Monday, August 22, 2011

On Rumor

How do you handle rumors about you?

To begin with you have to hear them. This is not as easy as you may think. In order to hear what others are saying about you, you must be someone people can feel comfortable coming to with gossip about you. That means they have to trust you not to shoot the messenger and to thank them for bringing even bad news to your attention. It also means you should often try to add detail or information to rumors about yourself to give people extra incentive to bring such things to your attention.

Then your response will vary by the type of rumor, and most rumors are actually a combination of things and thus require a combination of responses. The basic things to consider are if the rumor is about feelings or fact and if it is about you or someone else.

The easiest rumor to deal with is a factual rumor about someone else, you generally want to do nothing unless you either know it to be false in which case you say so, or know it to be something that the person involved is out about in which case you can involved would have no problem telling you so themselves.

For example if you respond to "Sam and Chris are dating" you want to say nothing if you know nothing, say "No Sam is exclusive with Jo" if you know that is the case, or say "Yes, and Sam is proud as a peacock about it" if you know that to be the case. The hard part if if you know this is true but know Sam asked you not to let it be known, in which case you simply listen and say something like "That is interesting" or "Huh" and move on.

A factual rumor about you is more difficult, but in general you want to confirm if it is true and if possible add detail and context. If it is true but involves breaching the trust of someone else thank the person for telling you and avoid comment until you can talk to the other person involved. If you do get permission to go public from the other person involved, be sure to tell the person who brought the rumor to your attention first. If the rumor is untrue, say so and give details and facts that contradict it.

For example: When responding to "I heard you and Sam were dating" you can say "Yes, we went out for the second time Saturday to that lovely ice cream place" or "No, we did meet up for coffee last week, but that was to discuss plans for the kennel, I would never even try to come between Sam and Jo" or if you haven't checked with Sam yet say "Really? That is interesting" and move on, but circle back to confirm the rumor if you can.

A rumor about the feeling of others should always get the same response, "Well they are entitled to feel how they feel" this sounds easier than it is. The other trick is to remember that opinions can be treated as feelings.

For example "I heard Jim hates you" is going to be upsetting but "Jim is entitled to feel as he does" is one of the few dignified responses. You can add "I am disappointed he feels that way" but never argue with someone's feelings even in the rumor mill. Opinions like "Jim thinks you are crazy" are often best dealt with this way, saying "He is entitled to his feelings, but I don't agree" is easier than trying to treat your sanity as an objective point to argue about.

When it comes to rumors about your own feelings you need to assert yourself as expert but also treat others feelings and opinions about your emotional states as valid. This can be a tricky balance.

For example "Jim thinks you hate him" if you don't is best responded to by saying "Oh, no! I Jim and I are not best friends but I rather like him and I have always meant to get to know him better, but time pressures have prevented it, but I can respect Jim's coming to that conclusion by my limited contact with him and I really should try to do something about that.

In general the best response is to offer more good information either way, but to keep in mind that a lady knows her own mind, but not the minds of others.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

On Reputation

Please stop thinking of your reputation.

A healthy regard for the opinions of others is something every social creature should have, but it is almost never a good reason for a lady to do something or to fail to do something.

If you live your life based on what others will conclude from your actions you are not living your life, you are living the life of others expectations. And that is a hollow sort of thing.

It is not to say that a lady should not behave, but it is to say that in determining how to behave a lady regards her own high opinion of herself rather then what others might think.

She also does not desperately try to raise herself in the regard of others. Having conversation and generally being interested in people is one thing, catering to someone's desire to the exclusion of your own is not at all charming and likely to offend.

Remember that you are a lady and above such things. If your company alone is not enough to get you in to social circle you wish to join, then those circle are unlikely to be terribly interesting. One thing every lady understands is that people, be they famous and wealthy or poor and unregarded are not fundamentally different from her. Because she know this she is better off not spending time with people who are busy believing that they are somehow better.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Ladylike Art of Social Combat

The gentle art of disagreement has a more robust kin. This seems to be a skill that is being lost. Being nice is not always an option, and some people simply spoil communities and are not to be tolerated.

So what do you do when someone crosses the line from merely rude to being someone who you are unwilling to have in your community?

First think carefully. It is easy to want someone wiped off the face of the earth when they hurt your feelings or pride. That is totally normal, but it is a reason to avoid the person for a while, not a reason that they are a threat to your community. Social combat is something that I am only comfortable using on people who are actual threats to my community.

Second sit down and make a case. This is something that is best done alone. Consider writing down why you think this person is a threat to your community. Write down everything. Go though and look at your list and pretend it is about someone you care about and from someone who you don't know well. Evaluate each item from that perspective. Chances are your list will get smaller, more objective and less about you and yours. That is a good thing. Often the most powerful things you can say are the sort of things a person is likely to have noticed themselves.

Oh and it shouldn't need to be said but be sure you are as scrupulously truthful as you can possibly be. You might need to eliminate items you cannot properly attribute. This is your reputation you are putting on the line be sure that each statement in your case is something you are willing to stake you name on.

Now you are properly armed. It is time to do combat.

Go to an even you would normally go to where your shared social circle is present. Wait until the person in question comes up. Say you don't choose to associate with that person. Next make your case against them in one or two short powerful sentences. Do it quickly and clearly and be sure that they know you will say that to anyone. Including the person you find offensive.

Repeat as necessary.

Some concrete examples of social combat-

"I don't choose to associate with him. I understand how someone might have to kill in that line of work, but he brings it up unprompted and with pride in his voice. It makes me uncomfortable that he seems to think he should be respected for that."

"I don't like associate with her. I have never heard her speak of anyone she actually knows with admiration or approval. I have heard her tear in to friends new creative endeavors when they are at their most vulnerable. I don't want to subject myself to her constant critique nor is it what I would wish for my friends."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

On Causes

The public often associates Ladies with Causes and in this they are both right and wrong. The vision is often the charitable fundraiser for the not-at-all controversial "good cause". The reality is that there is that for some, but many ladies have also been at the forefront of civil rights, suffrage and other big social battles.

To call oneself a lady is to claim social power. It is to recognize that simply by behaving yourself you can gain influence. Part of the duty of a lady to to use that influence when one can. This is not to say that one should take up every cause, or that one should "call out" others or talk endlessly about ones cause. A just cause is not a reason to be impolite or a bore, and doing so weakens your voice. It is to say that from time to time a lady must put her efforts in to something bigger than she, and use that social power to try to move society, even just a little, to being a kinder and more humane place.

Often this might take the form of active involvement by sharing information, polite protests, or developing support systems for people who have been treated unkindly. Another way a lady can sometimes help is simply by being herself. For example I practice an unusual and sometimes maligned religion. I mention it when appropriate and joke about it when I can. Knowing someone in a group is giving a face to something that would otherwise be scary and "out there", ladies often make very good faces for groups that might otherwise be maligned.

So take a moment and think about what you care about, what you wish to speak for, what you can stand up for and whom you can make society a little easier for, then do not do it all but do something. Being a lady is often about careful choices, please consider not just when you can be kinder and more polite but when you can gently urge others to do so as well