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Modern Manners + Etiquette: Handling a Snoring Girlfriend + More

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


How do you tell her that she, well, snores? Modern etiquette to the rescue.

An anxious boyfriend, a bullied little sister, a concerned boss, an e-mailed-out coworker, all wanted to know the etiquette this week on NewportManners.com for communicating better with their lover, big brother, job candidate, or clients.

Dear Didi,
I have an elder brother, who eats really fast and stuffs his mouth with food. And he uses things in a rough manner. So far he has managed to chip my guitar in many places. I would like to correct him, but since I'm younger it wouldn't seem nice. Please help. Name withheld, Little Compton

To the younger sister,
Your brother sounds clumsy. You can't change him and he certainly won't listen to you if you whine. Your klutzy brother might, however, listen to what you have to say about what girls will like and not like about him. Take the focus off you and your dislikes and what he did to your guitar. Instead say to him, "When you start dating, girls are going to be turned off by your gruff behavior and table manners. They won't think it's cool to be seen eating with a guy who stuffs his mouth with food and races through his meals." Sibling rivalry is normal. You won't be able to end his clumsiness, but at some point he's going to need girlfriend advice. That's where you come in. Listen up, by using a helping attitude opposed to criticizing him, you'll get through to him. Remember criticism destroys relationships. I think you know that already. ~Didi

Dear Didi,
For over a year I've been seeing the perfect young woman, whom I truly love and hope to marry. She's ten years younger than I am, absolutely stunning, and funnier than you could possibly imagine. She has a great job and everybody loves her. I'm lucky to have her as my girlfriend and don't want to lose her. But there's one thing that I can't figure out. It wasn't a real problem until I stopped traveling as much to spend more time with her. She makes disturbing noises while she sleeps. Her mouth is open and she sounds as though she is having trouble breathing, but it doesn't wake her up. Her troubled breathing disturbs my sleep. I love her and I need to know how can I help her. H.W., Narragansett

Dear H.W.,
Wake up and talk to her. Record her breathing on your smartphone while she's sleeping and play it back to her in the morning. The woman may have serious health problems. What are you going to do if she stops breathing altogether? Tell her she's got to make an appointment to see an ENT (ear, nose and throat) doctor as soon as possible. She can call her general practitioner for a referral or Google a local ENT specialist near her workplace. ~Didi

Dear Didi,
By the time the human resources department narrows down applicants, two or three have made the cut. What I really want to find out is how to determine if a young person has a good work ethic and is a team player. These kids are all bright and well-educated, so it's not as much about what they already know but who they are that I feel I need to know. As the one who makes the final decision and oversees the mentoring of their training, I'm not interested in asking trick questions. I want to know how to determine character in order to find the ones who are going to be in it for the long haul. L.C., Warwick

Dear L.C.,
In choosing the best young person for the job, you want the candidate to open up and talk about him/herself in order to be able to assess their work ethic and character. Asking about their first real job, which might not be on the resume, could tell you a great deal. If, say, as a teenager she scooped ice cream during her summer vacations, you can assume she has a good work ethic, good people skills, and learned how to use a cash register (value of money). She might stack up well against someone who took expensive educational trips that may not have taught them that much but look good on college applications. Or if, as a teenager, someone worked in construction or, say, took care of a boat. Then get the candidate to tell you about a mistake he/she made in the workplace and what they learned from their mistake. The third question would be to ask: Do you consider yourself a good listener? (Which you would ask only if you weren't sure the candidate was a listener.) Finally, you want them to explain what most concerns them at work (that refers to their most important internal value creation processes, which might include, for example, product design and delivery or customer support).

The short answer is to ask questions that: assess work ethic, determine if he/she learns from mistakes, is a listener, or has evolved a work process. ~Didi

Dear Didi,
In my new job I am stressing out over the number of e-mails I have to answer. I'm e-mailed-out, I've got e-mail burnout. I would like to think I'm a fairly gracious writer but my e-mails are becoming more and more homogenized. Literally so boring, that I wouldn't want to have to read them. At least 97% of the time I don't know the person I'm writing to. I'm just writing to an e-mail address. It's like writing to a robot. What this has to do with etiquette, I don't know, but neither did I know whom else to ask. Caroline, Westport, MA

That's right, Caroline, there is a person on the other end. Whether it's personal or professional social media tone is everything. Over the phone, we used to lead with a cheerful, "Hello, Aaron, it's Caroline, how are you? Did you have a good weekend? Play any baseball?" Then when we've caught up, "Aaron, how are we coming along with the Hasbro project?" But now there's no lead-in, no use of the person's first name because it's all just about "Where are we on such-and-such?"

Aside from Skyping as a way of introducing yourself face to face to new colleagues, you can create your own persona and even have some fun with it. Be that possible love letter they've hoped for by learning that first name by asking what the A stands for in his e-mail address. If he's not addressing you as Ms. Harrison in the salutation, you aren't required to address him as Mr. Ross. Start with a simple Hi. "Hi, my name's Caroline, Sheila's replacement on the Hasbro account"—which may get him to write back. "Call me Aaron, I'll get you up to speed from our end." Wow, you're already on a first name basis.

That's not all, from Thursday on, end your e-mail with "Have a great weekend!" And starting the next week, he might even ask, "How was your weekend?" The answer is that we have to go back to using first names whenever we can and finding out about what people do when they're not writing e-mails. That will make our jobs feel less robotic.

In closing, I want to say that I thought the Oscars were the most dignified and elegant ever. On stage, there was a far greater sense of etiquette than we've seen before.

Didi Lorillard tracks trends in etiquette on NewportManners.com. 


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