Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Not Quite Your Momma's Miss Manners - Part I

"Be polite!"

I cannot tell you how often I heard those words from my mother as a child - as an admonition, a gentle reminder, or just a reflex she must have to say it. I still hear her now (in my head) when in a sticky wicket of a social situation. Yet with today's overflow of technology and the casualness of our society, "manners" have also evolved. So how do we navigate the potential pitfalls of social interaction? We'll begin with a semi-serious topic.

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
Sir Elton knew what he was talking about - for many people, apologizing can be a daunting, unpleasant task, for not only do we admit that we messed up, we are casting ourselves upon the mercy of another individual to grant us forgiveness. No one is perfect; I probably commit at least one faux pas daily. In fact, I have friends who call me F.I.M. - foot in mouth. As such, the most important things I have learned with regards to missteps are:

1) Know WHEN To Apologize
Generally speaking, if you have caused offense, damage, or been inappropriate, you should apologize and mean it. Unless you are truly not sorry and you do not value your relationship with the offended party, suck it up and humbly apologize. If you broke something, apologize. If you said something out of anger/frustration/hurt/inebriation/etc., apologize. If you made an innocent mistake that hurt someone, apologize. It never hurts you to say you're sorry, but it may heal the hurt of another.

2) Know HOW To Apologize
 A simple "I'm sorry" is all well and good if, say, you accidentally bump someone or commit another innocuous offense. Anything more, and you owe the other party a 3-part, well-intended apology:
A) Actually Say The Words
Sometimes, this can be the hardest part of the apology. This is best done in person, it is acceptable on the phone, but DO NOT TEXT unless your calls go unanswered. Even then, you should leave a voicemail. You can also go old-school and write a letter, if you like. The importance of this is ensuring the person understands that "I'm sorry" isn't a reflex, but that you actually thought it through.
B) Validate His/Her Feelings
The second part of an apology is acknowledging WHY the other person is upset. This not only makes the other person more open to believing you are sorry, but shows a depth of emotional intelligence. If you do not understand why they are upset, now is the time to clarify - something along the lines of "I'm sorry, I clearly upset you, but I don't understand what you are feeling - would you please explain it so I can apologize and avoid hurting you in the future?" But you aren't done yet.
C) Ask How You Can Repair The Damage
If you broke or damaged something valuable, you can offer to replace or fix it, although some things (heirlooms, etc.) may be irreplaceable. Otherwise, let the other person know you are truly remorseful by offering this brand of repentance - it will turn your "I'm sorry" into an accepted apology more often than not. Trust me, this can go a long way towards mending fences, even if you made a complete donkey out of yourself.

3) A Few Tips To Avoid The Need To Apologize
We will mess up - it's our nature. But a few things contribute to more apology-worthy situations than others:
A) NEVER get black-out drunk in social situations - that is for idiots and children. We've all been there, and it ain't pretty. There's not much worse than needing to apologize for something you cannot even remember doing.
B) Be careful - simple and effective. Don't be cavalier with someone else's possessions or feelings.
C) Be nice - it beats the snot out of the alternative, and no one likes a meanie.
D) Make your momma proud - if you can't stand the idea of your parent/sibling/grandparent/aunt/uncle/whoever knowing what you did, that may be a sign you shouldn't do it.
E) Be honest -  lies and deceit cut deeper than anything, and trust takes years to build but only seconds to destroy. Value your friends and family - always tell them the truth, even if you have to sugar-coat it.

These are just some guidelines I strive to follow that I have found to be effective. I don't claim to be an expert - you may be reading this and wonder who I think I am to preach (if so, call me and tell me what I did - I'll be happy to offer you an apology). And tomorrow, I'll post something happy, I promise! I just felt a need to be honest and real with y'all. Take care of each other!

1 comment:

  1. You write like an expert...and, this topic is something we all need to be reminded of often...thanks, Gilly.