Monday, January 10, 2011

A Lady is Surrounded By Ladies and Gentlemen

Everyone I meet is a lady or a gentleman.* I treat them accordingly.

At lunch I am seated by a Lady, I thank her for her services. A gentleman comes by and asks me what I would like to drink. I tell him that a glass of water would be lovely right now and thank him when he brings me one. I am joined by people I know. I smile, greet them my name and tell them that I appreciate them spending this lunch time with me. There is conversation and I enjoy it and look for opportunities to bring up my companions achievements and to encourage them to talk about things that I know they are particularly well informed, insightful or witty about. At then end of the meal I thank my companions for their time and tell them that I enjoyed our time together. We might make plans to do it again. I also thank my server, yes I do it with a tip, but also with a smile and a thank you so much, and because this was a really lovely meal I add, I enjoyed my lunch very much, my complements to the chef.

You have probably heard some version of do onto others as you would have them do unto you. The problem is that you know yourself quite well (I hope!) and you do not always know others very well. The way around this is to think about how you like to be treated by people who have limited information about you. If you were a hostess, you could handle it if someone was abrupt snapped at you about wanting a booth instead of a table, but wouldn't you feel more respected if someone said "I know you have to work with what you have and give every server a fair chance, but if it is not too much trouble could you arrange for a booth? I find them much more comfortable". Isn't that a better way to treat a lady?

Asking nicely will is a great place to start, but taking a moment to imagine yourself in someones role, acknowledging the limitations they work within and expertise and then asking if they can accommodate your preference often gets really excellent results. You probably really like it when someone recognizes what you do, others do as well.

As you get to know people better you can get better at giving people a pleasant experience, and in doing so you usually improve your own experience. For example the lunchtime conversation, by saying things like “Susan just got back from a trip to Japan, Susan. She was telling me about ancestor worship and that reminded me of what you were talking about with Ancient Romans having household gods” I have set up a conversation between people where each can shine and I can hear about interesting things.

By treating people well, taking a moment to recognize the difficulties of a busy hostess for example, I often find that they then treat me really well in return, for example they might recommend something that they really love from the menu. There is some evidence that good manners can be contagious like that. I do know that they make my world a far more pleasant place to live.

*Unless they prove otherwise, for more on this see Do Judge! (Carefully and Kindly)

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