Miss Manners: Apologizing by telling friends I exposed them to covid


Dear Miss Manners: I am writing for clarification on the etiquette of notifying friends and colleagues of exposure to covid-19.

I was recently infected with a very mild case. The large organization I work for has strict protocols regarding the reporting of positive test results, all of which I diligently observed.

My uncertainty surrounds notifying my friends and colleagues – outside of official channels – that I had exposed them. I landed on text messages and phone calls considering the matter was too urgent to email.

I basically said, “Hello. I tested positive for coronavirus. Last week, when we met, I probably reported you.

Should I have apologized? I didn’t knowingly report them, but I’m feeling a little guilty and breaking bad news, so “I’m sorry” wouldn’t sound bad. I haven’t received any complaints, but I think this is uncharted etiquette territory to some extent.

yes you should apologize.

There are some weird notions about apologies floating around these days. Some people don’t believe they should apologize for the damage they’ve caused if they didn’t do it on purpose. Others, who have caused deliberate harm, think it can be undone instantly by an apology alone.

Miss Manners assumes you didn’t expose others to disease by behaving recklessly, so you shouldn’t feel guilty about the exposure itself. But you should feel bad about causing pain. You wouldn’t like the person who stomped on you to just bark, “Hey, I didn’t do that on purpose.

[Find the latest coronavirus guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.]

Dear Miss Manners: My boyfriend sports a diabolically beautiful beard. It’s a bit long, so when eating, I often notice crumbs or the like sticking to it.

When we’re in a private or public setting, I gently let him know there’s something there, usually by rubbing my face in a way that signals he should wipe that stain on his.

On a recent outing, I refrained from doing this, as we were around some of his co-workers and it didn’t feel right to say “Bruce, you’ve got something over there” or use my gesture usual.

Later I told him he better wipe his face after every bite because I can’t always signal the need at the time. But he disagreed, saying he’d rather I report the problem than let it go on for a while before he fixed it himself.

What’s the right way to do it? Do I still have to find a way to alert her, even if it might lead to an awkward moment? Or was I right in suggesting that he should be more diligent about wiping his face while eating?

Your suggestion was careful, unless he never takes a bite out of your watchful presence. And touching your own chin as he watches seems to Miss Manners the perfect way to tell him without alerting others.

It is a great advantage for couples to have signaling systems. Surely you would want him to let you know if you inadvertently embarrass yourself. Or you think it’s time to leave the party. Or that you had already told this story to the same people.

New Miss Manners columns are published Monday to Saturday at washingtonpost.com/board. You can send questions to Miss Manners on her website, MissManners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

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