• By: OLM Staff

Bette’s Etiquette Beat ~ For the New Year!

Welcome to 2012!  So does a New Year mean a new you? There is nothing like January 1st to start thinking about how you want to better yourself over the next twelve months; exercise more, eat healthier, do better at school/work, and be kinder to others.

I must say, I like that last one. Henry Alford, an American humourist and journalist recently published his fourth book “Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That?: A Modern Guide To Manners.” The book has a very interesting take on the whole etiquette beat. “Manners, says Alford “are principles, and etiquette is the specific acts of these principles.”   Which brings me to my topic for this column- pet peeves. We all have them, things that other people do that drive us completely crazy we want to scream while our faces get all contorted!

Let’s rewind a little. One of the most socially busy times of the year has just finished- Christmas.  Starting the beginning of December, most of our schedules are filled with attending holiday soirees; be it at work lunches, after dinner cocktails with friends, dinner parties at home or a favourite restaurant. Whatever the venue or gathering, it is very likely that a few of those nasty “etiquette pet peeves” reared their ugly heads amidst all the revelry and glass tinkling.  Let me use a one of my own pet peeves to demonstrate.

I love to host gatherings at my house.  Usually I send the requisite e-invite with the customary RSVP date. More times than not, I have to make follow up calls after the date to see if people are coming (or not). How many of you can relate to this- hands up. What does RSVP mean friends? Respondez s’il vous plaît or please respond.  What it doesn’t mean is you respond if you plan to attend, and ignore the invitation if you cannot make it. Or visa versa.  It also doesn’t mean you wait as long as possible to accept with the hope that something else better comes up.  Responding to an invite takes only a moment and it is the polite thing to do. Plus it makes planning an event less stressful on your host- which, as a guest, is also a very polite thing to do!

Still as serious as this breach of etiquette is in my books, I am going to try and be less rigid about violators for the New Year…and I mean really try. When people do not respond to my requested RSVP, instead of getting annoyed and letting the “Mr. Hyde” side of me emerge, I am going to graciously follow up and see who can make the gathering. A whole lot nicer exchange for the invitee and my blood pressure stays normal! The bottom line is that I invite people to my home because I enjoy their company and want to spend time with them.  After all, what could be less stressful than a gathering of dear friends on a cold Ottawa winter night with lots of good food and wine to keep everyone happy?

In 2012, make yourself a New Year’s resolution to take RSVPs and generally responding to people in a timely manner,  more seriously: Whether received by mail, (how quaint!), telephone or  electronically  whatever the communication, not acknowledging or responding to a person is rude.  And PS- after that great get-together, meeting or kind gesture, please do remember to send that all important thank you card or email. The recipient will be pleasantly surprised (may even shed a tear or two) and you will be remembered. But that dear reader is a topic for another column.

Okay I have spilled on one of my pet peeves, now it’s your turn.  I want to hear from some readers about how you reacted when faced with one of your pet peeves last year (during the holidays or another time) and how you are going to fine tune your response in 2012 so it is nicer, gentler and shows people that you are an “etiquette advocate”. Are you up for the challenge?   You respond by commenting below or send your thoughts (and any questions) to me at lizbetr@sympatico.ca.  I will feature some of the more interesting scenarios in a future column.

Until next time, be nice to each other and stay warm. Glad you dropped in-you are always welcome!