At the risk of seeming contrary, after writing last week’s blog on the importance of courtesy and decency, I’m about to advocate the opposite. Actually I’m not really coming out in favor of rudeness but I am wondering if there’s such a thing as too much friendliness.

I was shopping at a national name brand clothing store recently. “How was your weekend?” chirped the salesgirl as she ushered me into the dressing room.

I was in a rush and not really in the mood for conversation. But I didn’t want to be rude. “Good, thank God. How was yours?” It was a polite and standard but not completely honest response. I wasn’t looking to develop a new relationship and I wasn’t really interested in the details of her weekend experience. What I was interested in was trying on the clothing and getting out of there as quickly as possible.

“Mine wasn’t so great,” she responded (I inwardly groaned). “I’d like a do-over. I had to work the whole time.”

Now what was I supposed to say? 1. “Perhaps it isn’t good customer relations to complain about your job.” 2. “I’m sorry to hear that.” Or 3. “I think this is over sharing.”

I chose 2 – more dishonest but polite. And I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Yes, we want everyone we meet – strangers, those in the service industry, telemarketers – to be polite. But no, we don’t want to strike up a personal conversation. We are speaking to them on business-related issues and that’s what the tone should be – business-like.

I had a similar experience with a waiter recently. He also wanted to share the details of his long, hard day. Was I supposed to commiserate? Invite him to share our dinner? Leave a larger tip? I was out for some private, quiet time with my husband, away from the demands of home. I wanted to relax, not play therapist to our server. Does that make me a Grinch?

Am I wrong? Cold? Hard? I’ve been thinking that this scenario also. To the waiter I made appropriate sympathetic noises but discouraged further chit-chat but returning to a perusal of my menu.

And I thought about the dictum in Ethics of Our Fathers, “Receive everyone with a cheerful countenance.” I think this is a helpful and appropriate principle. Our sages suggest that we greet everyone with a smile. We should be polite and courteous to all we encounter. Our sages do not say that we should engage in long, detailed, intimate conversations with everyone we met. That would be unrealistic. That would be inappropriate. That would be lacking in boundaries.

For my friends, I’m available to hear about their long days, rough weekends, life challenges, sorrows and joys. But with business relationships of all kinds, a cheerful countenance is my model. I think I’ll choose a different restaurant for my next romantic escape…