedding. And it’s infuriating because it just makes me feel bad for talking about it to someone who is not invited.
Jaya: However, a normal “congrats!” is totally fine
Victoria: I was going to say, in this case, I think a glance at the ring and a “do I owe you a congratulations?” is fine. Just like, if they have pictures of kids in their office, I don’t think it’s THAT bad to say, “cute kids” or whatever. Just don’t start asking tons of personal questions.
Jaya: And I think this goes doubly for a therapist. Obviously everyone has their own relationship with therapists, but generally the focus is more on the patient, right? Especially since there are rules about getting too involved, making your therapist a part of your personal life, etc.
Victoria: Yeah, I don’t know very much about therapy etiquette (therapists, please submit your thoughts to us!). I would think, for me, maybe its a little weird to be in such an intimate atmosphere and sharing so much about yourself and never asking any questions about the other person.
Jaya: It varies, but I think the therapist generally sets the tone. So saying congratulations at the end of a session is fine but asking lots of questions perhaps isn’t, in general but especially when it’s your therapist.
Victoria: Yeah, exactly, and if they seem like they want to talk more, then that’s great.
Jaya: And if your therapist doesn’t want to get involved, I’m 100% sure they are trained in how to gracefully discourage a patient from asking personal questions.
Victoria: Yeah, I would think they deal with these kinds of things all the time.
Jaya: It is strange though, these public displays of life changes. I had a coworker who was pregnant, and I never said anything, because by the time I could tell she was pregnant she had obviously been pregnant for a while. So it’s sort of weird going “congrats on the thing that clearly happened to you about six months ago.”
Victoria: I mean, I don’t think most people are annoyed or offended by simple congratulations for almost anything. It’s when the personal questions start piling up that it gets annoying.