Sunday 7 July 2019

Modern Manners 4

When trapped in a conversation from which we wish to escape, simply say "It was a pleasure talking to you, please do excuse me for a moment". (@TheRoyalButler)

When I was little, we were never supposed to refer to a woman as "she". If I did so, "She's the cat's mother" was the response I got from grown-ups. I never understood why. (EJA)

When invited to someone's home for lunch or dinner, take a small gift. Perhaps a small house plant, but please refrain from unusual gifts! (@TheRoyalButler)

A friend was once so appalled when colleagues bought her a balloon ride she considered faking pneumonia to get out of it.
(Carol Midgley, Times)

Sam and Caro are discussing modern manners again.

Sam: We really need etiquette to go with modern technology.

Caro: Yes, calling a mobile isn't like calling a landline. If your callee answers, she may be in a cafĂ©, or walking along a street – she’s not at her desk with pen, paper and calendar to hand. I know people have calendars on their phones nowadays, but how do you look at it while talking and walking? If there’s background noise she probably can’t hear what you’re saying, and certainly can’t have a long conversation before you come to the point as we used to do in the olden tymes. Don’t call me – text or email.

People treat phone conversations more like texts these days.

Glad to hear it! I love Facebook and seeing pix of the grand-sprogs, but I can do without all these sentimental pictures of cats.

And posts about your pets' bodily functions – please, no! And don’t send your friends links to videos and keep asking “Have you watched it yet?” Especially if it’s a lecture by Jordan Peterson. Point them to an article. Videos take up too much time – and you can’t “scan” through them. Any more do's and don'ts?

Don't answer for someone else because you think they're being a bit slow.

Don't have a public face that's different from your private face.

When having lunch in the garden on a sunny day, you may lend your guests hats. But you should never put a hat on a guest’s head. Especially not if you hope it'll make them look ridiculous.

You should respect people's boundaries and avoid invading their space.

Is that the modern way of putting it? If a friend or family member is ill, don’t try and manage their condition for them. They probably know far more about it than you do.

Yes, it's so intrusive! And hold back on the recommendations of alternative medicine. Or any kind of helpful advice I haven't asked for. And if I don’t want to moan about the cowboy builders, or NHS waiting times, I don’t really need you to do it for me. Sometimes I just want you to change the subject. But if I want to moan about someone’s awful behaviour – please don’t justify everything they did or said. Take MY side, not theirs!

You know, we could turn this into a book.

With your name on the cover!

I don't know why I should be the expert!

Are you taking notes? I had a flatmate who would ask me to help her with something. I'd sit down and wait for her to be ready, thinking she'd be about five minutes. But she'd bustle about feeding the goldfish, watering the plants, bleeding the radiators. I had no idea how long she was going to take, and meanwhile I couldn't do anything I wanted to do. I hadn't told her about my own plans because, well, why should I? I fell for it a couple of times – but then never again.

Another thing – don’t give single people little jobs to do, because you fear they’ll be under-occupied. And don't force them to do something they're bad at.
That's almost bullying. And I hate having to admire something hideous, like a collection of Toby jugs, or Gillray and Rowlandson prints.

And meanwhile your host watches you, hoping you’ll be embarrassed. People can be so vile! 

The same flatmate would ask me to come shopping, and then trail me around while she searched for some really obscure widget. If I needed to buy something, she'd rush me into the wrong kind of shop and try to railroad me into buying something inappropriate. Sometimes she'd leave me five minutes to buy a present, or a pair of shoes for a wedding. And we could never stop at the first eaterie we found – she'd find something wrong with it and insist on walking to the next one, and the next one. And then we'd get lost and have to walk miles home.

I hope you moved out!

I did. And she'd tell me to do something and then stand over me telling me I was doing it all wrong! What else?

Don’t imitate someone’s accent to their face. And avoid “You don’t sound as if you came from Barnsley”. Don’t tell them who they are! Don’t make assumptions, even if you think they're positive. My Yoga teacher thought I wouldn’t have heard of Stormzy!

It was your voice, I expect. We went to the same school, and people sometimes think I'm an Earl's daughter!

Let's swap! You can worry about replacing the roof in the west wing!

How's it all going?
Much better since we started renting out the old chateau as a wedding venue. The whole party stays overnight and they think they're living in Downton for the day! We've moved into a cosy flat in one of the turrets. What about office etiquette? You've worked in an office.

If someone is tapping a laptop in a meeting, they're not tweeting or writing a book – they're taking notes. Leave them alone. And if a colleague is sitting with a phone to their ear while their pencil moves swiftly over their notebook – don’t engage them in conversation. They are taking notes while the person on the other end of the phone speaks, and if you talk they won’t be able to hear either of you. And they certainly can’t break off and talk to you.

That's the moment to say "Can we have a brief word?" Take them aside and give them what for, as nanny used to say. I'm sure we'll think of some more – save them for next time we meet!

More here, and links to the rest.

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