By Melissa O’Brien, Shape Magazine – 09/01/2005 – 12:00am
Test your social IQ: do you have the manners of an aristocrat or a cave woman? For the answer, kindly take this quiz!
1. You planned to meet a friend at the gym after work. She was supposed to be there at 7 and it’s now 7:10. You:
a. hit the machines after waiting five more minutes.
b. hold off until 7:30, then start working out.
c. storm out the door at 7:15. Forget the workout–you’re furious!
Instant insight “If it’s only 10 or 15 minutes, it’s best to be gracious about it,” advises Ceri Marsh, the Toronto-based co-author of the Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Grace Under Pressure (Broadway Books, 2004). And if you’ve waited that long, you’re perfectly justified in getting started–just don’t scold your friend when she shows up. “One of the first rules of etiquette is ‘Don’t be rude to the rude person.'” Marsh says. Leave it up to your friend to explain and apologize.
2 At a family gathering, your aunt reveals she’s starting yet another diet. You tell her:
a. “I think you look great just as you are, but I’m here to cheer you on.”
b. “How much weight do you want to lose?”
c. “You’re not jumping on that low-carb bandwagon, are you?”
Instant insight The polite thing to do is to be supportive and avoid negative comments. “The last thing you want is to get drawn into a discussion of whether or not a diet is necessary for your aunt [unless you are truly concerned that she has a problem],” Marsh says. “Instead, remark on how you admire her for looking after her health.”
3 Your co-worker announces that she’s engaged. You have a feeling that the impending marriage is doomed. You say:
a. “Best wishes; have you two set the date?”
b. “Congrats–let’s see the rock!” and enthusiastically grab her hand.
c. “Wow, that’s a big step. Have you thought about living together first?”
Instant insight Saying congratulations to a would-be bride is an old-school taboo that some people still remember, but it’s not a real blunder. However, focusing on the materialistic aspect–like the size of the engagement ring–rather than wishing the couple the best is. And making a negative comment “basically lets the person know that you don’t approve,” Marsh says. “That is inappropriate.”
4 You’re about to introduce your friend Sara, but you can’t remember the other person’s name. You say:
a. “I’m so sorry–I’m drawing a complete blank on your name.”
b. “Sara, I’d like you to meet …” and then gesture to your acquaintance so she’ll say her own name.
c. “Hi” to your acquaintance and wait for her to introduce herself to Sara.
Instant insight “Go ahead and admit it if you can’t remember someone’s name,” Marsh says. “It’s not the end of the world. The main thing is that you make introductions.” Peggy Post, the southwest Florida-based author of Emily Post’s Etiquette, 17th Edition (Harper-Resource, 2004), agrees: “If you can’t remember someone’s name, that’s no excuse for not introducing her.”
5 You’ve been invited to a large dinner party and you’re a vegetarian. You:
a. don’t say anything to the hostess and eat what you can.
b. bring your own veggie meal.
c. ask the hostess to dish up at least one meatless entree.
Instant insight If it’s a big party with many guests, “keep your mouth shut and plan accordingly,” Post advises. “Don’t expect your host to make it all about you.”
Marsh agrees: “You have to make it as easy as possible for your hostess. Let her know that you’re perfectly happy to eat whatever she’s serving that’s meatless.” But if you’re invited to a small dinner party or you’re the only guest, it’s best to let the hostess know in advance that you’re a vegetarian so she doesn’t go to the trouble of making an elaborate meal you won’t eat. A courteous guest will also offer to bring her own vegetarian dish in this situation.
6 You’re on a lunch date and your cell phone rings. You:
a. turn it off immediately. If it rang, it was only because you forgot to turn it off before you sat down.
b. answer it but tell the caller that you can’t talk right now and will return her call later.
c. chat for a few minutes so the caller doesn’t think you’re rude.
Instant insight “One of the key things about cell-phone etiquette is to remember the person you’re with. When you’re totally ignoring them, which is what you’re doing if you’re taking or making a phone call, they feel second best,” Post explains. Of course, if you have kids and need to be reachable in case the sitter or school needs to alert you of an emergency, that’s perfectly understandable. Otherwise, turn off your phone beforehand and focus on present company!
If you answered mostly A’s, you’re:
PERFECTLY POLITE When it comes to matters of etiquette, you practically wrote the book. But do watch out for being judgmental toward those who aren’t as manners-savvy as you. As Emily Post used to say, “It really doesn’t matter what fork you use; what really matters is being interested in the people you’re having a meal with.” To become an official etiquette guru, check out “The Etiquette Survival Business Start Up Kit” on etiquette survival.com, which teaches you how to conduct etiquette seminars.
Melissa O’Brien, a Los Angeles-based certified life coach and director of photography and casting for Shape, always tries to use the right fork.