Last week’s post centered on the appeal of femininity in a culture that is so wrongly influenced by feminism. This week, we will connect how part of a woman’s influence can also be felt in everyday interactions with others, particularly in being gracious. For example, have you ever found yourself in the following situation?
You walk into Starbucks and see a strangely familiar face. The person sees you, and their face lights up with a smile of recognition. They start moving toward you, and all of a sudden, you completely blank on their name. You may have a vague idea that you met them at your friend’s place last week, but you cannot remember whether it’s Kristin or Kary or Kharis. What do you do?
Here’s one that happened to me: I am on my way home from the gym. I moved it with cardio on the elliptical machine; I did group exercises in a class for an hour. I sweated, my hair looks wild, and I’m not so sure I’m smelling pretty. However, I have to stop by Target on the way home because I need ___. While I am in the store, one of my students happens to appear as I’m reaching for the embarrassing object of your choice on aisle 3C of our local Target. “Oh, hi, Miss K___. You look . . . uh . . . nice. And you’re buying underwear or ___ or ___? Wow, Miss K___. You will have to talk about this in class”. So what do you do when your work contacts see you in a very unprofessional moment?
This is where etiquette comes into play. No – it’s not something people just do on Downtown Abbey or when they are meeting their boss or potential in-laws for the first time. Etiquette is not a word reserved for Jane Austen novels; at its root, it is a deep-seated respect for others, no matter their background, income, education, position, connections, talents, weaknesses, or assets. It is the ability to know what to do in any situation with anyone, and not make it more awkward then it already is. Etiquette thinks of others first, by putting them at ease – no matter how you are feeling. At its worst, it may appear politely stiff or excessively formal, but at its best it will be gracious and warm.
So how would a girl start practicing this indispensable skill? I will offer some titles at the end of this post for further reading, but here are a few ideas from the books for some of the most common situations.
~A Lady and Her Friends~
A lady never assumes that people know each other. She always makes introductions and is ready to give her own name first.
A lady never says or does things that makes others feel small or disrespected.
A lady doesn’t bombard her friends with useless e-mails.
A lady does not assume her friends are interested in having a lengthy telephone or text conversation just because she wants to talk.
A lady does not assume that others are interested in hearing her talk and talk and talk and talk.
A lady allows others to finish their thoughts and sentences.
A lady knows how to ask open-ended questions of other people; likewise, she knows how to carry a decent conversation.
A lady does not enter a conversation and then constantly look around instead of maintaining eye contact with the person in front of her, as if she were not really paying attention to the person she is conversing with.
A lady does not give up her friends when she enters a dating relationship. Nor does she lose sight of who she is apart from the relationship.
A lady never asks anyone to divulge his or her age.
A lady mutes her cell phone while she is having coffee or a meal with a friend.
A lady never begins a statement with, “I don’t mean to embarrass you, but . . .”
When a lady encounters someone and cannot, for the life of her, remember that person’s name, she does not say:
“Tell me again how to pronounce your name.”
“I’m having a forgetful moment, so could you spell your name for me?”
But she does say:
“It’s great seeing you, but you have the advantage on me here. I’d appreciate it if you’d remind me of your name again”.
These are just a few starting points to practice. In reality, etiquette is really just loving others as brothers and sisters in Christ (Matthew 22:39). And enjoy it – not just when you are watching Pride and Prejudice!
For Further Reading
The Art of Civilized Conversation, by Margaret Shepherd
As a Lady Would Say: Responses to Life’s Important (And Sometimes Awkward) Situations, by Sheryl Shade
Sunshine is a teacher living in the East Bay of California. She has traveled to Ethiopia, Cambodia, Ireland, England, Indonesia, the Philippines, and the Darien Jungle in Panama. Sunshine enjoys discipleship at her church and makes a mean tortilla soup.