Notes: Success at the Museum

A parent whose son completed Social Arts 101 shared this success story with us. We hope you enjoy reading it!

My mom took John and Cindy to the Fernbank Museum recently. She relayed this story to me:
Cindy was thirsty and they didn’t know where the water fountain was located. John offered to find out. He left my mom and Cindy and made his way to the gentleman taking tickets at the entrance. (Mom said the man was pushing 80 years old. She kept her distance to see how John would handle the situation.)
John said “Excuse me, sir. My sister is thirsty, will you tell me where the water fountain is located.” The man told him. John offered his hand, they shook hands and John thanked him. As my mom walked by, the ticket taker complimented her on “that polite young man.”
I’m proud of John for his behavior, and thrilled this went down in front of my mom. Woo hoo! Sometimes it’s the little things…
Thanks for working with these kids. I know mine isn’t the easiest egg, and I really appreciate you offering your time and patience!
Note: The names have been changed in this post for privacy.

Notes: No Forced Marches or Feeding

pieHere at Social Arts Atlanta, we receive search engine alerts for articles containing the words etiquette and manners. People around the planet blog about these subjects regularly. Sometimes there are great finds and we repost these to our Facebook page (hope you will like us on FB) and at other times, a review and not a repost is in order. Here is one such review.

An expert was asked to settle a dispute between husband and wife about the behavior of a guest who attended their New Year’s celebration. The guest did not eat much during the event and repeatedly discussed that she was “trying to cut back.” This guest raved about the small portions she consumed but refused dessert. The wife thought the guest extreemly rude to not have eaten more and to have declined dessert. The wife wanted this guest to be removed from the household’s invitee list while the husband was not offended and wanted the guest to remain.

The etiquette expert weighed-in in favor of the wife because the expert felt that it was rude not to eat full servings of offered food and that it was even worse that the guest refused food.


There are two people in this situation that lack consideration for others, the hostess and the guest. But, not for the reasons the expert sites.

As a host, you provide for the possible needs of your guests. The only guarantee you have is their company. Guests do not have to partake in everything that you offer. They may not care to see your garden regardless of how many new varieties of hostas you just planted. Or, they might only drink one bottled water instead of the three that you planned for each guest. No forced marches or feedings allowed.

Now, for the guest. Even with nearly every magazine cover shouting the benefits of a new diet, it is best to keep relatively quiet about yours. When you are offered something that you do not care for, a sincere “no thank you” is all that is required. You may not even need to mention your eating plan. If you repeatedly talk about it, you impose it on others and they are not on your diet.

So, hosts, enjoy your guest’s company and do not count his/her calorie intake. And, guests, be discreet about your regime. It keeps your mouth shut which could possibly help your diet.

Notes: To the Right

To_RightNo, this post is not about politics, it is about traffic flow. I am referring to the humanity on sidewalks and in public places. .

Recently, while walking back from a coffee shop with a friend, we came to a point where two other ladies were approaching from the opposite direction. These young ladies were involved with their conversation and phones. The sidewalk was not wide enough for all four of us to pass at once. My friend and I went immediately to the right and into single file mode, while the other two ladies continued on without a glance up from their bubble. We chuckled at their focus and commented on their lack of awareness of the world around them.

Then there is the ever awkward Side-to-Side Dance. This occurs when two people meet, one starts to yield and the other goes in the same direction. To avoid colliding, there is a series weight changes from one foot to the other, which results in the two finding the correct direction for each to pass safely. My observation is that there are between three and four changes of weight and that the right side usually prevails.

So, why is it that the right seems to be the preferred direction? Because the majority of us are right handed? For this post, I looked through the Social Arts Atlanta library and was not able to find any clues to the custom’s history. One of the earliest texts about etiquette that we have dates from 1884 and says;

Don’t neglect to keep the right of the promenade, otherwise there may be a collision and much confusion.

True, but is the “right of the promenade” the same as staying to the right? Promenade is French for walk. It is also a dance action in square dancing, a small turn on one leg in ballet and a feature of urban environments. Right could also mean correct and therefore not refer to direction.

After some time perusing blog posts on the internet, there seems to be a general convention that yielding to the right or left, walking to the right or left is dictated by the direction of vehicle traffic. There were no threads on why this is so and, sadly, it does not always follow. In Japan, they drive and walk on the left. In Australia and New Zealand, vehicle traffic is to the left and there is a “tendency, all be it a weak one” to walk to the left.  In England, vehicle traffic is to the left but according to Mr. Easton of the BBC;

Telling people how to walk is simply not British.

What should we do? The convention in the U.S. is to yield to the right. Everyday Manners published in 1923 emphatically directs boys and girls to;

Keep to the right always.

Then there is the width of the walkway to manage. Most texts about walking in public recommend walking no more than two across. If you are walking more than two across and/or the area is so narrow that only two can pass, someone has to fall back. The only advice I was able to find on how to do this also comes from Everyday Manners;

the member of your group who is at the outside of the walk should step behind the one next to him…

This works but does it need to be applied differently to a group with different ranks, ages and genders? Do ladies go ahead of gentlemen? A teenager should definitely fall behind a parent. But, what if someone in your party is elderly and it would be safer for an adult to lead? Certainly, the simplicity of who is on the outside is best but let your circumstance be your guide.

So, help humanity, work at keeping to the right (at least here at home in the U.S.) and, likely more important, being conscious that there are others that share the walkway with you. Awareness of others is helpful for both etiquette and politics.


Bunce, Oliver Bell. Don’t: A Manual of Mistakes & Improprieties More or Less Prevalent in Conduct and Speech. 2nd ed. Kent, England: Pryor Publications, 1982. Print. The Vellum-Parchment Shilling Series of Miscellaneous Literature.

Schultz, Dana H. “On Which Side (right/left) Should Pedestrians Walk on a Footpath? Frequently Asked in.” 21 Aug. 2013. Web. 03 Nov. 2015.

Easton, Mark. “Advice for Foreigners on How Britons Walk – BBC News.”BBC News. N.p., 18 July 2014. Web. 02 Nov. 2015.

Faculty of the South Philadelphia High School for Girls. Everyday Manners for American Boys and Girls. New York: Macmillan, 1923. Print.

Notes: Why No Screens

Cell_PhonesWhy no screens at Social Arts Atlanta events?

We have all come to rely on these “smart” devises as a way to communicate, make notes, find information and take pictures. This collective data, words and images, can make so many things easier. Need to change the carpool schedule? Send a text. See just the right layout for a meeting? Snap a picture and email it to your assistant.

Yet, as with many fantastic and amazing things, there are down sides.

Screens document and broadcast the good and the bad. Creating an environment where students can make a mistake without the fear of being the subject of a post on social media, well intentioned or not, is important. We all need the space to mess up and try again, to practice and get our footing.

Phones, tablets and MP3 players can be used to create a physical barrier, a crutch, the techo means to “look the other way” from something uncomfortable. In social situations, this discomfort is likely caused by not knowing what to do or say. Because Social Arts’ classes do not allow screens and are relatively small and, student more naturally engage and learn that knowledge and practice are empowering. Most situations are not as difficult as you could ever image.

SAA’s no screen policy is both a protection and a way to make students open up, be uncomfortable to get more comfortable.

Notes: Receiving a Gift

giftflowersWhat is a gift? It may be something you have been longing for or it may be something you never thought you would see in your life. In truth, it is evidence that someone thought about you. The manner in which you receive a gift is important and learning to be grateful for even the seemingly most miss guided gift is an invaluable life skill.

Following is an excerpt from Teaching Children Gift Etiquette by Marie Hartwell-Walker, ED.D. It is written as a guide to teaching children about accepting gifts. We found it a good recap for everyone.

  • Be sure the adults model gratitude and courtesy. It’s impossible to teach children to be gracious if they are watching their parents and other role models behave badly. Raising children well often means cleaning up our own acts. When we remember to regularly say please and thank you and demonstrate our gratitude both for the gifts we receive and the givers who enrich our lives by their very presence, we provide our children with powerful lessons in both politeness and love. When we thank our children for presents they give us — whether it is a drawing they made or something they purchased — we show them how good it makes people feel to be appreciated.
  • Talk to your child about what giving is all about. Ideally, it is an act of love and caring. It’s a way people say, “You’re special to me. I want to make you happy.” Even when a gift is a disappointment, the intention was to please.
  • Kids as young as 5 can learn to figure out something positive to say about a disappointing gift. Finding a reason to be grateful when it would be so much easier to get upset is an invaluable life skill. At age 8, Jocey’s son could have said, “I’ll like playing with this fire truck with my little brother.” (At only 3, my son was too young to be that sophisticated when confronted with the robot though he surprised us all by finding a way to make it less scary.) Give your kids some practice by imagining together some outrageous “gifts” and thinking about what positive things they could say to compliment the gift or the giver.
  • Teach them that if they can’t find something to like about the gift, they can always focus on the love. Someone loved them enough to think about what to get, to go to the store to buy it, and to wrap it up and deliver it. They can always tell the person that it makes them feel good and special that someone went to all that trouble.
  • Emphasize that it’s never, ever, okay to hurt the giver’s feelings. They mustn’t poke fun at the gift or embarrass the giver — even if the giver isn’t there to hear it. Laughing at another’s expense isn’t being funny. It’s just unkind. If those unkind comments get back to the person, it can damage the relationship.
  • Reassure your children that if they really, honestly don’t like a gift, they can quietly come to you later to talk about it.Often gifts can be exchanged or a parent can tactfully help the giver better understand what would be a better choice at another time. And sometimes at least, what at first seemed like the most inappropriate, useless gift ever can become a dear reminder of the person who gave it.

As with all social situations, a bit of thought and practice are always useful. Even if you are not certain where you will store the three foot tall statue of a lama, it will be an unusual reminder of your time with your distant cousin Louis and may be the best gift at your next “white elephant” party.

Source: Hartwell-Walker, M. (2014). Teaching Children Gift Etiquette. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 9, 2014, from

Notes: The Buffet

The_BuffetWith gathering and being a guest this season, we are all likely to come upon The Buffet. This is a easy way to serve a crowd but can be unnerving to navigate. As always, a bit of thought and practice before an encounter is  helpful.



  • It is a party, not a race and there is usually more than enough.
  • Wait your turn, be in the moment, speak to those around you, The Buffet is part of the party.
  • Refrain from eating while in line.
  • Serve a modest portion, it will be easier to manage if you have to eat standing up.


  • Hold a plate. Put it in your left hand, with the palm facing up, under your thumb and on top of your pointer finger. This will leave the right hand available for serving and shaking hands.
  • Add a napkin. It should go under your plate. If you know you have to eat standing, open the napkin before tucking it between your middle and pointer fingers securing it with the weight of the plate. This way, you can wipe the figures of your right hand as needed.
  • Now, add utensils. It or they go under your plate using the pointer and/or middle fingers to hold them.
  • Place a beverage glass. It can go in the area of you palm created by holding the plate, secure the glass with your ring and little fingers.
  • Serve food to your plate.

To manage this process with confidence and grace, really does require practice.It is a bit of a juggle. Just like parallel parking or the correct use of its and it’s, managing The Buffet takes repetition. The time, well spent, will allow for the full enjoyment of the company and food.

Note: Be A Good Guest

At the end of the year, we gather. This long tradition is likely linked to the cold and short days. We just cannot do as much work out in the fields.

So young or old, we are likely to be a guest. Whether it is at an office party, a friend’s open house or your great-aunt’s assisted living cafeteria, being a good guest is a good idea and relatively simple.

Think like a host.

  • Make only reasonable requests. What would your reaction be if your employee asked that limbo be added to the agenda of the cocktail gathering?
  • Offer to help. How did you feel when your home-from-college niece offered to unstop the powder room toilet so you could take the souffle out of the oven?
  • Be open to suggestions. When you were not sure how to talk to your best friend’s  eleven-year-old niece, wasn’t it great when she accepted your invitation to play Sorry?
  • Avoid negative comments. How did you feel when your friend talked about how she got heinous food poising from a batch of gingerbread at your first cookie decorating party?

To help both yourself and the young people in your life, take a moment to talk or think about the people you have enjoyed hosting. What make these people enjoyable to be around, what makes you want to invite them back?

Just this small bit of thought and preparation will make you and yours great guests and repeat guests.