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Original Essays | September 4, 2014

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Social Q's: How to Survive the Quirks, Quandaries and Quagmires of Today


Social Q's: How to Survive the Quirks, Quandaries and Quagmires of Today Cover




andlt;bandgt; andlt;bandgt;8andlt;/bandgt; andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt; andlt;bandgt;Taking the and#8220;Woeand#8221; out of Co-Workersandlt;/bandgt; andlt;/bandgt; andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt; andlt;iandgt;Just Because You Sit Together Doesnand#8217;t Make You Bestiesandlt;/iandgt; andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt; andlt;bandgt;Qandlt;/bandgt; andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;My name is James. I introduce myself as James and sign my name as James. But my co-workers always refer to me as and#8220;Jimmy.and#8221; I think the nickname conveys an image of immaturity, and is inappropriate with clients and other professionals. How do I get my colleagues to change the way they refer to me?andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt; andlt;iandgt;and#8212;James, Long Island, NYandlt;/iandgt; andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt; andlt;bandgt;Aandlt;/bandgt; andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Have you thought about wearing long pants to the office, and maybe leaving that little red wagon at home?andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;People who christen us with nicknames, on their own steam, think theyand#8217;re being and#8220;regular,and#8221; and respond poorly to statements like and#8220;Please call me by my full name.and#8221; They see their nicknaming as a hearty gesture of friendliness, and take our correction as stuck-up.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Hereand#8217;s what you do: Simply repeat your name (in full) as often as possible. If your boss introduces you to a new client, and#8220;This is Jimmy,and#8221; youand#8217;ll say, and#8220;Itand#8217;s Jamesand#8221; when you shake her hand. Answer your telephone: and#8220;This is James.and#8221; Repetition is the key. That way, youand#8217;re not correcting anyone or acting snooty, just reinforcing your desired result.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;If that doesnand#8217;t work, choose a new nickname that conveys the professionalism youand#8217;re after. (People love to get in on a new nickname.) How would you feel about Spike?andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Despite what your mother may have told you and your siblings, everyone has favoritesand#8212;even her. I know I do. Thereand#8217;s full-fat chocolate ice cream; those Acne jeans I got on sale at Barneys; and my best friend, Chiccio. Theyand#8217;re my top draft picks, simple as that.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Of course, there are many other things in this world that Iand#8217;m perfectly fond of, especially when my favorites arenand#8217;t readily available. Weight Watchers fudgesicles, for instance, if weand#8217;re out of Ben andamp; Jerryand#8217;s, the jeans I wore before the Acne jeans (if my favorites are in the laundry hamper), and the pals I call when my besties are busy or out of town. These other things are perfectly fine, just not my faves.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Like versus love: not a hard concept, right?andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;So keep it in mind, because this distinction is going to come in handy when we consider the conflicts that tend to arise between co-workers. The most common troubles in the workplace (or the ones that most commonly find their way to Social Qand#8217;s anyway) come from the failure to distinguish between co-workers (whom we like perfectly well) and bona fide friends (whom we actually love).andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Think about it: Just because we sit next to someone for eight hours a dayand#8212;a person, by the way, who was assigned to sit there by our employerand#8212;does that make him or her an intimate? Of course not!andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;It makes them someone we should treat respectfully, but not necessarily someone with whom we should share our marital troublesand#8212;or worse, someone whose marital troubles we should take it upon ourselves to diagnose, dispensing unbidden advice as we would with family members or close friends.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;andlt;iandgt;I donand#8217;t think your boyfriend is good enough for you,andlt;/iandgt; for example.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Step back! Before you weigh in on your co-workerand#8217;s love life, tell me this: Is she someone you actually care about, or are you just passing the time with her because your real pals are sitting in their own offices across town?andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Like versus love, remember?andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Itand#8217;s an understandable error. Weand#8217;re often bored at work, and weand#8217;re social animals at heart, so we delude ourselves occasionally into thinking that weand#8217;re and#8220;closeand#8221; with that woman in the next cubicle. We confuse physical proximity with emotional intimacy. And sometimes, if our favorite people arenand#8217;t around, we can actually convince ourselves that weand#8217;re crazy about folks we barely like. (I canand#8217;t be the only one whoand#8217;s wolfed down an entire box of Mallomarsand#8212;mostly because they were thereand#8212;only to realize that I didnand#8217;t even like them, can I?)andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Well, itand#8217;s the same with work pals. Do we really like them, or do we just like them because theyand#8217;re there? And if itand#8217;s the latter, better to back off and not become too embroiled in their lives (or they in ours).andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Because hereand#8217;s the thing: Work friendships are largely geographical in nature. If we didnand#8217;t have adjoining cubicles, weand#8217;d never know most of our co-workers. And the proof of this is once we leave the company, we rarely speak with them again. Or if we do, itand#8217;s strained and uncomfortable, and we wonder how we were ever so close. So try to keep this in mindand#8212;sheand#8217;s the friendly gal at work, not your best friendand#8212;and watch your troubles melt away.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Letand#8217;s start with an easy one:andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;A guy that I work withand#8212;who seems very nice, but whom I donand#8217;t really knowand#8212;has a habit of keeping his shirt unbuttoned down to, um, there. His ample chest fluff is the first thing that greets anyone who sees him at any point during the day. How can I get him to button up?andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Your company doesnand#8217;t have a and#8220;manscapingand#8221; department, by any chance, does it? (Too bad.)andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;So, what kind of person is this Tom Selleck at the next desk over? Let me give you a clue: He andlt;iandgt;seemsandlt;/iandgt; nice, but we andlt;iandgt;donand#8217;t really know.andlt;/iandgt; Weand#8217;re pretty much strangers who happen to work at the same place. So why in the name of Harry Larry would we tell this fellow how to tend his garden? Are you in the habit of approaching strangers on the street to critique their wardrobes? Just because you receive a paycheck signed by the same guy doesnand#8217;t make you any better acquainted.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Donand#8217;t get me wrong: Itand#8217;s better not to be distracting at the officeand#8212;in what we wear or, more precisely, what we donand#8217;t wear. And shirts unbuttoned to the navel, whether on men or women (of the smooth or hirsute variety), do exactly that. Still, this man, who missed a button (or three) is none of our concern. Better to stay out of it.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Hereand#8217;s another:andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;My best friend at the office always underpays when we go out to lunch. At first, it was just a couple of bucks, but gradually the underpayments have increased. Last time, it was nearly $15. She usually dashes out before the meal is over, leaving me and other colleagues to pick up her slack. How can we get her to pay up?andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Have you thought about banging on her cubicle wall? and#8220;Hey, cheapskate, you owe me fifteen bucks!and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Now, a and#8220;best friend at the officeand#8221; can mean many things, from and#8220;blood sistersand#8221; to and#8220;the person I loathe the least.and#8221; But one thing is sure: This is a person toward whom we have some level of affection. Whatand#8217;s more, weand#8217;re dealing with a pretty cut-and-dried issue hereand#8212;consistent underpayment of the lunch taband#8212;which will not require any wading into psychological territory best left to our shrinks or those annoying trainers on andlt;iandgt;The Biggest Loser.andlt;/iandgt;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;So hop right in, but gently. Try casting the problem as an honest mistake: and#8220;I think you made a math error at lunch.and#8221; Remember to show your work. I bet she takes the pointand#8212;and the problem disappears as fast as that plate of fries she ordered for the table.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Letand#8217;s try another:andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;At fifty-four, Iand#8217;m the second-oldest person at the school where I work. On occasional Friday afternoons, several teachers get together for a beer at a restaurant nearby. Everybody used to be invited, but in the last couple of years, only the young people are included. I asked a couple of the organizers to let me know when they next meet. They agreed, but Iand#8217;ve never heard from them. The rejection makes me feel bad. Any advice?andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Well, I hate to break it to you, but youand#8217;re probably not going to be invited to andlt;iandgt;Vanity Fairandlt;/iandgt;and#8217;s Oscars party or Malia Obamaand#8217;s birthday dinner either. We canand#8217;t all be invited to everything, and even though it stings, itand#8217;s just a part of life.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;For the record, I admire your asking to be included, in the first place. Most of us wouldnand#8217;t have had the guts for that. But now that youand#8217;ve asked, and been refused, where do you go from here?andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Well, nowhere. We canand#8217;t be everyoneand#8217;s cup of tea, any more than everyone can be ours. So hereand#8217;s what you do: Donand#8217;t ask again. For better or worse, the whippersnappers are entitled to socialize with whomever they want. These guys are not your dearest friends, who owe you more; theyand#8217;re just guys who teach at the same school as you.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;So how about starting a new tradition instead? Invite all your colleaguesand#8212;even the youthquake splinter groupand#8212;for drinks on the last Friday of every month. Youand#8217;ll be turning the other cheek and bolstering school morale at the same time. Now, thatand#8217;s a solution everyone can love, right?andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Okay, last one:andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;I recently returned to work from maternity leave and found the office drastically changed. My co-workers are really cold to me and talk about me behind my back, especially about me and an older male co-worker, whoand#8217;s become a mentor to me. He and I go to lunch every once in a while, and my co-workers are suggesting that we are having sexand#8212;and worse, that heand#8217;s the father of my child. This is really hurting me. I work so hard and try to be a good colleague. What should I do?andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Toxic co-workers! Beware!andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Itand#8217;s easy to be mean, and unfortunately, itand#8217;s breathtakingly fun on occasion, which is why we know every stupid thing that Lindsay Lohan (and her mother andlt;iandgt;andandlt;/iandgt; her father) have ever done, but next to nothing about the electoral college, say, or the quantum law of physics.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;For what itand#8217;s worth, gossip always says more about the people trading it than it does about its victims. And my usual advice is to put it right out of your head. But not in this case. The nasty colleagues have crossed a line, and shown themselves to be malicious. Do not engage them directly. Even a calm word could be twisted out of context and fuel even more venom. Iand#8217;d speak with the boss and ask for help. Speculating about the sex lives of others is never cool, and under some circumstances, can even constitute sexual harassment under the law.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Better safe than sorry: Get help!andlt;BRandgt; andlt;thandgt;Noteandlt;/thandgt; andlt;BRandgt; andlt;bandgt;Co-Workers and Their Nasty Habitsandlt;BRandgt;andlt;iandgt;When You Just Canand#8217;t Take It for Another Second!andlt;/iandgt;andlt;/bandgt; andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;You know what I mean.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt; andlt;iandgt;The woman who sits next to me chews like a cow. I can hear the smacking of her lips no matter where I hide. Please help!andlt;/iandgt; andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Or:andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt; andlt;iandgt;The guy who sits in front of me strokes his hair ALL DAY LONG. It is driving me crazy!andlt;/iandgt; andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Or choose one of the following:andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;1. My boss whistles until I could scream;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;2. My boss humsand#8212;off-key, mind youand#8212;until I want to die; orandlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;3. My bossand#8217;s perfume makes me sick to my stomach. The mere sight of the ugly lavender bottle is enough to make me gag!andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Theyand#8217;re the pet peeves from hell!andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;What can we do about them?andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;It doesnand#8217;t matter whether we like these folks or hate them. Weand#8217;ve simply got to make this damned behavior stop. (Either that, or be hauled off to the nearest mental institution.)andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;So hereand#8217;s what you do. In the calmest voice possible, say, and#8220;You know, I have no right to ask, but could you stop [INSERT HIDEOUS HABIT HERE]?and#8221; Then add, with a big smile, and#8220;For some reason, itand#8217;s really getting under my skin!and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Itand#8217;s debatable, of course, whether the person sitting next to you has the right to chomp his food like a barnyard animal. But why go there? By making believe that itand#8217;s your problemand#8212;and by being charming about it, to bootand#8212;you will be much more effective in stopping it. You avoid defensiveness and even the prospect that thereand#8217;s something to be defensive about.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;And in my experience: It works!andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;If you have to remind your colleagues a couple of times about knocking off the dastardly habit, thatand#8217;s okay. Just do it in the same sweet, blame-accepting way.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;In the end, who caresand#8212;as long as it stops, right?andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Okay, now that youand#8217;ve got the flavor of the exercise, let me give you one to solve on your own. Once youand#8217;ve come up with your solution, turn the page to take a look at mine.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt; andlt;bandgt;Qandlt;/bandgt; andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;When speaking English with me, a multilingual co-worker pronounces words from other languages in the full accent of the wordand#8217;s origin. For example, and#8220;Iand#8217;m thinking of going to Barcelona (bar-theh-LO-na) for Christmas (instead of bar-seh-LO-na). Does her technically correct pronunciation trump the fact that I find it rather awkward?andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt; andlt;iandgt;and#8212;Debbie, New York Cityandlt;/iandgt; andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Aandlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Awkward? Whatand#8217;s French for pretentious, Debbie?andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;This sounds like one of those super-fancy French chocolates that are too sophisticated for my Hershey-loving palate.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;It would be one thing if your co-workerand#8217;s native language were coloring her pronunciation. Accents are sexy; everyone knows that. But this woman seems to be giving you the and#8220;ooh-la-laand#8221; in many different tongues, as if she were auditioning to be a foreign correspondent for CNN or to do a television spot for General Millsand#8217; International Coffees. (Remember them?)andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Feel free to mock her behind her back. Or if itand#8217;s driving you absolutely crazy, tell her andlt;iandgt;and#8220;Basta!and#8221; and#8220;Arrand#234;tez!and#8221;andlt;/iandgt; or andlt;iandgt;and#8220;Shimete yo!and#8221;andlt;/iandgt;and#8212;unfortunately, giving her one last chance to correct your accent while showing off hers.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#169; 2011 Philip galanes

Product Details

Galanes, Philip
Simon & Schuster
REFERENCE / Etiquette
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
15 b-w charts-photos throughout
7 x 5.5 in

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Reference » Etiquette

Social Q's: How to Survive the Quirks, Quandaries and Quagmires of Today Used Hardcover
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Product details 272 pages Simon & Schuster - English 9781451605785 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Direct from the author of the popular “Social Q’s” column in The New York Times —a comedy of manners that strives to answer what exactly passes for good behavior in a world buzzing with tweets, twits, OMGs, WTFs, White House party crashers, fame monsters, and Facebook bullies.

Since its debut in June of 2008, Philip Galanes’s “Social Q’s” column has been a fixture in The New York Times and has quickly become one of its most popular features. In addition to his weekly column, Philip appears monthly on the Today show to dish with Kathie Lee and Hoda and dispense advice to the many Americans who need help navigating the murky moral waters of these modern times. Now, in Social Q’s, Philip collects his etiquette tips for a Mr. Manners-type guide that would make Emily Post dizzy.

Using a series of witty, briskly paced and hilarious essays, Philip Galanes considers a host of awkward, everyday situations…from texting on the bus to splitting the dinner check—and guides readers to a light-hearted awareness of how they behave…and misbehave. Sharp but never biting, smart without scolding, Social Q’s gives modern-day etiquette the helpful and entertaining shot in the arm it needs.

"Synopsis" by , From New York Times columnist Philip Galanes, a comedy of manners that strives to answer what exactly passes for good behavior these days.    
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