Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Butterfly's not Pigs : Tips for Social Etiquette

I'm sure you've heard of  "social butterflies" but what about social pigs. And yes this does include the flying variety.    No I have not flipped out. You see, in the last couple of weeks I have encountered a few of these wily beasts myself on a number of occasions. For instance, at a recent financial investment seminar my husband, Jim and I, attended - You know the kind of thing, where a Financial Adviser sprooks his stuff and guests speakers try and sell you there products/services etc, my husband said he had been "railroaded by a boor and didn't have the opportunity to mingle".   This started me thinking about other social outings where I had encountered social behvaour that was piggish.  I thought how you might use this analogy to categorize different conversation styles.  I thought I might share my pondering with you.  - just for fun  of course. As you read this (with tongue in cheek) reflect on your own social interactions and remember that we can all fall into these pig pens if we become complacent about how we communicate with others.   

Social Pig Categories

  1. Boar/Boor:  Loud and uncouth and embarrasses other people. Uncultured person, who lacks education, refinement and social graces. 
  2. Porker::  The person is telling you something that is far fetched and possibly not true. The facts they provide a rubbery and if you challenge them about the accuracy of their statement (hope fully not with pigs might fly too) they become offended.  
  3. Grunt-er: Takes a long time to get to the point.  Lots of ums and aha-rs.  
  4. Hog:  Demands all the attention and monopolies the conversation. It's all about him/her. You can't get a word in edge ways and you can't escape them.  
  5. Male Chauvinist Pig is a man who thinks that women are inferior or lesser then men and who acts on or makes statements to that effect.
  6. Sow: similar to above only the female version.
  7. Swiller:  spends the evening at the bar or the food table (I've fit this category on a number of occasions, particularly if the the information session is very dulling and they are serving a good red).
  8. Squealer: This is generally a female.  The person tends to have a high pitched voice and trills at every opportunity (some witty or less than witty, comment generally made by a male - (I've sometimes found myself fitting this description after I've been a Swiller).   
  9. Snouter: This is the snobby pig who will only mix with other Snouters or potential Snouters.  These pigs do not circulate and they do not invite people into their conversation unless they think their is some benefit to them.

How to Avoid Being Branded a Social Pig:

The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour.
A Japanese Proverb 

  1. Upon Arrival : Locate the host and have a few quiet words. This signifies to your host not only of your arrival but shows respect and appreciation for the invitation. 
  2. Don't over indulge:  The food and drink might be free but it doesn't' mean you should cut loose and get sloshed.  If you do you might become rude or be aggressive to people. A couple of drinks to loosen up is fine. Be polite, crack some jokes, make small talk about topics of interest and enjoy yourself and help others to enjoy themselves too.
  3. Move around the gathering. Move about the gathering and mix freely with the other guests.  Circulate among the people you know initially and talk for a while then introduce yourself to some new faces. This will assist others to feel at ease around you. some great opening lines are :"Hi,  I haven't had the pleasure of meeting you before. My name is ... what's yours? or "What line of work are you?' These are open ended questions and inquire after the other person  (as opposed to talking about yourself) , but don't put them on the spot. If you get caught by a Boor, disengage by acknowledging what you have just heard (paraphrase what they have said) and then gracefully excusing yourself saying you have go. 
  4. Remember people's Names: If you can't remember someones name admit it and say something like "I'm sorry but i'm terrible with names, please tell me yours"  Debra Fine, author of  The Fine Art of Small Talk, says you should not ignore the other person out of embarrassment as they might think your are snobbing them and this defeats the whole purpose of networking.
  5. Be a Good Conversationalist: Have a repertoire of small talk conversation pieces.  Being aware of what is happening in the world at large, the weather, local events, TV shows etc give you a range of conversational starters this will help you to deal with multiple personalities.  If you are with a group of people you know and there is someone on the outskirts or new , then take the time to talk to them rather than being aloof and expecting them to make the first move or effort to get to know you. 
  6. Avoid Pig Behaviour: Ensure good communication techniques such as active listening, paraphrase and summarising. Remember to listen to what is being said rather than thinking how to respond.  be fully present to the other person. 
  7. If you are Alone: This can sometimes be the most challenging and awkward situation to be in especially if you don't know anyone at the event.  If you are alone, you may walk around a bit, drink a glass of wine or soft drink and soak up the atmosphere for awhile.  Keep a smile on your face and open posture, thus making yourself comfortable and allowing anyone to talk to you on your rounds.  If you see anyone else by themselves then rock up and introduce yourself. They will probably appreciate your company.
  8. Don't out Stay your welcome: As the evening draws to a close, excuse yourself form the group of people you're with and then thank the host for organizing the event before taking our leave. Don't be the last to leave.
I hope you enjoyed the humour of this post. I'm sure you've met your share of pigs in a variety of social setting over the years and have exhibited some pig behaviours too. Love to hear your stories and if you've encountered any other pigs I might not have mentioned. 

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Confrontation not Conflict

I could not believe my eyes, this morning, when the guy in front of me at the grocery store checkout verbally and then physically attached the check out lady.  He shouted at her and then pushed her over.  She landed flat on her back  sprawled out on the supermarket floor.  The man left the complex shouting abuse over his shoulder.  What had lead to the altercation, I don't know.  I do know though that all the other customers were shocked and dismayed by this man's behaviour.  (I must note that not one of us went to her aide ashamedly not even myself).  Could he have a good reason for acting in such a way?  I don't think there is any justification for such an action. What do you think?  I believe that if you are in dispute with someone there are others means of expressing your dissatisfaction and view point.  There are other means of trying to find a solution.  Violence offers a release of the tension but that's only short lived. You only have to look at what's happening  in Gaza to know that.  And, yes, I realise that war has been waged for years and is complex and all consuming for the people involved.  I'm grateful I was not born into that multi- generational conflict.

Dealing with conflict seems to have invaded my life this past week.  The supermarket incident was just the tip of the iceberg.  I have been angry myself this week at the behaviour of a young person who regularly visits my property.   Have you every heard the expression "pulling the wool of over somebody's eyes".  The phrase is of 19th century American origin and means to deceive someone in order to prevent them from knowing what you are really doing.  It sounds innocuous, wool being soft and someone cuddly.  But what it really means is to lie and take advantage of another person.  That other person was me on this occasion..  This young person, told me a bold face lie so I would assist her to do something that her mother would not approve.  (Going for a full day horse ride with a friend on a school day. Little did I know that the mother did not give her permission for her daughter to ride, did not approve of the friend  or that the girls would ride their horses to their school grounds - a definite safety issue).

Of course, when the school alerted her mother to the problem, she contacted me and confronted me about aiding her daughter in engaging in risky behaviour. Of course,  I tried to defend myself and my actions and suggested we should all meet and try to resolve the matter.  I felt angry, concerned and disappointed all at the same time.  I also felt the young person had betrayed my trust and jeopardized my reputation in the community.

This was a time of confrontation.  Confrontations has a couple  of important meanings all of which relate to the situation I found myself in. They are :

a focussed comparison; bringing together for a careful comparison

discord resulting from a clash of ideas or opinions

a hostile disagreement face-to-face 


I suggested to the mother and daughter that we should all meet and discuss the incident and any possible repercussions.   During the meeting that followed the incident, it became apparent the mother and daughter had been in outright conflict for some time and the teenager was exhibiting some very challenging behaviours.    The mother was at her wits end and the daughter was not prepared to comply with any of her mothers wishes or rules. Neither was prepared to listen to the others view point. They both held firmly to their believe it was the other persons fault. I am right - you are wrong thinking. The interaction between the mother and daughter was the kind of confrontation that divides.  I attempted to reduce the hostility between the two and look for common ground.  I was not successful. I recommended they seek family counselling.

I then confronted the teenager about the possible ramifications of her irresponsible beauviour:
a) her own safety, the safety of her friend and the safety of other students at the school
b) the well being of the horses
c) liability issues for both her and myself..
d) the possibility of loosing her right to ride again.

The purpose of the confrontation was to present her with the true facts of the matter in an attempt to protect her from further foolishness and keep her safe from harm.   I was fully aware that confrontation is a powerful force and can lead to constructive change and growth or to greater defensiveness.  It can cement relationships or shatter them.  I deliberately steered clear of expressing my own hurt feelings and focused on the impacts for her with the hope that she would recognize the discrepancies between her current behaviour and her life goals.

Confrontation is difficult. There are no two ways about that.  Sometimes it's because we lack confidence, knowledge or skills, but it could also be that we have the wrong attitude. Confrontation that is harsh and based on unresolved hostility or frustration, and lacks empathy or respect will in the long run be destructive to both parties.

The success or failure of confrontation usually depends on the quality of the relationship between the two parties before the confrontation occurred.  The more clearly we have shown our care and concern and respect for the other person the more likely they will be open to not only hearing what we have to say but also taking it seriously.

Here are some of the questions I asked myself before confronted someone I am concerned about:
  1. Is this the right approach to the issue and the right technique to use with this person at this time?
  2. Is the other person likely to benefit from what I have to say?
  3.  Am I the right person to be taking on this role or should it be someone else?
  4. How might it impact on other people involved or connected to this person?
  5. Do I have a plan?  The what, where, when and how of confronting this person.
I found the book "How to be a Friend people want to be friends with" by Richard P Walters (Regal Books, California, USA, 1981) an interesting read with some great insights into how to successfully confront people we care about.

The outcome of my own experience is still in progress. the young person concerned has created some distance between us (emotionally).  I hope this means she is considering what I had to say and not smoldering with resentment.  Only time will tell.

What has been your experience and do you have any tips that might help me or others engage in more successful outcomes when we confront people we care about?