The Conventional Politeness of Congratulations

by admin on January 29, 2013

I have been a long-time reader of your wonderful site, and have often shaken my head at the cluelessness of some of the individuals discussed in the submitted stories. However, as it stands, I find that I may be one of the clueless. If I am, please let me know, as I truly don’t know what to do in situations like I have encountered.

First, a tiny bit of back story about myself. I am a childless adult, both by virtue of being a homosexual male (and the troubles involved with same-sex adoption in my state, especially by men), and by choice (I don’t really wish to have children, even if I could have them the “old fashioned” way). However, I hold no animosity toward children or parents, and my own nephews and nieces are the shining lights of my life. Now, that said, I am afraid that I may have inadvertently severed a decent friendship recently.

A friend of mine, who I will call “Sally” for the sake of the story, recently announced that she and her husband, here to be known as “Jim,” were expecting their first child. Sally and Jim were not trying for a child, and had actually planned on waiting a bit longer before having children. However, as Sally put it, “sometimes Mother Nature changes your plans.” Though the child-to-come is a surprise to them, they are quite excited. Once Sally and Jim had shared the news with their families, they began to share the news with the rest of their friends. I was told amidst a group of five other friends when Sally joined us all for our social circle’s monthly night out to dinner.

Immediately, the chorus of “Congratulations” echoed around the table, immediately followed by the barrage of “When are you due?” and “Are you going to find out the child’s sex?” It was baby-palooza at our dinner table, and I was perfectly fine with it all. I asked my own questions, participated in the conversation, and had a wonderful time discussing Sally’s news. At the end of the meal, Sally handed each of us an invitation to a celebratory barbecue to be hosted by her mother a few weeks down the line. It was not a baby shower, and the invitation made that clear. Rather, it was a party for family and friends – a chance to get together, have some good food, and share in Sally and Jim’s baby excitement at the treat of Sally’s mother. This child is to be the first grandchild, and Sally’s mother is over-the-moon with excitement.

After dinner, once I was back home and had filled out the RSVP card to be mailed to Sally’s mother the next day, I received an uncomfortable phone call from Sally. It seems, after we had gone our separate ways following dinner, “Rachel,” with whom Sally had carpooled to the restaurant, informed Sally that I had committed a serious violation of etiquette. Though I hugged Sally, asked her plenty of questions regarding her expected child, and commented upon how lovely the barbecue was sure to be, I had neglected to say the one word that, apparently, I was socially obligated to say: “Congratulations.” Sally, at Rachel’s behest, wanted to know why.

I did not lie to her. It is true, I did not say the magic word. I rarely say “Congratulations” to expectant parents for two reasons, both of which I communicated to Sally when she asked. First, when a person, or a couple, is expecting a child that is unplanned, I find “Congratulations” to be a bit awkward. I can understand saying it to the woman, or couple, who had been attempting to conceive but who had been having a rough go of it. However, when the child is unplanned, I feel like it is an out of place remark. This leads to the second reason I don’t say it. It is out of place because, in the end, I feel like all I am saying is “Congratulations on having functioning reproductive organs,” or even worse, I feel like I am congratulating them for having enjoyed the activity required to make the baby. Neither of those situations is, to me, is worthy of congratulations.

But, I did also explain to Sally that I am happy because she is happy. As her friend, I want her to be happy. So, when a situation arises, planned or unplanned, in which a friend finds themselves in a happy place, I am happy for them.

Apparently, this wasn’t enough for Sally. Through tears, and with Rachel’s voice audible in the background, Sally stated that I had deeply hurt her. She then offered the opinion that I am, perhaps, jaded about babies and pregnancy because my sexual orientation leaves me unable to have a child with my romantic partner. I was, in Sally’s words, “a jealous man who couldn’t be happy for her.” She then, rather abruptly, withdrew the invitation to her mother’s barbecue and hung up on me.

After getting off the phone with her, I stewed in my own anger for a while. I truly was happy for her, but I didn’t feel that I needed to be socially pressured in to saying some magic word to her just because everyone else was saying it. But, as my anger subsided, I began to focus on Sally’s accusation. I don’t consider myself to be jealous or jaded when it comes to pregnancy or babies. As I said, I am childless partially by circumstance of sexual orientation and partially by choice.

Please help me. Am I in the wrong here? Did I break a social contract by not saying “congratulations” to Sally? Did I, in an oafish way, truly hurt someone I did, and still do, consider a friend? 0128-13

First point of business – Get yourself a copy of “Miss Manners’ Basic Training:  The Right Thing To Say”.   It is out of print but there are still used copies for sale online and occasionally Ehell gives away copies.   In the first chapter, Judith Martin explains the importance of “conventional politeness” in response to other people’s good (and sometimes bad) news.

Etiquette can provide people with the right thing to say -but not because its so adorably creative (although heaven knows it sometimes has to be to get through the situations people throw at it nowadays).   It is because it expresses its feelings in the time-tested ways that it knows will be appreciated and understood.

I underlined “understood” because when people announce significant life events, they do have a deeply engrained, culture expectation of hearing responses they will understand as being supportive.    Judith Martin writes further,

People whose lives are being enriched often take the simple view that if life is good, one should be happy – and the outrageous view that their friends should be happy for them.  They would enjoy hearing their friends say so, in those highly conventional ways.

Unfortunately you used the happy occasion of your friend’s pregnancy to not focus on their good news but rather to gird up your beliefs as to why you cannot utter the word “congratulations”.    To put it bluntly,  you were selfish and only thought of your own opinion rather than laying them aside to genuinely wish someone, in the conventional politeness they would understand, congratulations on this new season of their lives.  And then you deepened the problem by actually defending your actions to Sally when discretionary restraint would have been a wiser choice.    It is not lying to be discreet in your choice of words.    Later in the book, Martin addresses what to say upon hearing the news of a most unexpected pregnancy or one you think is not a good idea.  It’s one word – “Congratulations.”

Rachel doesn’t get off the hook.  She took offense at something that was not hers to take up and etiquette doesn’t give much grace to secondhand offendees.   She is a troublemaker who created drama and conflict that could have been easily avoided by simply ignoring your lack of graciousness.    My imagination takes me to the point where you, confronted on the phone by Sally, could have said, “Did I? Forgive my oversight!  Many congratulations to you!  I am excited for you!”, and Rachel would have looked like an meddling idiot and this whole drama utterly diffused.  Good heavens, you played right into Rachel’s hand on this one whereas if you had used conventional etiquette to congratulate Sally in the first place, you would have never ceded any power to a rude boor.

As for Sally, two words. “Pregnancy hormones”.   It doesn’t excuse her selfish demand that you must be happy for her and her rude insistence that you will explain yourself but it does explain the high emotions.

How to fix the friendship?  Here on Etiquette Hell, we understand that we cannot change the behaviors of others but we can change our own by taking ownership of our actions.   If you want to heal the friendship, I suggest arranging to meet Sally AND JIM to offer no excuses for your behavior but rather to humble apologize for your part of this debacle.   I emphasize her husband because you need someone who is not influenced by pregnancy hormones to hear your words and who will remind Sally later of what you really did say.   Here is what you would say,

“Sally, you were right.  I did not use the word, ‘congratulations’ upon hearing your good news.   I was selfishly thinking of my own reasons why I prefer to not use the word and not focusing on your happy news.   I do apologize for that.  I am very happy for both of you and look forward to meeting the newest member of your family.” 

Whatever you say, always bring the focus back to Sally, husband and the baby and do not give in to any desires to explain yourself further.

 

{ 132 comments… read them below or add one }

Elsie January 29, 2013 at 7:56 pm

” My imagination takes me to the point where you, confronted on the phone by Sally, could have said, “Did I? Forgive my oversight! Many congratulations to you! I am excited for you!”, and Rachel would have looked like an meddling idiot and this whole drama utterly diffused. ” <-Admin

^^^ That 100x. That's exactly what I would have done.

Seems all parties involved dramatically over reacted to the situation.

Reply

Ally January 29, 2013 at 8:56 pm

I’m trying to think if I ever said “Congratulations” to my brother when he and his wife announced they were pregnant. I knew they weren’t trying at that time and they were pretty broke. I think I went: “Yay! I can’t wait to be an aunt to your baby!”

OPs explanation may have been strange, but it showed good intentions and heck, it was in response to an extremely rude interrogation. I can’t get behind the silly ninnies who would even notice a single word, let alone throw a tantrum over that. And pregnancy hormones don’t turn you into someone like that.

Reply

David January 29, 2013 at 11:42 pm

@Robert;

Glad about the update and it’s a good thing that Jim was there to talk Sally down. Make sure to tell them (as a couple) ‘congratulations’.

Reply

Amy January 30, 2013 at 2:40 am

One of my friends recently told me she was pregnant. It was not planned. The timing was not the best. I couldn’t hide my shock. But you know what? The person telling me she was pregnant totally understood my shock because she was shocked as well. At no point was I rude, but I doubt congratulations popped out right away. I think this is the fault of an overly critical, over protective friend (Rachel) who whipped things up into a tizzy.

Telling someone you’re pregnant when the person you’re telling KNOWS it was unplanned is obviously going to cause at least one raised eyebrow. The person doing the telling probably knows this. So, even if his body language was a little ‘off’ as some have mentioned as a possibility, I still don’t think that’s an excuse for Rachel’s idiocy in whipping her friend up into a state when she had been just fine with the whole thing before Rachel brought it up. So, shame on Rachel. If there was a friend to disown in this story (though I also think that is stupid), it’d be Rachel! Also, I doubt Sally feels he’s a jealous, bitter person – if she’s as good of a friend as we’re led to believe – and I bet those ideas were also a product of Rachel.

Reply

Tasryn January 30, 2013 at 5:12 am

I can see two issues with this. From the pregnant friend’s standpoint, I understand completely. I gave birth to my beautiful daughter in July and two of my best friends never congratulated me. I just never heard from them for months-not even a one word text or Facebook message. I finally got in touch with them and asked why they never wrote. One was ‘busy’ and the other was going through personal issues, which was true, although she was only Facebook every other day writing on her own and other people’s Facebook pages during the months before and after my daughter was born. I honestly look at these relationships differently now. I’m not like this with everything but with two life events- a wedding and the birth of children-I want my friends to be there for me and by being there for me, I mean acknowledging that my life has undergone a very big change and sharing in my joy. It doesn’t take a lot to make someone feel special. For me, just a simple one line message to say they were so happy for me would have been enough. The fact they couldn’t manage that speaks volumes.

But saying that, the friend was out of line to “blame” her friend not saying congrats on his being a “bitter” gay man. Blaming his behavior on his homosexuality is just wrong-it’s almost saying “Well, you’re gay so of course you would act this way”. Also, how presumptuous to imply he didn’t express congrats because he couldn’t have children. Would she have acted this way around a friend who had been trying to or couldn’t conceive? Or what if she accused a friend of not saying congrats because they wanted children themselves only to find out that they never wanted any children? The subject of conception is an emotional one for a lot of people-some people desperately want children, some can’t have them, some don’t want them. I just don’t think it’s an area for polite conversation particularly when it’s talked about in an accusatory way. This friend was also way out of line.

Reply

--Lia January 30, 2013 at 7:51 am

I’ll be checking back throughout the week to hear how coffee with Sally and Jim went. If Rachel is turning out to be the villain in this drama, Jim is turning out to be the hero. Congratulations on this all turning out so well.

Reply

Moralia January 30, 2013 at 9:19 am

I never say the word “Congratulations” — honestly, the word sounds weird coming out of my mouth. I use other expressions to say the same thing, “I’m so HAPPY for you!”, “Wonderful!” etc. No one has ever taken notice of the omission from my vocabulary. I’d send a note of apology to Sally through Jim (so he knows what’s up, but isn’t put in the middle), stating that you’re terribly sorry for your poor choice of words and expressing your happiness and good wishes. Then don’t make any effort to “fix” the relationship or go out of your way to spend time with them. She made disproportionately hurtful comments over a minor faux pas.
I find that it never does any good to explain yourself when someone is on the attack. I was once taken to task by a third party once for saying to a grieving person, “I heard about XX, I’m so sorry. How are you doing?”
Apparently, I should have said, “I’m sorry for your loss.” and proceeded to list every single wonderful thing about the departed. It told her I’d remember that in the future and politely moved on. I did not tell her that my preference is to focus on the living at times like that instead of delivering an impromptu eulogy. I’m sure some take comfort in remembrances, but I don’t think I was in any way rude or cold-hearted. I know that if I’d brought it up, it would have snowballed into the silliest argument.

Reply

Serena January 30, 2013 at 11:13 am

This isn’t high school anymore. If one of my friends wanted to let a trouble-maker lead her around by the nose, then nullify our friendship over one silly word I would say good riddance to bad rubbish. I can pretty much guarantee if it happens once it will happen again.

Reply

Library Diva January 30, 2013 at 11:48 am

Robert, I’m so glad that the friendship is salvaged and that Sally realized how much she was making over very little and reached out. I was hopeful this would happen. I saw a friendship among my own circle that was almost destroyed over something similar and has ultimately been salvaged, but not before several years went by without the parties speaking to one another. So I had hope for you. Watch out for that Rachel, though. She seems like a real troublemaker. Perhaps she is the jealous one — jealous of your status with Sally and Jim and seeking to usurp? Whatever the reason, keep an eye on her.

Reply

JWH January 30, 2013 at 12:36 pm

I’m curious about Cami’s situation at #54 above.

In the first place, it seems really unreasonable to me to demand that a person completely fake enthusiasm at all moments, then subject them to videotaped evidence afterward.

In the second place, isn’t a private conversation the appropriate time to let somebody close know (politely, of course) if you think their having another child is a mistake?

Reply

Caros January 30, 2013 at 2:15 pm

I have to admit that in the same situation I’m also quite wary of using ‘Congratulations’. Unless I know 100% that this is the correct response, there is always a bit of room to hesitate – is it really a congratulations, it could be a bit of an unplanned shock that may not (yet or even, never) be a welcome one.

In my book, just as finding out one has cancer does not mean an immediate sad end to life, discovery of pregnancy is not always a happy or welcome event.

Reply

tracy January 30, 2013 at 2:44 pm

OP, I was glad to read your update.

gramma dishes said: “The comment about his never being able to have kids was intended to be cruel. Would Sally have ever even considered saying such a thing to another couple she knew were having fertility issues?”

Sadly, infertile couples get comments like this ALL. THE. TIME.

Reply

nk January 30, 2013 at 3:21 pm

OP is unbelievably arrogant to assume that his personal beliefs should outweigh what literally *every* etiquette book would advise. If he doesn’t change his attitude, I doubt this will be the last friendship that he severs.

Reply

Mae January 30, 2013 at 4:41 pm

If this ends up being a double post, my apologies…

I’ve already commented but I have been thinking about this whole pregnancy hormone issue. I think it is a cop-out to use that as an excuse for rude/bad behavior. I have been pregnant twice and I was not so emotional during my pregnancies that I would have called out a friend for not saying a particular word. Now I know that everyone’s pregnancy is different but, Sally was *FINE* with OP’s expression of happiness until Rachel got involved. I agree that explaining the lack of using congratulations was not the best choice, but really? “I don’t want to be your friend anymore and you can’t come to my barbeque because you did not tell me congratulations and you are jealous I can have a baby you can’t!” Who the h*ll says something so cold and callous to a friend? Maybe the severing of this friendship was actually in OP’s best interest because I don’t think I could have forgiven someone for speaking to me like that. It’s obvious not only does Rachel have something against OP, but maybe Sally does, too, and is using “pregnancy hormones” as an excuse to vocalize it.

OP- I would just let it go, be cordial to Sally & Jim when you see them and thank your lucky stars you don’t have to put up with “pregnancy hormones”, Rachel and the increasing dramatics that are sure to come.

Reply

Rhiannon January 30, 2013 at 6:14 pm

I have to disagree that this is always the correct response , in any situation. As a 20yr old female, teenage and unplanned pregnancies among friends have occurred, and ‘congratulations’ is definitely not anybody’s first reaction. Although it is a better one than what I heard a friend say immediately after finding out another friend (who is in a committed, stable relationship) ‘are you keeping it?’

Reply

AnaLuisa January 30, 2013 at 7:06 pm

nk, I do sincerely hope this was an irony.

I do not see almost any fault on OP’s side. The only thing is, he could have avoided the explanations, but we must not forget that he was caught off guard by Sally’s incredibly petty, stupid and tacky allegation.

How on earth can we compare an omission of a single word and a mean deliberate attack at something so delicate as the ability to have children, which definitely is a soft spot of quite a lot of people?

I even think that Sally’s happy news would turn some people visibly sad or even make them sulk. For example, I have a friend who had difficulties to conceive, and when she did, her child was stillborn. And it took her seven more years to conceive again. My former schoolmate was stricken with cancer, fortunately, she survived, but she would be never able to have children.

Would you blame these people for not showing the right dose of excitement? I certainly wouldn’t, and if I were Sally, if I saw them overwhelmed with sadness, I would rather be concerned for them than for one stupid word they failed to tell me.

Of course, there are the pregnancy hormones. I was pretty strange myself when my kids were born. But I would never think of deliberately attacking a friend where I can suppose it would hurt, let alone for NO reason at all. Not saying a particular word is NOT a real reason. Even a visible lack of excitement is NOT a reason for making such a scene.

Rachel is certainly the wicked witch here, but I blame Sally as well, because she could have turned Rachel down and didn’t, and it was her who said all the hurtful things to OP.

Honestly, I cannot imagine how someone can put any blame on OP here. The only slightly awkward thing was the explanation, but again – had Sally not put him in such an extremely embarrassing situation, this would never have happened.

Reply

Allie January 30, 2013 at 7:55 pm

This reminds me of that Seinfeld episode in which Kramer is villified for refusing to wear a ribbon signifying support for some cause. I never wear ribbons or arm bracelets and if ever I give to charity I do so anonymously. I find outward displays of generosity to be self-serving. Personally, I don’t think the poster did anything wrong, although if I were in the same situation and was confronted by Sally I probably would have said congratulations just to make her happy and keep the peace. Rachel is a meddling busybody and is the real culprit here. Sally overreacted and I don’t think pregnancy hormones are any excuse. I just had a baby and I have been civil to all the annoyances attendant upon the occasion (I am referring maily to all the relatives to whom it does not seem to occur that the new family might like some privacy in the first few weeks after the birth). Sally should not have allowed Rachel to wind her up and disinviting the poster to the bbq was petulant.

Reply

River January 30, 2013 at 7:56 pm

While I agree with the basics of what everyone has said (Rachel seems to have issues, OP shouldn’t have explained why not, Sally overreacted and Jim’s response was great), I think that the OP has made his opinion on using the word “congratulations” clear – he has come to the conclusion that it’s not the right word for him. So why do most comments here seem to tell him to do it anyway?

Robert, I agree with Admin’s sage advice – the script at the bottom seems to say everything you should without using the word “congratulations”. You have convictions that are inoffensive (if kept private) and harm no one. There are ways of showing and sharing joy without having to say any particular word. And I’m so glad the situation seems to have worked out!

Reply

Jenn50 January 30, 2013 at 9:34 pm

JWH,

There is never an appropriate time to tell someone who is already pregnant that you feel that having another child is a mistake. Chances are that they have thought out the ramifications already. They can’t exactly unring that bell, short of abortion, which I doubt ANY etiquette source would sanction you to advocate.

Reply

Dolphin January 30, 2013 at 9:55 pm

In my culture, we say congratulations once a baby has been born, not before. It’s considered premature and bad luck. When we find out a woman is pregnant, we say what translates to “in a good time.” It basically expresses our wishes to the parents that everything go well with the pregnancy and birth, i.e. not premature, etc.

I hate when people get offended by someone else not saying something specific.

Reply

AnaLuisa January 31, 2013 at 3:14 am

I completely agree with Dolphin’s last sentence.

I would like to add that I find it rather dangerous to apologize for something I positively know wasn’t my fault. I can say I am sorry for the misunderstanding/that the person feels that way, but try to NEVER let people manipulate me into saying something I deeply disagree with, which would be this case (it was Sally who offended OP, not vice versa, and moreover in quite a mean, under-the-belt way).

I would make an exception if the “offender” was my dear grandmother with Alzheimer’s because I would know whatever she says is due to her illness, not ill will. I wonder whether pregnancy hormones can lead you to a state similar to Alzheimer’s – that is, you are not responsible anymore for anything you do or say?

Reply

amyasleigh January 31, 2013 at 7:46 am

As regards the interpersonal situation discussed here: my “take” is that out of the OP, Sally, and Rachel, none were without fault; but the great majority of the fault lies with Rachel. Frankly, Rachel strikes me as being very highly malicious, and / or having a screw loose mentally.

Something more general, and perhaps a side-issue: it amazes me to learn from the correspondence, that apparently other people in the world, besides Rachel (who is, hopefully, strictly a one-off), hold the opinion that there are occasions where it’s obligatory for the magic word “congratulations” to be said; and where any alternative way of indicating joy for the honoree’s happy situation — no matter how heartfelt, no matter how lovingly expressed — is to be regarded as an insult, with offence to be taken. This is mentioned in secretrebel’s post no. 67, where she tells of getting into bad trouble at a wedding, for failing, in conveying her good wishes and thanks, to do so with the c-word.

A couple of times in the discussion, people at least appear to imply that this almost-idolatry vis-a-vis this particular word, is right and proper — which has me even more gobsmacked, than the discovery that folk exist, who have such a huge hang-up as described, about the obligatory use of the word. Such goings-on seem to me, not etiquette with its proper purpose of “social lubrication” and minimising hurt to people; but etiquette gone viciously berserk, out of some court-of-Louis-XIV-on-steroids.

Reply

Robert January 31, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Hello all…OP here again.

I did have coffee with Sally and Jim last night, and things went very well. Sally apologized for saying what she did about me being jealous because I can’t have kids. She said it, as she admitted, specifically because she knew it would hurt me.

As well, I apologized for responding to her inquiry with an explanation of my beliefs concerning the word “Congratulations,” rather than doing what I should have done: Congratulating her and showing her the support that she deserves from a friend.

She forgave me, and I forgave her. The rest of the evening was very nice, and much laughter was had all around.

Oh, and we did agree that Rachel must have an issue with me…but, we don’t know what it is.

Reply

Clarie February 1, 2013 at 1:41 am

OP..I am glad everything worked out between you. After working in a hospital for 15 years, knowing the disapointments that can happen in the ensuing nine months, I never say congradulations until the baby is born.
Rachel, needs help with her own etiquette rules.

Reply

--Lia February 1, 2013 at 2:30 pm

One more thought on giving opinions– I take for granted that pontificating my opinions on religion and politics in a group in impolite. I don’t offer justifications for my actions to a crowd. But if I’m one-on-one with a friend, and if that friend asks why I partake in a particular religious ritual or why I support a candidate or policy, I think it appropriate to answer. As long as my answer describes why I do what I do and I make efforts while explaining not to put anyone else down if they make other choices, I see nothing wrong with giving an answer to a question. That’s what the OP did when Sally ASKED him why he hadn’t said the word “congratulations.” He answered a question that she asked. I’m delighted to learn that apologies were offered all around and that the friendship continues. Whew.

Reply

Enna February 4, 2013 at 1:35 pm

I’m glad OP and Sally sorted it out. I do think OP, Sally and Rachel were all responsible for what happened with the fall out but I do think Rachel is a trouble maker for bringing it up in the 1st place.

Firends will have fallouts and argurments but it’s the way that they are dealt with that matters. Rachel is the one with the problem. However next time OP try to be a bit more diplomatic and tactful.

Reply

Sugaryfun February 5, 2013 at 2:00 am

I’ve been on the other side of this. I remember being quite miffed that an old friend did not say congratualations when I had my baby. I didn’t confront him about it though because I knew that this particular man often doesn’t bother with saying the things you’d conventionally expect (he sometimes won’t bother with “happy birthday” or other pleasantries either, nor does he actually say “I’m sorry” when grudgingly admitting he is wrong about something). I know he’s like this and continue to be his friend so there’s no point being angry really. It’s polite to just use the appropriate word but sometimes people won’t do the polite thing and there’s no point letting yourself get too upset about it.

Reply

Shirley777 February 5, 2013 at 11:43 am

Wow. This whole exchange has been an eye-opener for me. I had no idea that the use of the word “congratulations” was particularly important to people. The word just means that you are happy for the person, and as long as you express that, I don’t see why it matters what word you use to do it. I’ve always felt that saying the conventional, expected thing, means you can’t be bothered to make the effort to come up with your own way of expressing what you want to say. I imagine this is the same way that Sugaryfun’s friend feels, but this is making me understand that sometimes the kindest thing you can do for other people is to to be boring, conventional, and unimaginative.

Reply

Shirley777 February 6, 2013 at 1:16 pm

I thought about about it some more. Sometimes there is no alternative way to say it: no other words mean the same, for example, as “I love you”.

Reply

Shirley777 February 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm

You know how we are taught to treat others as we would want to be treated? This can cause real problems for those of us who try to do exactly that – only to discover that others often don’t want to be treated the way we would want to be.
I think I have mild Aspergers, and this so often gets in the way for me. I guess rules of etiquette exist to try and get around this problem, but sometimes they make little sense (WHY is it a bad thing to put your elbows on the table?). I try to treat others with kindness and respect, but sometimes it seems that isn’t enough, and I don’t really get that.

Reply

Molly February 11, 2013 at 11:55 am

Huh. I’m looking back over 13, 14 years of people in my family and circle of friends getting pregnant and trying to think of what I’ve said to them. I’ve been baby-rabid since my cousin’s first son was born (he’s 14 now…yikes, am I old!), and my reaction tends to be along the lines of YAY A BABY I’M SO HAPPY FOR YOU! Do I say “congratulations” in there somewhere? Maybe. I have no idea. I reserve a simple statement of “congratulations” for people I don’t know very well and have nothing else to say to. Not as an intended slight; I just feel weird squealing and gushing all over someone I don’t really know.

I’ve yet to have one person tell me I’m responding wrong to their news. And honestly, I think “congratulations” IS a weird response. “Good job on having functioning reproductive organs!” seems like a weird sentiment to me. I say it because it’s what you say, but I’m definitely on OP’s side with thinking it’s a pretty weird thing when you think about it.

Reply

Kat February 14, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Sorry, I have to disagree with most of you on this…I’m completely on the OP’s side here. He made it VERY clear that he was happy for his friend and wished her well. If she chooses to let someone get her in a snit because he didn’t say EXACTLY what she wanted him to, well that just shows that she’s more concerned with getting attention than the thought behind the words, doesn’t it? This would be like, if I sent someone a thank you card for a wedding present and they tore into me for not specifically stating five reasons why I enjoyed the present, exactly where I placed it in the home, exactly what I plan to do with it…. really. I’m sorry but I’m against admin on this one. The fault is entirely on Rachel, little miss manure-stirrer, and no I will not give Sally a pass on “pregnancy hormones”. Being pregnant is no excuse for being a dramatic antagonizer, and if she’s that willing to cut the OP because he didn’t thank her in the exact words she wanted, then clearly she didn’t value their friendship in the first place.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: