Social Grace

Tipping policy at an open bar; Serving plates; Addressing the Interviewer; Wedding Ushers; Noisy Neighbor

Good manners can (and sometimes must) employ their own kind of force -- that is, when a person refuses to play by the rules of a community, that community must firmly (but politely) bring him into line. And we have a tool for that. So keep your eggs in the refrigerator and your Super Glue in your desk. First we're going to try some gently persuasive public censure. Since your neighbor's music is disturbing several people, I recommend uniting and presenting your case to him as a group. A petition signed by everyone in the building, or the sight of several stern neighbors at his door one Sunday morning, might make it clearer to him that he's become more than a minor nuisance to one neighbor -- whom he might consider overly sensitive (not to mention unappreciative of great music). And even if he has no feeling for others' needs for peace and quiet, a firm, united, civilized complaint should embarrass (or even scare) him into behaving himself.

Your group of tenants could also make its problem known to the owner of the building (if you rent) or the building association. Though the police may not want to get involved, the building's management should have an interest in maintaining peace in the building. If they don't seem to, you can apply your assertive good manners to them, and to the police, until they work to remedy the noise problem.

Are you unsure how to behave? Send your etiquette questions to

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