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Minding Your Manor During the Holidays and Beyond

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Are you genuinely and enthusiastically looking forward to the holidays with your family, or are you bracing yourself for that sister who smiles as she insults your entire family, or waiting to see your uncle’s yearly act of pulling his false teeth out to scare the children?
As an etiquette school owner since 1995, many have preconceived ideas that I live in perfection. The picture is something like this:

“GiGi Lewis must have the perfect family with two wonderful children, one perfectly agreeable husband, and an energetic dog with perfect breath. Her floors sparkle. There are fresh flowers in every room. Her husband and two sons all have faultless habits, and of course manners. Her magnificent home is in impeccable repair. The windows shimmer as the light of the sun filters through. The paint is fresh. She has an etiquette school after all.”

I have a confession. My life, just like the Griswald’s in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, is far from picture perfect. My family, and I, have our imperfections. My home could use a little repair here and there. Buster, our dog, has major halitosis and is old. I do have two wonderful children. Perfect manners? Come over. You be the judge.

Are you on a quest for perfection, especially during the holidays? Are you an imperfect perfectionist like me? Frustrating, isn’t it? We set the bar high, and sometimes fall short of meeting the highest of our own expectations. It seems as if the holidays are the times that we can be the hardest on ourselves.

Here are a few tips that might help lighten your stress level, as well as provide more than food for your stomach, actual food for thought, and power over your own holiday experience.

1. Deal With Difficult People—Amazing Grace!

Younger children– Younger children can be taught that if they are in an uncomfortable situation, to just say “Excuse me!”, and go directly to a parent and explain what happened. Discuss and role play before the event.

Older children—Older children should recognize when they are being harrassed, and learn tools to exit gracefully. Role play with them so that they learn how to not get sucked in if someone else tries to create tension. Help them practice stating something like “I didn’t mean to be a problem to you. I’ll go find my dad and stay with him now”, or smile and say, “Let’s visit later, and then calmly walk away.” Responses, such as these, well-practiced, gives a child the tools for remaining poised while having authority over his own behavior and responses, and the safety of going to a parent, or other family members or friend to be safeguarded.

Adults—Many adults find themselves in the uncomfortable situation of being stuck in a conversation. Learning exit strategies in stale conversations is not rocket science. Just say , “Excuse me. I will be back”, or redirect the conversation by asking them a question about the other person such as, “What made you decide to go into the marketing field?”

2. Overcome Dining Dilemmas

Table Polish—“Whatever you do at home, you will do away from home.

Your bread and butter plate is on the left. Make two “okay” signals with each hand. Your left hand makes a lower case “b” which represents bread. Your right hand makes a lower case “d” which represents “drink”. We are each responsible for keeping our drinks on the right, and our bread and butter plate on the left. This is a common faux pas that is embarrassing when you eat out of someone else’s plate.

Cell phones—Cell phone etiquette is a new form of etiquette. There were not even cell phones, thus no cell phone etiquette, when I began teaching. Whether it is the holidays or not, cell phones should only be used at the dining table in extreme emergencies. That includes texting and speaking.

Something is stuck in your teeth—First try to discreetly dislodge the problem with your tongue. If that does not do the trick, excuse yourself from the table, and go to the bathroom to remove the food. Never use a toothpick at the table.

Minding your manor is really minding your own personal manner from one to another, from the inside out. There is a season for everything under the sun. Genuine courtesy is always in season. Heighten your awareness, and God will not fail.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another” Ephesians 4:32.

Gigi Lewis is the founder of Club Etiquette, a traveling classroom based in Houston, Texas. Club Etiquette provides lessons to ages four through adult on a variety of etiquette -related topics. For more information, visit www.clubetiquette.com.

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