My question concerns manners and etiquette in relationships. Between work and play there is a slippery slope about how not be rude. My girl friend, who recently lost her father, told me I was “a rude individual” and that I should be more aware of other people. What can you do to help me? I need a crib sheet in a nutshell.
–RG, Stamford, CT
Relationships are hard enough to negotiate as it is. If your girlfriend complains that you’re rude, you probably are. It’s hurtful, I know, but politeness is a badge of its own. Look at your mistakes and learn.
Your girlfriend can straighten your tie and make reservations for you and your friends to have dinner. But, how not to be rude in any situation takes empathy and consideration.
And, buddy, there is a difference between expressing your opinion and being rude. In a heavy nutshell, toss over in your mind some of the points below and think about how you behave now and how you could behave better.
Never be intimidating
Don’t make people accommodate themselves to your needs. For instance:
- Be patient and allow a person to adapt, adjust, orient herself to the loss of a family member. Grieving is a process. She will reconcile herself to her loss in her own time and in her own way.
- In the workplace, keep in mind that nobody appreciates a high-maintenance colleague. Instead of forcing someone to kowtow to your idea, be flexible. Show the person they are worthy of alterations on your part. Work it out. Teammates support one another.
Be a better communicator:
Communication Is Everything
Communicate when you’re running late, whether you go virally or verbally. A few minutes tardy when meeting someone is understandable; a longer wait is unconscionable.
Send a text to say you’re on your way and give your estimated time of arrival.
Missing any meeting or date you’re expected at without explanation is rude.
- Don’t be a no-show. Even if you recognize the meeting will be productive without you, let people know that you’ve been detained and when they can expect to see you.
- On the other hand, never apologize too profusely for being late or a no-show, because over-explaining is a surefire sign that you’re not telling the truth or that you’re exaggerating.
- RSVP when there is a cutoff date and it is not a pay-to-play event (such as a charity or political fundraiser). If I’ve asked you to RSVP to a birthday dinner for a mutual friend, and your seat is one of twelve at the table, I need to know if you will fill that seat.
- Passive-aggressive behavior is tiresome. We get it, you’re shy or you’re waiting for a better invitation before accepting mine. It is still rude not to accept or regret in a timely fashion.
- Within three days, preferably sooner, answer a letter with a letter, an email with an email, a phone call with a phone call, a text with a text — except if he’s in the next cubicle and you can walk right over.
If you’re strapped for time, just say, “I’m boarding a plane to Dubai, will get in touch.” Ideally, answer in the other person’s method of communicating.
- Confirm a date or meeting. If you’ve accepted a verbal invite and told the person you were putting the date into your calendar, there is nothing wrong about going ahead and confirming the date for exact time and place.
- When you’ve invited friends or colleagues, the verbal invitation needs a confirm with the invitees who have accepted. The message should be simple, such as “We have a reservation for lunch at the Black Pearl at 12:30, Tuesday. See you then.” When confirming, whether you’re the host or invitee, clarify who is paying. “Let’s go dutch treat.” Or, “It’s our turn to treat you.” Or, “I’m paying.”
- Otherwise, the person who initiated the invitation pays the bill. The exception is when it has explicitly been specified from the start that, say, the two couples are going “dutch treat,” with each couple paying their own way.
Never be intimated by rudeness
Vancouver psychologist Jennifer Newman warns — that, according to research — rudeness in the workplace can spread like a virus. She urges workers who have been treated rudely to take some time before interacting with anyone else.
The height of rudeness is profound language accompanied by finger wagging.
Who pays? Dutch Treat: When one person says to the other, “Let’s meet at the Clarke Cooke House for lunch on Tuesday,” it is understood that the cost of the lunch will be shared.
Otherwise, when you’re having lunch or meeting for lunch the assumption is that you are both paying your share.
- When the person is inviting you to lunch and says, “Let’s have lunch, my treat?” she’s telling you she’s paying.
Treat waitstaff wisely
- At the restaurant, don’t be rude to the waitstaff. You don’t have to chat him up and ask him his name and where he’s from because he’s got other tables waiting for his attention. If you overdo it with the chit-chat, he see tips from his other tables being effected big time.
Respect the waitstaff’s time. Rudeness will only get you bad service.
Respect other people’s psychological boundaries. Honor the fact that there is a good reason why they were late, negligent, absent, forgetful, or dysfunctional.
Physically, hold back on touching, not everyone wants you to touch their hand, arm, shoulder, or back, or be hugged or kissed.
- Show concern. But never ask questions that are too personal, especially when it is “personal business.” ‘Personal’ means none of your business.
- Everybody is dealing with something. When the person is ready to talk about it, they will do so. When they don’t want you to know that their son dropped out of college, they won’t want to talk about it, because discussing it will only make them feel worse.
- Respect the fact that everyone has their own personal space and that zone is not like any other person’s space; keep at an arm’s length from people who aren’t related to you
If I don’t really want you touching me, I’m going to like you even less because you’re being disrespectful of my personal space. Try to tune into the other person’s body language before mauling them.
More on personal space:
- It’s bad manner to invite a particular person to lunch or to party after work in front of other people, unless all of those listening have already been asked to join you.
- When approaching a friend or colleague and he is talking to another person, wait to proceed until you’re signaled to come into the conversation. If he wants to include you, he will turn to you and say, “Fred, come over here and meet Jim Harris, our new CMO.”
- When I’m following you as you walk through a door and approaching your personal space, hold the door open for me and I’ll do the same for the person behind me.
- Same goes for when budging into traffic. You may not know me, but if I’m on foot and there’s no crosswalk, let me pass through before you inch your way forward.
- Whatever you do, don’t cut the line at the grocery store, even if you are only carrying three items. I’m busy, too, with a pre-schooler to fetch at noon.
Don’t be a name dropper
At no time, do you want to be caught namedropping, whether it is invoking your boss’s name — to make you sound more privy to him or her — or, socially to give the appearance that you’re best of friends with a popular person whose social sphere you aspire to belong.
- What if the boss had told the person you weren’t at the top of his list?
- An exception would be if you went on a date in high school with Julia Roberts.
- It can be social suicide to try to use a higher-up’s position to further your own goals by dropping their name.
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Accepting A Compliment