Miss Manners: Is there a polite way to ask someone to sit down?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: At an event where almost everyone is seated, am I rude for asking someone standing in front of me to sit down? Or is that person more rude?

I realize that there are several scenarios where it’s tough cookies for me if I decide to sit, such as a stadium rock concert or a pep rally. That, I get.

What I don’t get is people who act like it’s no big deal to stand in front of anyone seated. To me, that is the height of inconsideration. They seem to get offended and argue with me -- no matter how polite I am -- when I ask them to sit. I am beginning to think that what I consider “polite” might not meet someone else’s definition.

Is there a more polite way for me to ask folks to sit down, or am I out of luck?

GENTLE READER: Questions about who is being the rudest do not generally appeal to Miss Manners, whose mission is to make everyone more polite, not to keep score.

But asking someone to sit down is not inherently rude, so long as you phrase it as a question, not a demand -- and can avoid conveying, at the same time, what you think of the offender.

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DEAR MISS MANNERS: I belong to a community group that plays mah-jongg once a week. We are a friendly bunch that welcomes inexperienced players.


Most newcomers tend to play very slowly and are aware they are holding up the game. Different newbies handle the situation in various ways. For example, one person might sit out every other game, while another might play only one game each session. Gradually, everyone who likes the game and sticks with it learns to play and joins in more and more.

There’s never been a problem until now. A recent addition to the group insists on playing every game. She takes an enormous length of time to decide what tile to discard, checking and rechecking the card for a possible winning hand.

The result is that the rest of the people at her table spend most of the two hours we have to play sitting and waiting. We have tried starting a low-volume conversation while we wait, but she joins in, which only makes matters worse. We have tried in a friendly way (as we have done with others) to give her some tips that are helpful for beginners. So far, she hasn’t followed our advice.

How would Miss Manners handle the situation?

GENTLE READER: You would, Miss Manners hopes, consider it unsporting if you hid the rules of the game from new players. So why make them guess at the etiquette?

Agree upon a system and tell the newcomers what is expected. Almost any system will do: that newcomers are assigned a partner, are instructed to sit out every other game, or are given the duty of replenishing the snacks. Any of these would give the more experienced players some relief.

Miss Manners | Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Miss Manners, written by Judith Martin and her two perfect children, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Marin, has chronicled the continuous rise and fall of American manners since 1978. Send your questions to