The problem: How nice do I have to be to telephone solicitors?

Low road: You mean, is there a more hospitable response than the handy shout-swear-slam? Sure. I’m guessing you’re asking because a teeny part of you feels empathy for the poor plugger on the other end working nights to a universally cool reception. It’s not your fault. This caller is encroaching on your privacy deliberately at the dinner hour (or, as we call it in our house, the dinner minute). This stranger is asking you for something — membership, money — but your kids took all your money and you’re on too many boards already. Ditching your land line certainly will help you avoid such calls. Not picking up when you see an unfamiliar number works, too. But those options cheat you out of the interaction I think you want to have.

High road: Taking the high road doesn’t mean you invite Mr. or Ms. Caller over to nose your best scotch while together you ponder the life-changing power of new steak knives. You still get to say no, but, really, what’s the point in shouting, swearing and slamming? “I’m just not in the market for X,” you might say firmly but respectfully, “but I really appreciate that you’re working long hours doing something that’s not easy. I’m going back to my family/HBO/cat now, but I hope you make a sale tonight.” Like a perfect steak, your comments probably will be a rare and welcome treat.


Gail Rosenblum is a features columnist. Please send questions about life’s little quandaries to gail.rosenblum