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Didi’s Manners & Etiquette: Death of the Gentleman

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Are manners and etiquette being snuffed out by the millennials, the largest generational set in America? What to say to a 'me first' Millennial with no manners? What about manners in blended families? Down with the toilet seat! Dads and strollers, who has the right of way? Many fun questions to Didi Lorillard at Didi's Manners this week on the death of manners.

What to say about my younger boss's manners

Q.  On our way to a sales call, my 32-year old boss barreled through the door ahead of me without waiting and holding the door open like a proper gentleman. I wondered to myself if he does this with his beautiful wife and sweet mother? Why is he treating me like one of "the guys?"
Working for this millennial guy makes me feel old for the first time. I find it irritating that he is a VP of Sales and lacks basic manners. He's never given me the impression he is worried about his skill set, so I keep my mouth closed and don't complain. However, we did have a showdown over his habit of wearing wrinkled clothing; I finally had it out with him when I was completely embarrassed by his attire after going to one of the top Columbus law firms. At least now he does make an effort to wear crisp shirts and actually looks handsome and pretty "GQ" -- a bit of a surprise.
What are your thoughts?  Anonymous, Columbus, Ohio

A. In a gentle manner, over the course of time, remind your millennial boss that potential clients size up a person in a nanosecond. What they evaluate, according to Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy, is the person's level of trustworthiness: Can they trust this person? Can they respect this person?

Personal appearance and attire, as superficial as this sounds, are nearly as important as personal behavior. Facetiously ask, "Didn't anyone ever teach you basic good manners?" Point out that the first thing people notice is whether you are male or female, your race, coloring, build and level of attractiveness. You say he's attractive now, but remind him as he approaches forty, to get by he'll need to hone his soft skills and work on his manners.

It seems like he doesn't know any better, which is why you shouldn't take his lack of manners personally -- although not holding the door open for you was extremely rude. If you were a male he wouldn't hold the door open for you. Why don't you have some fun with him. Next time you sense the same situation approaching, skip ahead, hold open the door and let him pass through. You need not say a word.

Keep in mind the fact that a third of the population are Millennials (born between 1980-2000), that they are the largest generational set in America, and that many of them live by the FOMO mantra -- Fear Of Missing Out. 

If you want to be a helpful employee, subtly refine the manners of your "me first" Millennial boss with a lot of humor. He may even thank you one day.

Who's got right of way?

Q.  Walking down a crowded city sidewalk pushing my baby in his stroller and chatting with my five-year old son beside me, we approach three college-age men engaged in banter. There were three of us and three of them, but I'm the dad with a baby and little kid by my side. Shouldn't they have formed a line to let us pass? My five-year-old said to me, "Dad who had the right of way, just then? Why did you stop and let them go by, I'm going be late for school.?" Who had the right of way, Didi?  PLB, Manhattan

A.  As the elder, you had the right of way. Because you were on a crowded city sidewalk with your charges a couple of feet below you, your kids were in harm's way of being trampled. By stopping you could focus and take control. Without giving it a second thought, the college students should have politely fallen in single file and passed by you one by one, or two by one, depending on the amount of space.

Whose house is this anyway?

Q.  My stepchildren have horrible manners. It makes it difficult when they visit because they are a few years older and my children tend to copy their barbarous behavior. When my stepchildren have gone home to their mother and I try to correct the copycat behavior of my own brood, I need to do so without putting down my stepchildren or their mother. It's like I'm dealing with two cultures. How should this be handled? For instance, it makes good table manners hard to reinforce.  EB, Cambridge, MA

A.  In your house you set the rules. Be consistent by enforcing 'the rules of the house.' The rules include table manners. Saying "please' and 'thank you,' putting down the toilet seat, clearing their plate, putting away toys, etc. Make a list. Post it where the children of every height can see it. Even if they can't read, they'll know that it is there and you can point to "brush your teeth," if you have to. Should one of your stepchildren question you as to, for instance, why they have to use a knife and fork when they don't need to at home, simply say: In a family, especially the size of ours, which includes you, there have to be rules or there is chaos. In this family, in this house we follow a set of rules and manners.

The point you're making to all the children is that in your house rules and table manners are important. If they're all young enough to have a chart where they add stars for following the rules, use one. 

What to say to the boyfriend about the toilet seat?

Q.  When my teenage daughter's boyfriend visits he always leaves the toilet seat up. Is there a polite way to ask him to put the toilet seat down after he's flushed. My husband and I encourage our daughter to spend time at home with her boyfriend instead of living in fear of what she's doing and where they are. We want them to feel safe and happy in our home, but he needs to learn to put the seat back down. By the way, he has two brothers and no sister.  Anonymous, Providence

A.  It's up to your teenage daughter to gently give her boyfriend the headsup about the toilet seat. All she has to do is to say, "I know you have two brothers, but in our house my parents are really big on the toilet seat being put down when you're done. It's like a rule of the house. Can you humor them, please. Thank you!"

Didi Lorillard researches all matters of manners and etiquette at NewportManners. All questions can be answered anonymously.


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