Tuesday 31 March 2015

Essential Snobbery 101: How not to seek advice

A sad reflection
The conversation I relay below left me wondering about where things might have gone so horribly wrong in our society that we are bringing up such uncultured children.
I decided the blame lay first with the parents who are most probably my age mates and then with the educational system in the person in engaged in any at all, the society because it condones the proliferation of such attitudes and the primarily with the person, due to circumstances I cannot begin to elicit.
I reproduce the conversation, properly punctuated, because that in itself is necessary for my blog, besides that, this is what transpired in a chat session that others have found to use and obtain quite useful advice from just by reason of noting my age and by extension possibly my experience.
The exchange
Stranger: Can I have some advice?
[I first checked if this was the continuation of an old conversation, because it was almost too familiar, it was not, before I responded.]
Me: Hello. You accost strangers for advice without a greeting or an introduction? I don’t think so.
[Expressing incredulity and offering a typical street analogy in the hope that it might check something in his engagement.
Stranger: OK. I’m just a young lad who wanted help, but thanks.
[The thanks at the end here is not substitute for good manners, in fact, it does not demonstrate any manners, but rather, it reads more like. Thanks, but no thanks.]
Me: Being young does not excuse bad manners.
Stranger: OK, Never mind. I just wanted help, because I was worried, but never mind, sorry to disturb you.
[Whilst he appears to have relapsed into the submissive, probably a cue and a hint for me to engage, I guess by now, we had literally lost each other. Opening the way for my final message.]
Me: You still don’t get it? Good night.
We both lost an opportunity
The conversation ended without me ever getting to help the young man and I will probably never know what he contacted me for.
Much as it is probably evident from our short exchanges that the person probably needed help, there was nothing much I could do if we could not establish protocols of engagement, which in my old-fashioned view of the world are critical to communicating effectively.
Reading through, he was worried about something, which is why he wanted some help and so invariably sought my advice.
In my responses, I first tried to alert him to the fact that he was going about it the wrong way, then I reinforced that view with the use of the phrase ‘bad manners’ before I resigned, because there was nothing for me to build on.
What we tolerate
Maybe, I could have been more patient and attempted to take the young man under my wing just to ensure he does not repeat the error elsewhere, but sadly, at the point in time, I left him as lost cause. My inflexibility in terms of the need for good manners might have consigned to a worse fate.
Yet, there is a possibility that I am the only who noticed, others could have in the spirit of the times ignored the situation and gotten on with giving the advice, happy and honoured to be asked in the first place.
Then, before I get consumed in self-flagellation, just imagine what difference it would made to start a conversation in another way?
Stranger: Hello! Please, can I have some advice?
A lot of difference, I say, a world of difference, in fact. My attention undivided, my seriousness applied, my experience engaged, my humanity disposed to being every nice and good disposition I could muster along with manners reciprocated with respect and consideration.
Allowances to the inflexible?
It bothers me that the quality of conversation and consideration that the ease of communication allows in text messages and social media allows us to dispense of the basic formalities, which still matter and are noticed if deployed.
In a short conversation with my dad using text messages yesterday, I noticed that I had lapsed in standards when after my greeting and message, I forgot to sign off properly. It is something I immediately realised and was very ready to correct in my next message.
My father had initiated the conversation and I responded. We both knew we were chatting to each other, yet, I felt I had let myself down. At the same time, one must add tolerances and allowances to certain areas of inflexibility.
The accommodation of much beyond the narrow view of things, but at the end of the day, it will still bring us back to the second point I made. “Being young does not excuse bad manners.” No situation or circumstance, in need or in plenty, in pain or in peace, in youth or in elderliness, can excuse bad manners.

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