Notes: Goodness! Its Not About the Fork

When the subject of manners and etiquette comes up is seems that the use of cutlery is the main focus. At Social Arts Atlanta, we hear the following a lot:

I never remember what fork to use!

or

I am always scared I am going to use the wrong spoon.

The truth is you do not have to know which fork to use. In fact, you will never know all the “rules” of etiquette. These customs and rules change over time.

However, what we all can learn is that giving attention to others instead of focusing on ourselves will nearly always lead us in the correct direction. Here are some examples:

Responding to Invitations: You may be busy but taking the time to let the host know you are coming or not coming to a gathering will ensure that there is enough food and drink for everyone attending and perhaps even enough places for all the guests to sit down.

Writing Thank You Notes: It is always nice to sent a note of thanks for a kindness. It is particularly important for gifts that are sent and that you do not open in front of the giver. If you do not sent a note or a message in another way, how will they know that you received it?

Cell Phones In Public: Cell phones have become an important part of all of our lives. However, the world should not be a part of every conversation you make. Hearing private information can make people around you uncomfortable and could possibly give information to someone who should not have it. Also, the person checking you out of the grocery or doctor’s office can do so more quickly if you give them all of your attention. This helps not only the clerk but also there person after you.

If you remember the words of Emily Post you will likely always figure out what to do.

Consideration for the rights and feelings of others…, the very foundation upon which social life is built.

P.S. For dining, always work from the outside in. It is your host’s job to consider you and place the utensels in the correct order according to what is being served.

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Notes: You Can Shake on It

A very important part of introducing yourself  in our culture is the handshake. Done well, it endears you to the person you have just met. Done poorly, it can make you or your new acquaintance uncomfortable. This ancient human gesture (there are depictions of it in Greek art dating from the 5th Century B.C.E.*) is worth a moment of thought and practice.

When shaking hands remember these three things:

  1. Hands meet web to web – meaning that the fleshy part between thumbs and pointer fingers meet.
  2. Be firm and mindful of your grip – too soft is not confident and too firm causes pain.
  3. Be brief but take your time – two to three pumps at a moderate pace is good.

A confident and welcoming handshake is an asset.

Social Arts Classes practice this important skill at every class. More information about classes is available here.

*Patrick, Bethanne Kelly. An Uncommon History of Common Courtesy: How Manners Shaped the World. National Geographic, 2011. pg 16.

Notes: Opening Doors for Others

doorThe custom of a door being held open for a lady by a gentleman can seem dated and sexist in our time. With the evolution of culture, comes the evolution of customs. So can be the case for the kindness of opening doors for others.

It is interesting to explore where this custom started. There are references to Vikings letting the lady go ahead as ambush decoys. Then there are the multiple time periods where women’s skirts reached enormous size, making it physically impossible to get next to a door to open it. Architecture may also have contributed. Doors in some time periods were very large, heavy and may have had studs for protection. It is possible that a woman and even a man, did not have the body mass to get a door moved by him/herself.1

Regardless of its history, how do we keep the curtesy of this practice without it being patronizing?

These two concepts are relatively cut and dry:

First, no matter who you are or who is behind you, it is always correct and courteous to hold a door open long enough so that the person behind you can catch it as they go through.

Second, it is always kind to open and hold a door for anyone whose arms are full with packages, are pushing a stroller or cart of some kind, are elderly or are using a wheelchair or other mobility aid.

Now for the trickier situations:

The basic concept here is that you open and hold a door for your superior. If you and your boss are approaching a doorway, you open and hold and they go first. If you are with your parent or grandparent, you open and hold (if you are the granddaughter, take a moment and make sure your grandfather does not want to take the lead). If you are with an equals, the person on the hinge side should open the door.

Whatever your gender, if someone chooses to open the door for you assume the best, which is he/she is being courteous not disparaging. Being offended by a kindness is not kind.

When you open a door for someone else, position yourself on the hinge side of the door, step ahead, reach across with the hinge-side arm and step back to open the door and allow the person to pass. If you need to switch places, fall behind to do so. It is important that all parties involve take their time, rushing may cause accidents.

At the end of the day, opening and holding a door for another is thoughtful and should have little to do with gender.

1Gentlemen Open Doors. (n.d.). Retrieved July 30, 2016, from http://www.forgetfulgentleman.com/blogs/forgetfulgentleman/6013466-gentlemen-open-doors

Notes: Would You Call a Stranger That?

FriendsIf a label would offend a stranger, don’t use it for a friend.

Language is a powerful tool. Words impart information to others, set the mood and even makes us laugh.

There are also lots of words that are used to make people feel set apart and less than.

Interestingly, many of us that would be angered and offended by a stranger using one of these words, use the very same words for ourselves and friends.

Here is an example that occurs with young women. Most women would not stand for a stranger calling them “whore”, “slut” or “bitch.” Yet will refer to themselves and friends by these labels in texts and group chats, even in person. Some people may respond with, “don’t be so uptight,” “that doesn’t mean anything, it is just a joke!”

Well, maybe, but it normalizes the language bit by bit. Just like that poor frog in the pot of boiling water. The water temperature gradually changes and therefore feels normal to the frog. So, it just gets cooked. Similarly, if you repeatedly hear and use derogatory terms with your friends, how long does it take you to use them for or accept them from those that are not? All the while, there is a trail of the word’s original insulting aim.

Other terms fall into this same pattern include; “fag,” “nigger,” “rag head.” Can they really ever lose all of their mal intention even when they are commandeered by the group that that was first meant to be demeaned?

While it is true that the use of these words can change as time and culture evolve, we can and should choose not to use them for either stranger or friend.

News: Registration Open for Next Season

StudentsReadySocial Arts Atlanta is pleased to announce that registration is open for Social Arts Classes for the 2016/2017 Season!

Social Arts 101 & 102 teach social protocol and basic social dances. This knowledge leads to skill which increases confidence. Roll playing and hands-on activities, give each student the opportunity to practice. This not only makes class time active, engaging and fun but also ensures that information is truly learned.

Social Arts Classes are $275 per semester of five monthly classes. They are held at International Montessori Academy which is conveniently located in Candler Park. Enrollment is limited to 26 per class.

Detailed curriculum for Social Arts 101 is available here and  Social Arts 102 is here. Registration  and payment information is available here.

As a part of planning for the new season, we surveyed our families about our work. We ask about the class length, if they felt their student learned from the class, what curriculum items were most important, whether or not they believe our classes are a good value and whether or not they would recommend them to another family. The feedback we have received has been very positive. Here are a  few comments our families shared with us:

It’s all very valuable information. I especially appreciate the basic dance steps the kids are learning. I don’t know where else they would have the opportunity to learn it. My husband and I didn’t learn this until well into adulthood and that’s a shame.

I know that kids have a lot of peer pressure to be on social media. Being heavily influenced by the media/celebrities, I know it is tough for kids to follow appropriate behavior. I appreciate you sharing the ways to be polite and have manners with this medium.

It has been great for Sara* to get the etiquette skills learned at home reinforced at Social Arts. And she has fun while doing it!

We plan on adding an item to the Social Arts 102 curriculum because of this parent suggestion:

It might be fun to have the kiddos plan and host a party for their friends using the skills they have learned.

This will be a great application of the skills they learn in Social Arts 101. And, it is likely to be a whole lot of fun!

We look forward to meeting and serving new families and welcoming returning ones during the 2016/2017 Season.

* name changed for privacy

Quote: For a Stranger

Another time, I opened a door for a stranger.

– Ethan Collins, SAA Student

DoorKnobIn order to ensure that we are making a difference to the families that we serve, we ask for feedback on how students are using the skills that we teach. When asked how he used what he learned in Social Arts 101, Mr. Collins said that he helped a lady with her chair and opened a door for a stranger. These are two pretty simple acts, nice things, things that required attention to the needs of others.

Kudo’s to Mr. Collins for not perpetuating the self-centered stereotype of adolescents! We are happy to be a part of developing your awareness of  others.

Quote: Handshaking Skills

I started using my social skills the first few days of 7th grade. Lots of new friends to make! I got a lot of new teachers. I was very polite, and use my hand shaking skills.

-Sam Castellano, SAA Student

schoolThe first days of school can make a student nervous. From this quote, it is evident that Sam was able to use the skills he learned in Social Arts 101 to make that time easier.

One of the first ideas that we look at in Social Arts 101 is why manners are important and how etiquette helps us in life. All Social Arts Atlanta students learn that manners are not a scary, over-the-top set of rules meant to trip you up but are a simple way to treat people with honesty, courtesy and respect which make life a whole lot easier and more enjoyable.