Do you ever feel like the world is getting smaller and smaller? With Facebook and Twitter and instant news, I feel like there’s no such thing as a real small town anymore. And everything seems to be more crowded and hurried… airports, restaurants, housing developments, stores… Maybe I’m just getting old and grumpy? But the more crowded I feel, the more I realize that I need to step up my manners. When you’re living in a micro world or a micro living space, everything seems to take on that much more significance. When I post whatever I’m doing on Facebook or Twitter, what is really coming out of my mouth/keyboard? When I’m in a crowded movie theater, what impression do I give off? Am I… gasp… annoying?
I was reading an article recently about bad habits. I think I could probably make a case that I’m hitting every one on the list. I fidget, I crack my knuckles, I interrupt, I slouch, I gossip, I complain. I am a mess of annoying, bad habits. I’m not going to beat myself up about it, but I would love to change that a little. Whenever I hear someone described as “ladylike” or I call a girl “a lady,” I’m sort of envious. I am almost exactly the opposite! Sure, I normally do my hair, wear makeup, wear heels and try to look nice and well groomed. But what about all the cursing?
My husband said, “Maybe ladylike is just another word for boring.” That made me smile. I don’t want to go overboard and be boring, but there are certainly things that we all do in life that would make life easier for the people around us.
Here are some bad habits I’ve observed in myself or others (that definitely shine a magnifying glass on me!). Add your own. Let me know what you think.
The Dirty Dozen
1) Cursing and foul language: In this day and age, I don’t think you can get away with having a totally clean mouth. People use the f-word all the time at work, at home, in public. I’m not going to say that it’s just plain lazy speech. I don’t think it’s that lazy. I just think it’s kind of inappropriate unless you slam your car door on your hand. And, for myself, typing out f#@* is just the same as cursing. Everyone knows what it means. Sure, it’s just part of some people’s personality, but I’d like to get better about this. For me. This also means saying “Oh my God!” or “Jesus!” as an exclamation. Well, I basically never say “Jesus” in vain, but I am definitely in the OMG camp on this one. There are so many people who hold those words holy that it’s unkind of me to use them so casually. You do get a pass on this if you use something creative: “Holy Moses!” If you think that cursing or using inappropriate language is ok or part of your personality, please just think twice before you get really loud and use it around children. They don’t need to hear that.
2) One-Upping: I am always guilty of this! Whenever one of my friends or relatives says something funny, I feel the need to pipe in: “You think that’s crazy… Listen to this…” Ugh. I am so embarrassed that I do that. It is really annoying. I should just let people’s stories be out there on their own merit. Sure, if everyone is swapping funny stories, it’s fine. But when it’s simply to one-up someone else’s experience, it’s kind of rude. This is in the same family as showing off and name-dropping. Self importance is not attractive on anyone.
3) Gossiping: Every single girl on the planet is guilty of this. And probably some guys too. It is amazingly easy to do and people are almost always willing to listen. I am a major gossip. I don’t normally tell serious secrets, but I can’t help but spread interesting news about other people all the time. Sometimes it’s mean spirited. That’s when it’s especially bad and can get vicious. I am also a total sucker for celebrity gossip. I find that a little less harmful, but when you get used to saying things like, “OMG, that girl’s dress is hideous!” it creeps into your normal speech and before you know it, you’re saying that about a girl at the grocery store. I’m trying to find creative outlets for gossiping… I guess I just need more hobbies and to read more interesting articles (yes, actual articles, “Britney’s New Boy Toy” doesn’t count) and eat and cook more interesting foods. Maybe go to see some music or go to a museum every once in awhile. There are so many other things to talk about than how truly awful auto-tuned songs are.
4) Debbie Downer: This used to be my fail-safe conversation mode until someone pointed it out to me a few years ago. If you’re really having problems, talking about them to trusted friends is important. But if every single Facebook update and every single encounter with your neighbors or coworkers is something depressing or something you complain about, it gets old really fast. And this counts expressions too. “Serious as cancer” makes things, well, serious. If someone asks you how you are, like at the grocery store, the appropriate answer is “Fine, thanks!” Even if your cat just died, your car was stolen and you hit your funny bone REALLY HARD, strangers and acquaintances are really not interested. And with close friends, I try to be aware of the amount of times I’m moaning about something. Hearing how your life is tough right now is fine, but hearing it 100 times over is just… annoying.
5) Grossness: There is never ever an excuse for just being gross in language, stories, habits, grooming, whatever. Unless you’re in a really funny conversation about the grossest thing that’s ever happened to you. Or you’re discussing Black Swan. Nobody, and I mean nobody, wants to hear about blisters, dog/child poo, the details of whatever flu you have, gory details about any “life experiences” you might be having (you know what I’m talking about ladies). And, unless expressly permitted, no pictures of any of these things. I am not normally into grossing people out, but sometimes it just slips. I also think it’s important to keep those details from close friends, roommates and significant others unless it’s a matter of life or death. Keep some mystery alive!
6) Random slore: Using slang is fine in most conversations with friends, but using it all the time just plain confuses people. I always ask people what they’re pulling when asking what they’re driving. Confused expressions abound. I say sick a lot and wow does that confuse older people. My dad was asking my husband how his car was doing. My husband said, “It sounds sick!” My dad said, “Is it ok? What’s wrong with it?” This isn’t really offensive, but it’s just clearer for all those concerned when you don’t call people slores. I need to stop reading Urban Dictionary…
7) Bigotry: If you need to say that joke in a whisper and look around when you say it, it’s probably pretty offensive. Unless you’re elderly (80+), you absolutely cannot get away with saying “Oriental” or “Colored.” Really. And even if it’s your own race/religion/class, it’s still pretty rude to say bigoted things in public. I’ll stop saying “guido” if you will.
8) Service People: This is so common that I think I overcompensate. I am always so outgoing and friendly to waiters, manicurists, hair stylists, valets, Target employees… it has to end here! I guess it’s not my fault. I grew up in the Midwest. You’re best friends with everyone. But being overly friendly is just as annoying as being rude. Well, no, rude is way worse. Tip appropriately. Say “please” and “thank you.” Always smile. Complain about things civilly. If your steak is raw, just kindly ask the server to take it back. Don’t create a big scene. And don’t eat raw steak just because you don’t want to be rude. I think the way that we treat total strangers says a lot about how we treat our closest friends. Would you cuss out your best friend? Save it for the table you bumped into, not for your grocery packer.
9) Constantly checking and updating: I’ve already said what I needed to say in a previous post. Facebook, Twitter, emails and your phone will always be there. Your date or your grandma might not. Does this sound like a threat?
10) Allowing rudeness to occur: This is a tricky one, but I think allowing a crime to continue is just as bad as doing it yourself. If you think someone is saying something really racist or off-color or just plain offensive, don’t laugh and nod your head! I am pretty bad about this. I just let people say whatever they want and then it just makes both of us look bad. And my dog has some pretty questionable manners. It’s not ok for her to just jump on people and bark all the time. I should at least make a gesture of correction. The reason this is tricky is because you also don’t want to police the world either. Correcting grammar, pronunciation, spelling, table manners, cleaning up after your dog, complaining about complainers complaining, making a big deal about gossiping… those are pretty rude as well. In fact, this whole list is probably kind of rude. I just personally am trying to make an effort to “opt out.” If someone is gossiping and I’m tempted to join in, I can always change the subject. If someone is cursing and saying awful things, I can just choose not to participate. If someone says something that is really politically offensive, are you really going to change their mind? If it’s a friend, I can let them know what I think in a sentence or two and leave it at that. Otherwise, leave the ranting and raving to street preachers.
11) Leaving it better than you found it: This was hammered into me when I was a kid. I think it could probably be replaced by “leave it just like you found it” in most circumstances though. I am just really lazy sometimes about where I leave my shoes or dishes in the house, not making the bed when I stay at a friend’s house, trashing hotel rooms (ok, I am not that rock and roll), tripping on something and just leaving it there, you know, the day to day stuff. If we all make an effort to clean up the messes we make ourselves, this world will be a lot nicer than when we found it.
12) Making excuses: “I am the king of excuses. I’ve got one for every selfish thing I do.” (Thank you, DC Talk.) Excuses are just that: excuses. Nobody really cares. If you mess up, just be honest. “I messed up. I’m sorry. How can I fix it?” That is the simplest thing to say when you have the urge to make an excuse. And long drawn-out excuses are the worst! I do this every time I go to the dentist. “I didn’t floss much because I’ve been busy/my dog keeps pawing at me when I brush my teeth/I can’t find my dental floss…” My husband just tells the truth in as few words as necessary. “Sorry I’m late.” Not “Sorry, I guess I’m late… there was a traffic jam and my hair was a mess…” You get the picture. I guess lateness is rude too, but that’s a whole other post altogether. The point is that 90% of people don’t care why you messed up. They just want to know how you’re going to fix it.
I know! I’m probably complaining, whining, correcting and just generally being a Debbie Downer here. I really just wanted to put this all out there to remind myself when I’m slipping up. I can work on every single one of these points myself. I do live in a micro world. I need to start acting like it. And even if I know which one is the salad fork and where your bread plate is, there’s still no excuse for me to be lazy and rude in the way I speak and behave. I guess all I can say is, “I messed up. I’m sorry. I’m going to fix it.”