Author Topic: Correcting Faux Pas / Behavior of Others or The Battle Against Eroding Manners  (Read 3677 times)

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Venus193

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We repeatedly say on this board that there is no polite way to call someone's attention to their etiquette faux pas, but this post from the discussion on the self-righteously tardy makes me realize that there has to be:


These lateness discussions are fascinating to me. It's not amazing that so much of this happens but that so many people feel they don't have a right not to be aggravated by it in the name of politeness. It seems to me that society is heading ever faster into the realm of rudeness with certain actions that are becoming more acceptable: swearing at commonplace things, anger-based humor, saying no with no response at all instead a a polite rejection, and deliberate lateness because "that's the way I am" justifications. There's very little I can do to change much of it, but I can refuse to accommodate it by kowtowing to it or participating in it. And that's my stand. You need to decide what yours is and be true to it. Who knows, maybe you will become a model for others.

More recently, here is an example of a boundary violation common in families:

My brother once asked my husband what his salary was, because brother was in the process of applying for jobs. Husband didn't want to share what he earned, but did give a general indication of what was useful in their field of work. My brother kept pressing, why didn't husband share it? It's not like he would post it on facebook or something! Husband said that it was private.
Brother started mailing that he didn't understand why he didn't tell him, they were so close, it was something friends would do, and that he didn't like husbands attitude.
Two momths later when I went out to dinner with brother for his graduation, brother started interrogating me as for why husband didn't share it, And regurgitated all the arguments.

Appareantly, if he can't umderstand why people have certain boumdaries, he feels he doesn't have to respect them.

Manners aren't about how you feel, but how you act on those feelings.

If we consistently allow the people in our lives to get away with rude behavior because it isn't within the rules of etiquette to correct it, the bad behavior will not only continue but will ultimately erode the overall standard of behavior until there are no rules at all left to break (and if we are not already regarded as dinosaurs of society, we will be).

We can agree that it is both permissible and appropriate to correct the manners of anyone over whom you have authority provided it is not done in a humiliating manner (exceptions can be made if the breach creates an unsafe condition for anyone):

A parent can correct his/her own child
A teacher can correct a pupil or student
A boss can correct an underling
A military non-com or officer can correct someone lower in rank

We consistently formulate approaches to the one-time offenders we encounter in public (e.g., the boor who talks in a movie theatre), but we do need to find a way to deal with long-term offenders who do not fit the above descriptions.  In toxic families this is likely to be a case-by-case matter involving deeper issues, but there are others in our lives who may be in workplaces or social circles whose behavior either offends a social norm or may embarrass themselves or others whom we may not have the option to easily remove from our lives.

We joke about presenting etiquette books, but all know that Pygmalion gifts can be rude.  They certainly are passive/aggressive, which is rude in addition to usually being ineffective.

With the basic position of decency and in order to model behavior we can agree that for all but the most egregious cases we need to keep the interaction private.  We also need to remain calm, eschew the use of expletives of the type we do not permit in this forum, and state the case without ambiguity.

What else is required here?

Morticia

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Interesting topic. I think not correcting adults is in force when it doesn't actually affect you. If someone is drinking their fingerbowl or using the wrong fork or yawning without covering their mouth, we don't get to call them on it. But I believe that stops when someone's rudeness impacts you.

Badgering for your financials? I think it is fine to let them know that's not an appropriate question? Their lateness makes you late? They say something nasty and uncalled for? Of course you can say something.

But I think it is important that the offence is actually to more than your sensibilities, and varies by relationship. I wouldn't call a stranger on not saying thank you for holding their door, but I might ask a friend why they didn't feel I warranted courtesy if they never said please to me.
Now our mom says she's changed her mind about the devil's brood, they may be evil so she thinks, but at least they're never rude...
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Venus193

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Lateness is one of my pet peeves and I did call someone out on it over the phone by pointing out that she was always punctual for hard start times (like entertainment venues) but never on time when meeting friends.  That did show some improvement, but didn't entirely eliminate the problem.

As to family issues, I happen to think that etiquette is even more necessary because family members are less "disposable" than most other people, at least in theory.  The fact that "family vacations" are often an oxymoron point to the real issue of mutual respect within one's DNA.

dharmaexpress

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So interesting.  I think social correction is important, but I prefer the kind that is conveyed subtly.  Unfortunately, people do seem to be losing their fluency with that particular language.

I was out with a friend I don't see much, and during the first 10 minutes after she arrived at the wine bar, she was on her phone.  Not really looking at me, half paying attention to her surroundings, not ready to order when waiter came by x 2.  Irritating, but I assumed it was something kid related that needed timely response.  I get home later that night, check Facebook, and see that that's what she was doing - there's a long back and forth between her and another friend.

I had subtly sent the message that it was not so cool at the time (looking at her expectantly, body language said clearly "waiting", not saying "it's okay" if she offered an excuse) but it seems the only message she understands is "what the hell is wrong with you?" Which I am ashamed to admit I have been peeved enough on occasion to use.  This person is not a child or even a youngster, but I struggle with correction or comment, seething or acceptance.  She's late about 70% of the time as well. Unless it's a hard start time, and I think maybe the joke is on me that I keep putting myself through it.  We've had a few chats about it, it's not getting through.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2013, 11:01:07 AM by dharmaexpress »

Mikayla

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Venus, this is a great question.  It's the one major etiquette rule that I "interpret" at will.

For example, my operative qualifier is "gratuitous".  If I want to point out rudeness merely to embarrass someone, or even as a PA way to address something that should have been handled more directly, then I see it as wrong.

But if it's a pattern of rude behavior, and it's someone close to me, I have two choices:  accept the rudeness, or point it out.  Bean dip isn't going to work.  And if it's something like being consistently late, looking at my watch as they arrive is just PA silliness.  So I can't see anything wrong with "it's rude for you to have so little consideration for my time". 

Venus193

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I agree.  Some things in particular need to be addressed directly and I think lateness is one of them.  It has a domino effect on everything in the situation.  That's the reason that we shouldn't allow the consistently tardy to hold up dinner being served:

  • It can cause the food to be overcooked/burned
  • It is rude to the other guests
  • It causes everything else to take longer
  • It compromises the quality of the event for the hosts and the other guests.

The girl in the tardiness thread who caused her friends to miss Act One of a play over her candy shopping definitely needs to be called out on this (I don't recall if she was or simply dropped by the poster of that story).

Emmy

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I can't think of a proper way to correct people in certain situations such as habitual lateness except let them suffer the consequences of their lateness.  For example, if going out, don't ride together but meet at the venue and let it be known that you will go in and take a seat when the time arrives.  If the latecomer misses the beginning of the movie or show, that is their problem and not yours.  We have a cousin who is almost always very late for family holidays or pulls a no-show.  My mom will serve the meal at the planned time and take cousin's place setting away so we are not starting at an empty space.  If she comes late, then she can warm up leftovers. 

A member of our group of friends also started flaking out at the last minute and pulling no shows when she met her DH.  We approached her about it and she felt no need to apologize and that we were unreasonable for not understanding her DH was now the priority.  I still don't see what that had to do with her lack of consideration by not showing up.  Eventually our group of friends stopped making one on one plans with her because it was likely she would cancel or no-show and spoil the evening.  She would still be invited to events where her presence or lack thereof would not spoil the event.  Eventually she lost touch with the group of friends, a one-sided friendship doesn't last very long.

It gets more complicated when other people cater to the latecomer, like if the host always insists on holding the holiday dinner for cousin Joe when he is an hour and a half late yet again and paints you out to be unreasonable or even 'rude' if you want to eat at a reasonable time because the faaamily isn't all together yet.


Venus193

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That might fall under "My home; my rules" but I see that as being rude to the other guests, which scores no points with me.

I would take it one step beyond your mother, which is to have the latecomer start with the course being served upon arrival.  This does not apply to emergency situations such as the latecomer being a doctor who had to treat an emergency patient as s/he was getting ready to leave the hospital.

Yvaine

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Interesting topic. I think not correcting adults is in force when it doesn't actually affect you. If someone is drinking their fingerbowl or using the wrong fork or yawning without covering their mouth, we don't get to call them on it. But I believe that stops when someone's rudeness impacts you.

Badgering for your financials? I think it is fine to let them know that's not an appropriate question? Their lateness makes you late? They say something nasty and uncalled for? Of course you can say something.

But I think it is important that the offence is actually to more than your sensibilities, and varies by relationship. I wouldn't call a stranger on not saying thank you for holding their door, but I might ask a friend why they didn't feel I warranted courtesy if they never said please to me.

I'm going to fall in with this. The "don't point out rudeness" rule is in place so we don't embarrass people by pointing out harmless, silly gauche things people do, the correction of which serves only to make the corrector feel higher-class than the correct-ee. Strangers using the wrong fork and misusing the finger bowl are perfect examples.

On the other hand, if it's a situation close to you, where you need to confront someone about ongoing inconsiderate behavior, I think it's silly and rules-lawyering to say that the same conversation is polite if you don't use the word "rude" in it, and rude if you do use it. It's not magically more rude to say "You keep standing me up, and that's rude" than it is to say "You keep standing me up, and that's mean/inconsiderate/annoying."

VltGrantham

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We have pointed out rudeness in the past and been called "rude" for doing so--though only by the offending parties.

We host a holiday dinner for DH's family and his sister/BIL are repeatedly late or fail to RSVP at all.  I refuse to do this anymore, so I simply either remove their place settings and offer them left-overs or, if they're unexpected, I used to pull out a card table and chairs.

Last holiday, DH met them at the door and told them how sorry we were that they didn't RSVP but we had no space or food for them.

I've tried conversations, I've tried explaining--I'm sick of the "this is just the way I am" argument.  Well, this is just the way I am.  I have no time for this.

Oddly, since I've eliminated many of the rude people from my life, I have way less drama.  In fact, nearly zilch.  It's been a relief!

siamesecat2965

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 .

Last holiday, DH met them at the door and told them how sorry we were that they didn't RSVP but we had no space or food for them.

I've tried conversations, I've tried explaining--I'm sick of the "this is just the way I am" argument.  Well, this is just the way I am.  I have no time for this.

Oddly, since I've eliminated many of the rude people from my life, I have way less drama.  In fact, nearly zilch.  It's been a relief!

I have to ask, what was their reaction? I would have done the same thing. Constant lateness, esp to holiday meals etc is a huge pet peeve of mine. I just can't stand it.

VltGrantham

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I have to ask, what was their reaction?

They threw an unmitigated fit.  Didn't matter--he shut the door.  He warned them last year.  I refused to call this year and ask and so did he.  Needless to say, they aren't invited this year.

Venus193

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Now, that took chutzpah and I congratulate you and your husband.

siamesecat2965

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I have to ask, what was their reaction?

They threw an unmitigated fit.  Didn't matter--he shut the door.  He warned them last year.  I refused to call this year and ask and so did he.  Needless to say, they aren't invited this year.

Serves them right, and good for you for sticking to your guns and not giving in to their tantrums!  and for not asking them back!  I wish more people would do the same.

bah12

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There's a difference between not 'correcting' other adults and letting people walk all over you with rudeness.  If a friend is consistently late, I'm not obligated to allow her to continuously negatively affect me and my plans without saying something.  It wouldn't be rude to confront her about her tardiness or for that matter to decide that I will no longer tolerate it and stop making plans with her where promptness is preferred. 

At the same time, I'm not going to tell someone in line not to talk on their cell phone while they're checking out.  That's for the cashier to request....not me.

It's pretty much the difference between being the manners police...assuming that we have any authority over other adults, and having a thick enough spine not to let others walk all over us.  And I really don't think it's that fine of a line.  I'm rarely faced with a dillemma about whether or not it's appropriate to interfere and correct someone else's behavior.  It mostly seems intuitive and really the only time I've ever struggled with whether or not to say something is when a friend is acting rudely towards someone else and relays the story to me looking for advice.  And even then, it's not really a matter of wondering if I say they are wrong (because I can do that with no problems), it's how blunt can I be in the delivery?