How Not to Say What You Mean

Marie Antoinette, the once and always Queen of France, runs an honest-to-goodness advice column in this space every Sunday. Write to her about etiquette, your curiosities or your quandaries at whatwouldmarieantoinettedo at gmail dot com.

Dear Queen,
I love my friends. I do. It’s their friends I can’t stand. I don’t know what it is, when I am with them, my skin starts to crawl.  I don’t like being near them and I’m so close to openly mocking them it’s not even funny.  I’d avoid them entirely but doing so would keep me away from my real friends who I really like.  What do I do?
-Trying to Keep My Mouth Shut


A queen cannot hide from the people whom she does not like since they can be too numerous. A queen’s true talent is to conjure the most delectable, delightful perfect retort, and say the  most civil thing in its place. There’s a certain challenge in it really, to match the white lie to your real feelings, while not pretending any affection or fondness that does not exist. You combine honesty with diplomacy, using your clever head to craft the most perfect euphemism and non-statement.

The white lie is based on fairness.  Your friends’ friends do no not know how awful they are to be around and this disadvantage is not their fault. There’s no reason anyone should know for certain you cannot stand them, especially intimate strangers. That’s why lying is an essential skill for state-building, reunions, family events and gatherings of friends-of-friends you barely know. I’ve included a few examples below. Take a look. At the very least they’ll give you something else to think about when those horrid girls are blathering on.

When you’ve nothing nice to say…

When regarding a tragic haircut…
What you’d like to say: “It takes the attention right off your figure.”
What you will say: “You’re completely transformed!”

When a person you do not like wears a dreadful dress or pantsuit:
What you’d like to say: “I love a good dare!”
What you will say: “No one has more courageous style than you.”

At a very, very boring party
What you’d like to say: “So, when do you think the party will start?”

What you will say: “Such a peaceful affair. So very relaxing.”

When dealing with difficult, awful, problem people:
What you’d like to say: “If you use a full dosage those outbursts will stop completely.”
What you will say: “Never a dull moment! You keep us on our toes!”

When asked of your own success:
What you’d like to say: “I hate that it happened so quickly. If I’d toiled for years like you, I’d feel I really earned it.”
What you will say: “I’m very proud of my hard work.”

When responding to other people’s success:
What you’d like to say: “You must spread the news yourself. No one would believe me.”
What you will say: “You must be so proud of your hard work.”

Lovely readers — Do you have any other tips for our cohort? If you do, feel free to add them in the comments.


5 thoughts on “How Not to Say What You Mean

  1. Frida the Fairy says:

    Wow, these tips are very useful indeed!
    I have a problem myself, I tend to be too kind and nice to people who don’t treat me as well as I do them, I could really use some sentences how to “snap” them a little bit. But GRACEFULLY, of course.


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