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Does apologizing just worsen the gaffe?

DEAR READERS: Your questions never take a holiday, but occasionally I must. This week's "best of" columns come from deep within the Ask Amy vault.

DEAR AMY: I recently met with a noticeably overweight person. He was going to pull a file from a different office. I then said: "Sounds great, just get back to me after you waddle up to ..." I was not sure if I was using "waddle" in an offhand way or whether it was an unconscious reference to how he walked. I felt terrible, so I followed a friend's advice and sent him a brief card apologizing for my comments. Another friend said I should not have sent the card, as it just drew attention to a slip-up that was best forgotten. Who is correct? -- Flummoxed

DEAR FLUM: I don't know if there is any "correct" way to gracefully pull your foot out of your mouth, but I know what most people do -- they do nothing and then just avoid the victim for the next 40 years or so. So good for you for trying to clean this up. But now I'm worried that you're tempted to apologize for your apology. Please don't. (September 2003)

DEAR AMY: I've been trying to shake a cold for weeks. I have co-workers who have been fighting the same thing. But what do you do when a co-worker is constantly coughing in your face without covering his/her mouth? There's truly no way to say something without sounding like a jerk.

-- Sniffles

DEAR SNIFFLES: Disease-spreading aside, I find the worst part of this problem is the fact that you don't seem to think your colleague is adult enough to be able to handle a simple request. What if you spoke to or emailed your officemate: "I can tell you're so sick, but now I'm afraid I'm getting it. Could you do me a favor and make sure to cover your mouth whenever you sneeze or cough?" This news might be best delivered with a box of tissues. (February 2004)

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