Core Decorum

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Dear Decorum,

I recently had dinner with my friend and her boyfriend. The entire time, I watched him berate and attack her at every possible turn. For instance, he told her he hated her outfit within five minutes of my arrival. It was all downhill from there: since he seemed to criticize each step she took to make the evening pleasant. I was squirming in my chair and couldn’t wait to leave. I don’t know who to confront about this negative relationship.

What can I say that would not be rude or out of line?

– Agitated Ally

Dear Ally,

It’s a sticky situation for you to be in, no doubt, but there are certain things you can do or say. Next time, take a crack at breaking the spell of negativity. Sometimes it’s as easy as sneaking in a countervailing compliment. For example, when the boyfriend grouses about his girl sporting sweatpants – or whatever she chooses to wear – feel free to chime in. Simply say, “Really? I think she looks fantastic.” Indeed, your subtle interventions can go a long way in changing the general trend and the nasty remarks.

To be fair, every one of us can have that occasional bad night filled with negativity. But if your close friend has been looking or feeling down, maybe you should step in and talk with her.

If you feel comfortable, take her boyfriend aside and make a gentle remark. Say, “You seem to be going pretty hard on my friend lately. No offense, but it’s a little uncomfortable to watch. Is everything okay?”

Above all, remember that your concern is not rude whatsoever.

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