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Today's column

Posted by Robin Abrahams  December 22, 2013 09:43 AM

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... is online here. The first letter asks how to graciously decline a somewhat persistent offer from a friend who practices an alternative medicine that the LW doesn't believe in:

Try what psychologists call a "placebic excuse": a tautological sentence that sounds reasonable on the surface. (The classic version of this is "Can I use the copier ahead of you? I need to make some copies." Believe it or not, this works, while merely asking people if you can cut the copier line does not. Note that there is not much else one can do with a copier but make copies.) Your version might sound something like "I'm on a path with my [lupus/misaligned chakras/IBS] and I don't want to wander off that." "On a path" is a deeply meaningful phrase to the kinds of people who believe in alternative medicine.


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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at missconduct@globe.com.
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Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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