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20-40-60 Etiquette: Is therapy question is off-limits?

How off-limits is a friend's medical history? 20-40-60 Etiquette weighs in, with Devonne Carter as guest.
BY CALLIE GORDON, LILLIE-BETH BRINKMAN AND HELEN FORD WALLACE Published: August 4, 2013
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QUESTION: Was I out of line questioning my friend about her doctor's appointment? I asked her if she was going to a psychiatrist because she said something that made me think that she might be in therapy and she looked at me like I was crazy. Should I have avoided the subject?

CALLIE'S ANSWER: Yes, avoid the subject unless it is clearly stated or talked about. Therapy is personal. Tread lightly.

LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: Sometimes I like to answer questions in this column because I can then say “I'm sorry” to everyone to whom I might have inadvertently done something similar in the past. The journalist side of me is always asking questions, as is the side of me that is genuinely concerned for my friends' well being, which sounds like your case, too. Sometimes I forget that outside of work, I need to concentrate on turning those switches off and avoid getting too personal.

It appears as if you accidentally asked a friend a personal question based on a misunderstanding of what she had said; her unease isn't directly your fault. However, I would be careful about going too deep into any medical matters and let your friend take the lead and share only what she's willing to share.

HELEN'S ANSWER: Yes, it is good manners to stay away from asking about questions about someone's medical treatment, unless the person involved wants to discuss it with you and brings up the subject of treatment. Even then, it is important to withhold comments unless your friend asks.

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