Mary Killen Mary Killen

Dear Mary: your problems solved | 22 October 2011

Q. My wife and I both work from home. We happen to have three friends called Sue, all of whom ring up on a regular basis. On the telephone they all sound identical, and so when one of them rings to speak to my wife I struggle to find a tactful way of identifying which one it is without making her feel she is not important enough to allow me to recognise her voice immediately.
—N.A., Glos

A. You can sidestep the natural offence that a perception of interchangeability might cause in the Sues. Simply reply to their inevitable query how are you with ‘Hmm. How was I when we last met?’ The Sue’s reply will give you the data you need — e.g. ‘You were fine when we met at the Blahs.’
You can then say, ‘Oh well, I didn’t say anything but I was sure I might be going down with flu but I was absolutely fine the next day.’

Q. A woman I know socially is being very nosy about the break-up of a couple of our acquaintance. She rightly assumes that I know much more about this than she does and keeps trying to have tête-à-têtes with me to find out more. I have fobbed her off so far but I don’t have many excuses left. I feel like saying outright that I’m not going to discuss the subject if I do agree to meet her, but I fear this looks suspicious. She keeps trying to pin me down to lunch and dinner dates.
—Name and address withheld

A. Do not deny that you know anything, but stall the nosy parker by saying portentously, ‘Actually there is about to be a significant development, but for the moment it would be mad for me to talk about it.

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