The Etiquette Lady

Your homework was to report back on dealing with rude comments. Truly, you all did badly. No one seemed to answer! Really, enough dear readers. Do your homework!

This Week's Lesson - Rude Conversations
It continually astounds me, the sorts of things that people will discuss in public. Truly, dear readers, do you think that those around you want to know the ins and outs of your marriage, or your body? Honestly, enough.

But, that's not quite the point of this column. I was recently at a lunch with a group of colleagues, and I found myself wanting to crawl under the table. I'm not even sure I want to write about what they were talking about. In fact, I don't. Sufficed to say it involved matters best left behind a closed bedroom door.

Perhaps I'm a prude, perhaps merely respectful of what should stay between husband and wife. I'm not sure. Whatever I am, a crowded restaurant is not the appropriate time or place to discuss this part of your relationship.

An uncomfortable conversation may be conversation that you think is inappropriate to time or place, it may be overly personal, it may be racially charged. Whatever it is, the point of uncomfortable conversation is that it makes you feel uncomfortable. Here are some suggestions for getting yourself out of the conversation.

Decide When to Stand Up
Perhaps it's just me, but I won't sit silently through conversations that insult people. I won't stand by when someone insults an ethnicity, a gender, a type of disability. This doesn't mean that I will stand up and have a rant, but I find a comment like "I find it offensive to call a person from the Middle East a Paki. Please don't use that term in front of me." to be quite effective. You would be surprised how often this silences their comments.

Obviously those of us in the IF/Dead Baby world are aware of an entire series of comments about those subjects that cut to the quick. I think those are worth an entire column of their own.

Change the Subject
Interject at a pause, somewhat firmly, and ask about the local sports teams, the weather, really anything. All you need to do is change the subject. You might have to do this twice. Sometimes it can even be effective to look up and smile and say, "Ok Kelly, that's enough about you, let's talk about Fred now. Did you hear that he recently held a poetry reading. Fred, why don't you tell us about it?"

Make a comment about the subject being discussed
Try to inject a bit of humour - "oh my tender ears", or "my, that's a mental picture I don't need." Don't be mean, but do be a bit firm. If the conversation is particularly sexually charged or scatological or blue, and their are small ones around, it's perfectly acceptable to say "Please, not in front of the children, that's a conversation I don't want to have with them."

Leave the conversation
Can you excuse yourself from the conversation? Move to the other end of the room, the table? All you need to do is politely excuse yourself? "Oh, I think Susan in the corner needs to speak to me." or, "Oh, I must go and ask Dawn about her recent Nobel Prize. Please excuse me."

If you are the hostess
And you over hear an inappropriate conversation, you need to speak up. It's not ok to let it pass. Your job is to make all of your guests feel comfortable. All of them. That means you do not allow one guest to ruin your event.
"Oh Helen, let's not talk about that, I wouldn't want to upset Aunt Myrgatoyd."

Your Homework:
Dear Readers, do try this week. Your homework has nothing to do with this topic. Your assignment is to sit down at a table with your family and friends, and eat a meal, with all the correct silverware. Report back.