Life Etiquette, it’s all about respect for ourselves, for others and for the world around us.
As a lifestyle expert, I usually view things from an “etiquette” lens. Considering all of the family reunions and class reunions I’ve attended over the years, I have heard LOTS of stories — the good, the bad and the ugly — about reunions. I felt compelled to share some of the insight I’ve gathered from experience and comments from over 50 people that I’ve solicited.
This column goes beyond family reunions, however. The stories, along with the tips on what to do and what not to do, can be applied to formal and informal gatherings where people have not been together for at least a year — class reunions, girlfriend weekends, retreats, you name it.
Promote positive energy among family, friends and guests. This goes a long way, no matter the activity, the location or the timing. Parents, especially, should project a positive attitude. If you fuss or make negative comments about people, activities, etc., your children will hear you. They may respond just like you and not want to engage. Negativity begets negativity.
Be prepared for physical changes in a person’s appearance. Over time, people change in appearance. Please do not make embarrassing remarks or go on and on about a person’s appearance. If they have changed for the better —some of us do — tell them they look great and move on. Don’t say things like, “you’ve lost a TON of weight” or “I see you got your ______ fixed.”
Worse still, please, please don’t say things like, “Man! You have gotten as big as a house!” Don’t be cruel, condescending, embarrassing or childish with your remarks and observations. And, please talk with your children and give them some “manners” and reunion etiquette training so that they do not say embarrassing or insensitive things to others as well.
Drink responsibly. A whole list of ills can come from overindulging: loose lips, belligerent behavior, inappropriate comments, and damage to property. Remember, the young people in the family are looking at and learning from adult behavior.
Don’t be a stop-by or a sneak-out. Just for clarification, a “stop-by” is a person who did not pay and just decides to “stop by” because so-and-so is in town. While you are there, you know you are going to be offered some refreshments. If it’s only you, well, maybe you can be accommodated; but, when the “stop-by” includes the spouse, the kids, the dogs, cats, friends and neighbors, that’s a problem.
So what’s a “sneak-out?” A sneak-out is a person who rises early before anyone else, dresses and “sneaks out” without paying. For real, true story. A person shared that they have a cousin who never pays. The cousin and family come and share your home or your hotel room just for the night.
Then the cousin tells you that they are going to share the cost of the room or pay their money “tomorrow” and proceeds to leave [sneaks out, family and all] without a word. When you talk with the person, you are told, “Oh, I didn’t want to disturb you.” This person now wonders why “there is no room at the inn.”
Leave the drama behind. Prying into personal affairs and sensitive subjects often leads to drama. If you are the drama king or queen, take a day off at the reunion. Drama gives the family something to talk about for years, but the talk is rarely positive. Don’t let drama ruin a good time. If you thrive on drama, you know what to do — stay away from the reunion.
Be cooperative: Dress for the family picture. Remember, it will be a part of your family history. You may not like the t-shirt design or color. It’s a reunion, just wear the shirt if you bought one.
Speaking of which, some people may not be able to purchase the t-shirt. Don’t try to explain or rationalize someone else’s financial situation. If they don’t have the shirt, they don’t have the shirt. I would, however, let them know the t-shirt color and perhaps they can wear something in the color line…or not.
Participate: Play the silly games; indulge the elders by listening to the stories of old; be a little uncomfortable with the weather; eat the food that has been prepared. If you have a specific dietary concern, bring your own food. Relax, you might just find yourself having fun and enjoying your family.
One more thing: Please refrain from putting people on blast via social media. Don’t post negative comments and unflattering photos. Refrain from spreading gossip, telling folk’s business, or sharing personal and private information, such as medical conditions. Remember, what goes on at the reunion, stays at the reunion.
Juliet Mitchell welcomes readers’ responses to email@example.com. For more of her work, go to www.mannersarememorable.com.