Saturday, April 19, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Illness Avoidance

Here’s how to get their sickness out of your healthy path without being mean

It’s that time of year again. Spring is around the corner, but there are still another four to six weeks of winter left – and the colds that come with it. That means that you invariably will be faced with someone hacking, sneezing and wheezing in your personal space. But how do you tell someone (politely) “Don’t stand so close to me?”

Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert and author of “Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities that Distinguish Outstanding Professionals” (St. Martin’s Press, 2011), tells you how.

1. Sitting next to someone on the plane who won’t cover their mouth as they cough

Whitmore says you that instead of trying to impart the basic rule of “cover your mouth when you cough,” it’s more productive to ask the flight attendant if you can move seats. To avoid offending your sick plane mate, Whitmore suggests saying something like, “It sounds like you are really battling your cold, and I’m going to ask to sit in another seat.” 

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  • 2. You are standing in line at the grocery store and the guy ahead of you is having a sneezing fit

    In this situation, Whitmore says the advice is simple: “Just move away.” “That’s really the only thing you can do. To advise him or her to use a tissue or cover his or her mouth, you run the risk of offending someone. In this day and age it’s like telling someone they are being rude on their cell phone,” she says. But if you feel compelled to say something, Whitmore advises something along the lines of, “It sounds like you are getting over a cold, I’m just going to turn the other way.”

    3. You can’t reschedule a meeting, presentation or conference during the height of your cold

    Whitmore says she has been in a professional setting where her own sniffling has prompted people to give her tissues. Ideally, Whitmore says, you’ll work in an environment where your boss will say, “You sound awful, take the afternoon off.”

    However, as Whitmore points out, many of us work in jobs where our commitments can’t be rescheduled, regardless of the number of tissue boxes we’ve gone through that day. If you find yourself doped up on cold medicine at a big meeting, presentation or conference, Whitmore advises to be forthcoming about it (as if they couldn’t already tell). “If I’m sick and can’t reschedule a speaking engagement, I won’t shake hands or get too close. That’s how people infect the world,” she says.

    © CTW Features

    Matthew M. F. Miller CTW Features
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