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Being Better

Manners

  06/28/11 07:23, by , Categories: Announcements

This is a blog about manners, with a particular focus on Israelis. Manners essentially consists of being aware of other people's sensitivities and refraining from doing that which might cause upset to others.

It is a very simple concept, but actually requires quite a bit of us. It requires us to be present to our worlds, to be considerate of what others may be thinking, and to recognize that the world can be a better place if we don't always put our immediate interest first.

A Good Suit

  10/08/13 15:55, by , Categories: Advice, Advice

The impression we make matters. For the times we've got to wear a suit, we should make sure we look good in one. Here's a great graphic to help us do just that. And when a suit fits as it should, it just feels better.

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Borrowing Stuff, Judging People

  07/26/13 13:00, by , Categories: Advice, Practices

Minding the Impact

A neighbor came over to borrow our bicycle pump to fill a ball. When not in use, the hose of the pump stores easily over the handle, and there are two clips that the hose pops into to keep it in place. There is often an inflating pin in the head of the pump as it's used for balls more than for tires.

So my neighbor comes and uses the pump, which has the hose tucked over the top, inflates his ball, and kinda puts the pump back where he found it. Some time later, my wife steps on the pin sticking out of the head lying on the floor near the pump. It doesn't hurt her, but it's annoying.

Some people are very particular. I am one of them. As much as I may wish I didn't, I judge people. I think most of us do. In this case, I have another piece of evidence as to the inattentiveness and carelessness of this individual, and while I might lend him the pump again, my generosity will now stop short of where it would have before.

Every action of ours can cause someone to decide something about us. The point is to be mindful of how we want to occur in this world. I care. I want people to know that. If certain of my actions lead others to think that's not the case, I should avoid them.

Return It Better than You Found It

I relate to people differently when they fail to meet certain expectations of mine. A big one is returning my stuff as you borrowed it, or maybe even a little better. An acquaintance of mine borrowed my car to move his kid to school. I have an old car, and I know it, but it's big and holds enough to get a kid and his stuff to school. When he returned the car, he remarked about how noisy it was. The gas was pretty much exactly where I left it; so it was nice that he refilled that it.

But I am never lending him my car again. If it had come back with the tank full, or maybe clean, or maybe I had heard "thank you" instead of "you know that car is really noisy," I might consider lending it to him again, but his behavior has left him wanting in my eyes.

Cleaning It Up

It would be great if we could walk into every situation with poise and grace and have the time to make sure things go back where they came from and people are taken care of. We can't. We don't. We are in a hurry. It's a friend; he'll understand.

The first thing to get is that it's okay. It happens. However, this is not what we are committed to being. It behooves us to make it right. If we know we left our friend's room a mess looking for the shirt he said we could borrow, we could try something like, "I am so sorry. I just had to get out of there. I'll straighten it out as soon as I get back." Of course, follow up is required, and if you promised your friend a beer to make it up to him, buy him one.

Becoming Present to What's So

Sometimes we fall off someone's A list and don't know why. We can of course ask if the person will share with us, and clean it up if we can. Whether we are told or not, it is worth our while to think about how we occur to the other person. Did we not keep our word? Did we not do something that was expected, whether we promised it or not? Might they think we stole their business opportunity or great idea?

To the extent we can discover any of these things, we can take responsibility, and change course appropriately, to make sure that in our next encounter, we leave the impression we intend.

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Table Tips I: Hands and Elbows

  04/23/13 00:13, by , Categories: Advice

It's time for some practical tips.

On my sister's way home from a teen tour of Israel, she visited my uncle in Germany. They sat down to eat at his dining room table. She started to eat, and he told her: "I know your mother taught you better. You are welcome to eat in the kitchen."

Most Israelis would have had no idea what the problem was, but it's taking note of how others see us that makes us most effective in dealing with them. People have expectations. When we don't meet them, they judge us. Whether the judgment is fair or not makes no difference. While my sister was lucky enough to sit with family who would correct her behavior, in most situations comment would be withheld . . . until you have left. Then your hosts would share with the world what kind of animals had sat at their table. (Also poor manners, but who ever said humans are consistent.)

Put simply, if a person will not pay attention to you because you offend his sensibilities, you impede good relations. In this case, most Germans, and I would guess most Europeans, of a certain age at least, were raised to sit straight at the table, both feet on the floor, both hands on the table when eating. Your fork should stay in your left hand, your knife in the right. Don't switch the fork from hand to hand.

Keep your elbows, and even your forearms, off the table when eating. This is not to suggest that you must sit stiffly or uncomfortably, but you should refrain from doing that which would have you stoop over your food or the table.

Between courses, over a drink maybe, you may rest an elbow, or even both, on the table. I could see this if you need to lean in a little to see other people who may be speaking, to make eye contact and pay attention to them, but I would refrain in general.

Of course, context is decisive. Not every European of this day and age has been raised the same way. But I would guess that a consciousness of a proper way of eating is still present. How you present yourself, particularly how you conduct yourself at a table, leaves an impression. It is best to leave a good one. Even where your host may not conform to this standard, he might very well still take note if you do. It may be what was expected of him at Sunday dinners after church or at holiday meals with his grandparents. It is something he is familiar with and which likely puts him at ease, assuming of course you conduct yourself with ease, which comes with practice.

{Note that table manners in the United States tend to the slightly less formal. You will find people keeping a hand in their lap, but this often leads to a switching of the fork between left and right hands, and this is less desired.}

03/31/13 @ 06:00:00 pm by admin
Type: Post
Categories: Advice
Public

Trash Can Courtesy

As you will come to know, I have a thing about keeping the holy land looking holy. If we believe it is holy, it should look like it. This would suggest caring for it as we do our finest silver, or the precious heirloom passed down for generations.

Being human, we will naturally fall short of the ideal, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take greater care. One of the ways we can do that is keeping our trash bins from overflowing. I know that sometimes we can’t help it, but there are often things we can do. What exercised me this holiday cleaning season were three kitchen chairs and a significant count of empty boxes.

In my neighborhood, a number of homes share a small number of trash bins. Being religious, a lot of cleaning is done, a lot of new things bought, and a lot of old discarded as a function of Passover cleaning. This will obviously test our receptacle capacity, even with the extra trash pick-ups the local authority schedules.

But this is also a holiday that celebrates our coming together as a nation. It is said that to merit the Torah, we came together as one, if only for a moment in time. In the spirit of being a nation, of watching out for one another, I suggest we take a little greater notice of how our inattention to little matters can lead to bigger messes.

So I went to take out the trash, and when I opened the bin, I noticed that three metal framed kitchen type chairs had been tossed in. Leaving aside that these might have been of some value to someone else, these took up most of the capacity of the bin. I took them out and the result was that the bin ended up only one-third full. I doubt anyone else would have, but I know what the result would have been, an overflowing bin, with ripped garbage bags and food wrappers strewn about as the result of the dogs and cats that get into such things. As luck had it, the chairs were collected separately within hours by the patrol that made the round to collect discarded furniture and similar bulk items.

In a similar vein, another bin was almost half-full of empty cardboard boxes. I am certainly happy for the person who got the new inkjet, but the simple courtesy of breaking down the box would have meant a lesser likelihood that we all would have had to deal with the resultant mess of an overflowing bin.

Today, as I returned from a short outing with my family, I had to negotiate the narrowed road where the recently emptied trash-bin jutted out. While I could certainly complain to the regional council - and I just might - I also wonder how many drove or walked by without pushing the near empty bin back into its place.

So I return to my theme, manners includes taking note of how our actions - or lack thereof - affect others. There are many little things we can do over the course of our days that simply make life more pleasant, both for ourselves and others, and there is no shame in doing them. Perhaps, and this may be the point for Israelis, if we give up our fear of being “friarim” for doing that which should be done by another, we may all have a better world to live in.

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Public Facilities: A Welcome to my Manners Blog

  03/21/13 00:11, by , Categories: Welcome , Tags: manners

I have been contemplating this blog and this business for some time. A number of factors have come together to finally push me into action. The first is an inconsistent work situation. I went for a job interview with the American School, an Israeli company that runs English and test preparation courses. While on this interview, I was referred to the franchise guy, Alex. Alex was a pleasure to deal with and made a great case for starting my own franchise. I thought it over and realized I’d rather sell my own brand.

Two other factors also came into play. One, I saw an Israeli relieving himself on the side of the road. While this is no uncommon occurrence in Israel, I found his choice of place offensive. The man pulled his car over at a bus stop, a good ten to fifteen meters in front of the shelter. Then he walked on back to the shelter to pee behind it.

The third was a coach of mine pointing me in the right direction. Doron is a stand for my success, and keeps me present to what is possible instead of the conversations in my head telling me why things are not. He also helps me notice the difference I make in this world. It has been my pleasure and privilege to touch thousands of lives for the better, as a coach, as a team leader, as a colleague or an employee, as a lawyer, teacher, parent, neighbor and friend. This blog is simply another expression of that in an area where I harbor particular sensitivities.

Then there is a part of me that sees this as a religious mission. I have it firmly stuck in my head that Jews must be a light unto the nations. This is not the vaguely defined duty of one nation to another, but rather a mission we can take on as individuals in every interaction each of us has with the outside world.

In order to reach others, however, it helps for us to be sensitive to their sensitivities. A Jew could be possessed of great knowledge, a love of his land, of his people, mankind and even be possessed of a vision of peace, but if the tourist who has stopped him to ask directions can’t get past the fact that he just spit out a sunflower seed husk on the ancient stones of his holiest of cities, his opportunity to share has been lost, and one more impression may have been made that will dim his - and our - light.

The foundation of manners and etiquette is not to do unto others that which might offend or be considered distasteful. I assert that the key to this is the willingness to look at the world from the perspective of others.

To return to our citizen motorist, I do not fault him for stopping his car to pee (it is accepted practice here), but rather that he should choose to perfume the waiting place of those who do not have his choices for travel. While there are other options - beside his car, for instance - for him to discretely relieve himself, I suggest that he should think of the people who will next have to wait at the bus stop and not add unpleasantness to their journey.

And this brings us to the point. Manners are about thinking how our acts may be received by others. This blog's purpose is to call attention to some of those matters that we don't necessarily notice but that flavor our relations with others, and give some pointers so that we may be better received in this world.

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We are all about being better and relating better in our worlds. This blog is pointed mostly toward Israelis, but should be appropriate for anyone.

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