Thursday, January 28, 2010

Being polite

Your mom has explained the need for good manners: to avoid making another person feel bad. Well, your date may not be going as well as you wanted, but now is not the time to abandon all those skills that your parents spent a lifetime drilling into you. The basics of being polite include the following:
  • Stay put. No leaving out the back door, faking a headache, or spending the entire date in the restroom reading phone numbers carved into the wall.
  • Have a conversation. Sitting stone-faced is the ultimate slap in the face. Find something to talk about even if you discover you two are worlds apart. Seen any good movies lately?
  • Maintain eye contact. You don’t need to gaze into your date’s eyes, certainly, but staring up at the ceiling is rude.
  • Listen. Your date may not notice that things aren’t going swimmingly. Tuning this person out will only cause him or her to try harder to reach you, and panic isn’t pretty.
  • Make nice. As Elvis said, “Don’t be cruel.” Your date didn’t kidnap you. If things aren’t going well, so be it. Without being overly encouraging (you don’t want a bad date hoping for bad date number two), be civil and kind.
  • See your date home. It’s impolite to abruptly end your date the moment the check is paid, the ending credits roll, or the coffee cup is empty. You don’t need to prolong it, but you do need to finish what you both started. If you drove, drive your date home. If your date drove, accept a ride home.
Share a cab, a subway, a bus ride. No bolting or escaping is necessary. Behave as you’d like to be treated. Show common courtesy. Smile, laugh at jokes, and avoid rolling your eyes to the back of your head. The goal here is to be kind without being dishonest. The key to being polite is to think of yourself as Lord or Lady Bountiful —much too well-bred to let on that your bunions pinch or your fine sense of smell has just discerned that something has died. The goal of being polite is not to lead your date on, but to treat your date with the same kindness and respect with which you’d treat anyone.

Avoiding blame

Understandably, you’re going to feel disappointed when you first get the inkling that your date isn’t working out. Either people click, or they don’t.
When they click, their communication is like a tapestry — each shared
experience and similarity intertwines. Each giggle, stare, brush of a hand
is a gossamer thread, one on top of the other, until a beautiful scene is
depicted. When folks don’t click, the date is more like a wrinkly paper bag —
uninteresting, unappealing, and just plain un-wonderful. When you discover
that the situation has gone south, don’t be tempted to blame your date or
yourself for the unpleasantness — no need to accuse your date of

  • Using you
  • Being an idiot
  • Being ungrateful
  • Being uncivilized

Sometimes two perfectly nice people can just not mesh very well. If you take that perspective, you don’t have to take offense or blame or a position — just take a deep breath.

Deploying survival strategies

If you’re not having a good time but your date is, give these strategies a try. Not only can they get you through the evening, but they give you the opportunity to discover interesting and worthwhile things about your date and yourself — and that’s never a waste of time.
  • Identify three things you like about your date. Everyone has at least a few interesting and unique qualities. When a date starts to slide downhill, we tend to magnify the negative moments in our minds and discount the positive. Reverse this trend: Find three things you like about your date. They don’t have to be big things. You don’t have to suddenly realize you love this person’s personality. Start small. Do you like her hair? His hands? Her laugh? His quirky sense of humor?
  • Become a good listener. View this as a great opportunity to sharpen your listening skills. Stay in the moment. Don’t second-guess what you could have possibly done here or worry about what you’re going to tell your friends or how you’re going to get a good night’s sleep. Really listen to what your date has to say — without judgment. You may hear something interesting.
  • Relax and tune in to your surroundings. Enjoy the food, the atmosphere, the popcorn, the movie, the biscotti, the sunshine, the snow, the sound of bowling pins falling each time you score a strike. Shift your focus away from a date that’s not working out to all the things that are perfectly fine.