Tag Archives: Manners

How to Say ‘No’

Are you scared of saying “no” to people?  Are you worried that you’ll look bad, not be liked, or come across as rude or selfish if you do? 

Sometimes we don’t want to say “no” because we think we’ll lose a friend or we want to help everybody.  But saying “no” doesn’t mean you’re rude or disagreeable.  It also doesn’t necessarily mean that there are going to be fights or burned bridges.  These are false beliefs we concoct in our minds.  It really all depends on how we say “no”.     

There are good ways and bad ways to say “no”.  The first thing you ought to do, if it’s at all reasonable, is to ask the person to let you think about their request.  You may not have the time or the wherewithal to handle what they’ve asked you to do because of some other responsibility or commitment you have.  Ask them to give you a night to think on it.  That way, it’s a “maybe”, not a “no”, and they at least feel like you have considered it.  If you realize that you really can’t do it, you need to tell them “no” but also say something positive.  The best way to say “no” is to a) say something positive and b) promise something else.  For example, say, “I really wish I could do ___ for you.”  (That’s positive).  Then follow it up with, “Although I can’t do ___, I can do ___.” 

This concept applies to all your relationships from work to your clubs and organizations.  Simply say, “Even though I really wanted to find a way to make ___ happen, I couldn’t.  However, I can do ___. 

Another tip: Give them a good reason why you can’t do something, not a list of excuses.  “I sprained my ankle, my kid’s off from school at that time, etc.” may all be legitimate reasons why you can’t do something for someone, but you should only give one.  You may think giving more excuses makes you look better, but in fact, it makes you look worse.  If you start giving multiple excuses, it looks like you really don’t want to do it.  If you tell the other person in one sentence, “I’m sorry, I would really like to do ___ for you, but my mother and father are coming to town and I haven’t seen them in quite a while,” it seems more like you give a darn.

Sometimes you may not be the best person for the job.  Tell them that.  Say, “I’d really like to do that, but I don’t think I’m the best person because I’m not good at ‘X’, ‘Y’ or ‘Z’.  But Bill or Mary is.” 

Somebody recently contacted me online at my Dr. Laura Designs store asking me if I could do a particular project for an event.  I told them that I would look into it.  I didn’t want to say “yes” because I didn’t know anything about how to do the particular craft, and I didn’t want to promise anything I couldn’t do.  I did some research and realized that the learning curve for me to figure out how to do it would probably be a month, and the project was due in a week.  So I responded back I would have loved to be able to do it but I couldn’t because I didn’t know how and couldn’t figure it out in time for the event.  I felt bad.  I don’t like to disappoint people and I really do like a challenge, but time constraints and my lack of expertise made it difficult for me to follow through. 

Finally, if you don’t want to help someone because you think they’re using you or they’re just a crummy person, you don’t need to say so.  Even though you may be thinking, “I hate your guts and I’d rather eat frogs than help you,” that’s not the kind of thing you should say to anybody unless you really want to get them out of your life for good.  It’s always nicer to tell a truth that isn’t so ugly.  Simply say, “I regret that I’m not able to do this for you.  I hope you can find somebody else to help you,” as opposed to, “Drop dead!” or, “Go to hell!”   

Learning to say “no” is important because many of you let other people devour your lives out of a false sense of obligation.  You end up having too much on your plate, which means you won’t do any of it very well, and that’s not morally right.  Sometimes you have to disappoint people in order to maintain healthy follow-through on the obligations you already have. 

 

Teaching Children About Choosing Friends

Every parent frets about their kids having “weird” friends.  At some point, children always seem to gravitate toward some unhealthy, unpleasant, or annoying kid that you don’t like. 

Kids pick their own friends, and who they choose says a lot about their character.  However, they also get drawn into situations where they feel compelled out of fear or threat of isolation to be friends with certain kids.

I remember my son having a bunch of his buddies over once.  When they all left, he came to me and asked, “So, did you like them?”  I told him I particularly liked the ones who could look me square in the eye.  I didn’t say that I disliked anyone in particular.  I just said that I thought the ones who could look me in the eye were more straight, confident, and comfortable kids.  I told him it was just a preference on my end and that he may see other things in them.  Perhaps one of them couldn’t look me in the eye, but they were always there for him when he had a problem.  

If your son or daughter has weird friends, you have to give them little hints like that.  By doing this, you’re not criticizing, condemning, or excommunicating any of their friends.  You’re simply giving feedback.  The minute you start singling out and condemning one kid, your child is going to become best friends with him or her.

Ask your child what they think constitutes a good friend.  Have them to think about what happens at school:

  • Who’s not nice?  Who hurts other kids? 
  • Is anyone bossy?  Does anyone tell your child what and what not to do, or use threats to get them to do things?  Do any of your child’s friends try to make them feel guilty if they don’t get what they want?  
  • Does anyone get jealous or angry if your child spends time with other people?
  • Do any of your child’s friends talk behind their back, laugh at them, or make fun of them?  Do any of them spread rumors about your kid, tell lies, or share stuff they told them in secret?
  • Do any of your child’s friends play rough by hitting, pushing, pinching, kicking, scratching, slapping, or punching? 
  • Do any of your child’s friends ignore them if they haven’t gotten their way?  Do they only pay attention when they want something and ignore your child when he or she has something important to talk about?

Instead of attacking a particular kid, what you should be doing is constantly grooming your child to be thinking about these things and then have them make their own decisions.  Kids choose their own friends, and at some point, parents become secondary to their kid’s friends.  That’s just the way it is.  When you attack your kid’s friends, it’s like pulling the rug out from under them when there’s no floor there.  Instead, you should be more indirect about it and avoid the tug-of-war.  Discuss with them what the qualities and behaviors of an unhealthy friend are.  Keep your voice very low-key, and help them understand that friends do not embarrass each other, put each other down, pressure each other to do bad things, act nicely only when they want something, or reveal information they share in confidence.  Put it back on your child to think about. 

When you see your child in cahoots with a particularly snotty, nasty, or rotten little bugger of a kid, just tell them, “You know, I was a little surprised that when Johnny or Mary said ‘blahbity blah,’ you didn’t stand your ground.  I think standing your ground is a good thing.  Sometimes it may annoy our friends, but there are times when it’s important to stand our ground when we know certain things are right and wrong.  You might think about that for next time.”  So, instead of saying, “That kid’s rotten and I don’t want to see him in the house anymore,” you’re putting it on your child to have strength of conviction.

You can also set limits and boundaries, such as telling your child that he or she can only play with their friend when they are at your house.  In addition, one of the best things you can do is to take the stinger away.  I’ve been suggesting this for years and years and years – especially when kids call saying their friend is being mean.  For example, tell your child that you are going to take them to the zoo and suggest they invite some of their friends, especially the ones you’re having a little trouble with.  While you’re at the zoo, make an alliance with the kids you think are rotten.  You don’t know what’s going on in their homes or what’s making them so difficult, but you can sometimes tame the beasts when you invite them to the beach or ask them to come over for a picnic or a barbecue in the backyard. 

I remember once my parents were concerned about a friend of mine whose nickname was Penny.  I don’t know why they were so concerned about Penny at the time, except that we got into some trouble.  Remember those phony phone calls?  As kids, we’d call up someone, ask them if their refrigerator was running, and then tell them they’d better go catch it.  Or we’d dial a bread company and order a whole bunch of bread to be sent to somebody’s house.  It was pretty terrible – we only thought about the people we were annoying, and we didn’t consider the poor bread company.  I remember my dad sitting me down and saying, “OK let’s talk about what a friend is.  Does a friend have you do things that are bad?”  I responded, “Well, I guess not,” even though at age 9 I thought friends that did bad stuff were pretty fun.  He then went through a list similar to the one I discussed earlier and said, “Now you make up your own mind.” 

Given the power to make up your own mind, you tend to do the right thing.  You don’t believe me?  If you’ve got kids who always squabble over who has the biggest piece of cake, pie, or whatever, next time let one of them cut it and the other one pick the slice he or she wants.  It’s amazing how the pieces all of a sudden come out even.

Is Chivalry Dead?

Are men chivalrous anymore? 

The answer is largely “no.”  The reason: women’s behavior.

“Chivalry is a quaint word dating back to the days of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, referring to gentlemanly behavior towards women.  We think of Sir Walter Raleigh gallantly spreading his cape down on a street so Queen Elizabeth of England could walk across a puddle without getting her feet caked in mud. Over the centuries it manifested itself in such common courtesy as opening the door and letting a woman enter before you, pulling the chair out so the man’s date could sit down, or helping a woman take off her coat.

It’s hard to believe now, but in the early 1960s John and Jackie Kennedy era, chivalry was a huge part of our culture, along with men wearing suits and hats to baseball games and women wearing gloves, hats and mink stoles. Then the whirlwind of women’s liberation swept over the land the next three decades.”

Now first off, I want to make it perfectly clear that I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with women having equal opportunities.  If they have the ability, then the opportunity should not be closed to them.  That goes for everything – gender, race…whatever.  If you have the ability, you should not be denied the opportunity.  That’s basic civil rights, and I am very big on that.   All I’m saying is that women shouldn’t automatically have the opportunity just because they are females.  For example, if a certain number of push-ups is required for a particular job, then the number of push-ups that male and female applicants have to complete should be the same.  If a woman can’t do what a man can do physically, then she can’t be a firefighter.  You can’t have quotas for things just because it seems fair.  We promise equal opportunity in our country, not equal outcome.  I mean it’s silly – should you really be allowed to get a job just because you want it?! 
 
And it’s this feminist attitude that has made respect and admiration between men and women take a nosedive.  Women’s studies programs teach women that when men act graciously, they are attempting to control them and keep them down.  They encourage women to be hostile, become major ball-busters, and think they can have babies without men because kids don’t need a daddy.  If you listen to them, they say just about every woman is beaten, raped, and cheated out of everything (just read Who Stole Feminism by Christina Hoff Sommers if you think I’m nuts).  And when these women dress like pigs, talk like pigs, and act like pigs, it is a little demoralizing for men to put them on a pedestal, take them out on dates, and treat them like they’re special.  Think about it.  Chivalry has to do with respect, and we don’t see women behaving with much dignity when they hook up and have multiple sexual partners.
   
Although chivalry is dead, there are still nice guys out there who would act chivalrously, but they simply don’t know what the hell women want.  Today’s men are very frustrated and scared because they accept women’s equality, but they are afraid that if they act romantically, they will come across as sexist and offensive.  I don’t blame them.  I mean it’s just the stupidest stuff that makes women angry with men.   

For example, when I was just starting to date boys, my dad was very clear with me: “If a fellow opens his car door, then go out on the date with him.  If he doesn’t open the car door, turn around and come back inside the house.  Don’t have a conversation about it, don’t argue, and don’t demand anything.  Just say thank you very much and wave goodbye.”  However, if a guy tries to open a door for a woman today, she tells him, “No, I can open it myself.” 

All I can say is if you’re a guy and a woman behaves obnoxiously like that on a date, just let her open the door herself.  In fact leave her there.  Tell her she can call a cab herself too because she’s equally competent to do that.  If a woman acts in an ungracious way, dump her.  Don’t waste your time, money, and effort on her.  If you go out of your way to be chivalrous, kind, and thoughtful, and she doesn’t behave in a way that shows she respects, admires, and appreciates it, she’s not a woman – she’s just a female. 

It makes a man feel good to be protecting and taking care of a woman, and it should make a woman feel good to know that a man is being respectful and thoughtful of her.  If I walk into an elevator and a man lets me walk in first, I turn around and say, “Thank you very much.”  Most of the time they look utterly surprised to get the compliment. 

We’ve lost something beautiful and it’s something so essential in a love relationship.  If you treat your husband like he’s a man, you’ll get more manly behavior.  If you treat your wife like she’s a woman, you will get more womanly behavior.  The polarity between men and women actually means something despite what social trends say.  I don’t care how big of a feminist you are – we are still hardwired. 

Women should expect men to provide, protect, nurture, and love them.  If they don’t want to allow that, they are going to miss out on a lot.