Social Etiquette 101: Fail


I don’t understand social etiquette. I don’t mean the practical side of it like which knife to use or how to eat a bread roll in a restaurant (tear don’t cut, butter small pieces not the whole thing at once). Special family occasions were always spent in a formal dining room at a club when I was growing up. We learned quickly and could soon look as disapproving as the next person whenever a waiter made a mistake. (Once, a waiter poured red wine into my father’s glass which already had white wine in it. Voilà! Rosé!)

No, I don’t understand interpersonal social etiquette. Greetings, farewells, compliments. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a shy person or I just have a learning blind spot.


Almost there, must concentrate more. C-

One person I already know standing on their own, that I get. Walk up, say hello. But what if they’re talking to someone else or a group of someone elses? Is it rude to interrupt? To join the circle?

Greeting someone I don’t know? If they’re on their own, I can usually manage. Walk up, say hello, introduce myself. (The shy person inside is hyperventilating but you gotta do what you gotta do so I just tell her to breathe into a paper bag.) A group of someones I don’t know? Forget it.

And introductions. I think my ears go into some sort of shock when I’m introduced to someone new because I can never remember their name. This is not an issue if I’m never likely to see them again but it can be embarrassing at a next encounter if they call me by name and I just have to mumble a reply. Worse, if someone joins us and as I understand from my (failed) study of social graces that you are supposed to introduce the joiners and the joinees to each other, not remembering the other person’s name is… a problem.


Could try harder. D

What’s so hard about saying goodbye? Right? When to leave, what to say, what to do if the person you want to say goodbye to is speaking to someone (are you allowed to just sneak off?), how to say goodbye to a large number of people… It’s a minefield, I tell you.


Needs to improve. E-

Shudder. I am equally hopeless at giving and receiving compliments. I have a self-deprecating disposition so my natural instinct in responding to a compliment is to deny its validity. “Ha ha,” I laugh nervously. “You obviously weren’t listening very closely! Ha ha.”

I have, through sheer willpower, managed on occasion just to smile and say “Thank you” but when I do, I swear the Compliment Giver is waiting for me to say more. What??

Presumably I am expected to give a compliment in return. Okay, this I truly suck at. It’s not that I don’t think the other person is compliment-worthy; I just can never find the right words when I need them. Of course, they come to me later and I spend the rest of the day/night reliving the conversation in the way it should have gone. (Out of desperation, I’ve been known to send an email to the person in the form of a ‘This Is What I Should Have Said’.)


Looking for a cure for Social Graces Blindness.




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