A Tutorial in Social Graces


MIT Provides Much-Needed Tutorial in the Social Graces

Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you.  Their tastes may not be the same.

- George Bernard Shaw, 1903

by Anjana Ahuja

You could not make it up.  Students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston are being encouraged to attend charm school, an annual tutorial in social graces.  Highlights include how to eat apple pie (with a spoon, not a fork); the etiquette of dual-sex lavatories (the seat must always be left down); and ballroom dancing.  About 1,000 students at the institute - which turns out some of the most talented scientists and engineers in the world - came along to this year's gathering.  All 22 courses have snazzy titles designed to appeal to the intellectual audience.

The deportment class is called "Exemplary Locomotion" and is charged with eliminating the "institute shuffle" characterised by a lowered head and hunched shoulders.  Once they have conquered their unseemly gait, the students can stride along to "Buttering up Big Shots" and "How to Work a Room."  There, they will find that it is socially correct to introduce the more important person to the less important person.  Never congratulate a stranger on being pregnant - she might not be.

Other classes dispense sartorial wisdom, for example, women should avoid displaying cleavage and wearing lacy hosiery during the daytime, while men should shun multicoloured socks in favour of ones that tone with either trousers or shoes.  One especially useful session is "How to Tell Somebody Something They Would Rather Not Hear", where pupils are coached in how to deal with problems such as a hygiene-shy roommate.

Charm school was dreamt up by MIT's professor of literature, Travis Merritt.  "A bunch of us were sitting around in the office one day, and I said: 'Am I imagining it or are MIT students a little bit peculiar in lacking the social graces?'," he recalls.  The school is now in its 8th year and has acquired cult status.  Those who attend six courses receive a bachelor's certificate in charm; those who make eight are awarded a masters.  Those in need of real help aim for the top - 12 courses, which earns a PhD.

One popular course is "Flirting 101", a lesson in how men and women can pick up subtle signals.  When men were asked how they could tell whether a woman was interested, they said it was if she made eye contact and talked to them.  Women at MIT had no trouble in guessing when men were beguiled, saying "they stare at you" and "they stalk you."

I fear some more work might be needed here. - The Times

Source: The Dominion Monday 26 March 2001

It's Martinis not Lager at First Male Finishing School

If you can't be kind, at least be vague.

- Miss Manners

Tom Henry being coached in deportment by Lady Chelsea
at The Glenlivet Male Finishing School (PA)

Britain's first male finishing school is opening with a promise to help men transform themselves from rude and smelly Rab C Nesbitts into smooth-talking James Bonds.  Among the tutors are experts in fashion, grooming and etiquette, including David Ginola's stylist and Jude Law's personal groomer.  The Glenlivet Male Finishing School in central London is opening in response to a survey of more than 1,000 women, which found many complaining that the British man had poor standards of personal hygiene, dress sense and general manners.  The syllabus at the school includes a lesson on "the unbuttoned shirt rule".  "One button undone for the day, two for the night, three, you're Jennifer Lopez, five, you're David Hasselhoff."

The school promises to teach "relevant, useful advice and expertise for every wannabe man about town".  Expert tutor John Chapman, who has been a groomer to Jude Law, Ethan Hawke and Vinny Jones, said every man can look as good as the stars - all it takes is a couple of minutes' extra effort in the mornings.  "It's about sitting down with somebody who has the professional knowledge.  Lots of men experience difficulties in getting a really close shave," he said.  "Wash your face, use a shaving cream and exfoliate before you shave, and every time you take a stroke with a blade, rinse the blade, because it gets blocked with hair and cream," he said.  "It is such simple things like that that make all the difference."

Source: www.ananova.com Friday 21st September 2001

University Students Taught which Fork to Use

University students in the US are being taught which fork to use at formal dinners as part of their coursework.  Twenty-two University of Cincinnati students dressed for success for their exam in "Global Civility."  Students enrolled in technology-related courses in the College of Applied Science were rated on dining skills, conversation and comportment while at a new French restaurant, Jean-Robert at Pigall's.  "I told them, 'If you show up in Reeboks, I will kill you on the spot,'" said Linda Ginter Brown, head of the Media and Cultural Studies department.  "Trust me, they do not look like this on campus."

The 10-week Global Civility course is designed to give students a competitive edge in landing a job or a promotion by focusing on business etiquette and international protocol.  The course requires students to research professional conduct around the world as well as learn how to plan an event.  The final exam focused on dining etiquette.  "We've been made aware of how to interact with people," said Denita Wilson, 29.  "It's the small things that add up.  The purpose of going to a business lunch is not to eat."

Source: www.ananova.com Saturday 7 December 2002

These are the things Mother used to be able to teach her sons - but she no longer has time to because she's at work, earning the money that enables her to be able to afford to send Junior to the type of university that considers "finishing" important.  How circular.  I wonder if Junior prefers it that way.

School Teaches Girls How to Be Perfect Wives

A school in Mexico City is offering classes to teach girls how to become perfect wives.  The Tota Topete School is offering the special weekly after-school classes to 13 to 18-year-old girls, reports Las Ultimas Noticias.  Lessons include cooking, sewing, ironing, childcare and special feminine touches such as putting flowers in bathrooms and having initials embroidered on towels.

Professor Tota Topete said: "The skills learnt here are in danger of becoming lost as more Mexican women join the global tendency of concentrating more on their careers than taking proper care of the house.  Nowadays, every woman wants to work but that is simply not possible if you are a wife or a mother.  That means not taking care of your husband and that could lead to divorce."

Source: www.ananova.com Friday 26 March 2004

Art of Introduction Depends on Protocol, Pecking Order

by Dana Knight

Mr or Ms Professional, allow me to introduce you to Introduction.  He's the kind of guy who on the surface is a simple hello-how-do-you-do fellow.  But he has issues.  Deep issues.  Rules.  Codes.  Nuances.  Twists.  Introduction can make you look downright stupid - if you treat him wrong or forget him altogether.  So before he wreaks havoc on anyone else, here's a look at what he's all about:

Introduction's biggest flaw is inconsistency.  The rules are different at an after-hours gala than at an afternoon tea.  And different at a business luncheon or a kid's birthday party.  Only' one rule remains the same no matter what: The name of the person being introduced is mentioned last and the person to whom the introduction is made is mentioned first.

Now for the differences.

Business introductions are based on power and hierarchy.  People with less authority are introduced to people with greater authority.  Like this: "Mrs Big Head Boss, I'd like to introduce Mr Tiny Peon Intern."

But, and of course there's a but; the person with the highest rank isn't always considered to have the greatest authority.  A client or elected official always takes precedence over anyone in your organisation.  For example, out on the golf course with client tee-seller Golf Man, you would say: "Mr Golf Man, I would like to introduce you to Mr CEO."

Doesn't matter that-Golf Man is a peddler and CEO is a millionaire.  The client has greater authority.

Here are a few more to add to the authority pecking order in the business climate, according to Hilka Klinkenberg, founder of Etiquette International and author of At Ease - Professionally:

bulletIntroduce a nonofficial person to an elected official.  Example: "Mayor Peterson, this is Joe Ordinary."
bulletIntroduce someone from your firm to a client or customer.  Example: "Mrs Skirt Shopper, this is Mrs Cashier."
bulletIntroduce a junior executive to a senior executive.  Introduce a junior military officer to a senior officer.

One simple rule to remember: "You acknowledge the most important first," says Klinkenberg, by saying his or her name first as you introduce someone else to him or her.

Confused?  Just what Introduction had in mind.  So he added a few rules.

Social introductions are based on chivalry, so both formal and informal introductions are made according to age, then gender, then social status.

For example, the man is introduced to the woman in a social situation unless the man is buying with a senior citizen card and the woman is barely drinking age.  Then age takes precedence over gender and the younger woman is introduced to the man.  When making the introduction, as you say each of the individuals' names, look directly at him or her.  When you can, add in a little something about the person.

"Mr Advertising Man, this is Mrs Go-getter.  She headed up the marketing project that your firm did the artwork for last month."

Be careful in doing this to make sure the tidbit is relevant to both parties, Klinkenberg says.  Even more inappropriate is not making the introduction at all.  "Even if you don't do it properly.  Even if you get the order wrong or the name wrong or whatever, make the introduction!" she says.

Source: The Daily Record, Morris County New Jersey Monday 20 October 2003 from The Indianapolis Star

For articles on affair motivators, changing relationships, do-it-yourself psychotherapy, lies, insincerity, social graces, cosmetic surgery, roots of culture, self-deception, love, and reunions of lost relatives click the "Up" button below to take you to the Table of Contents for this Relationships section.

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