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Newport Manners & Etiquette: Handling Eye Rolling, Body-Shaming & Graduate Guidelines

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


Whether graduating or being bullied on the playground, good manners make for smoother sailing into adulthood. And eye rolling and other ill-mannered body language, were all the best questions to Didi Lorillard at NewportManners this week.

Eye rolling

Q.  My boyfriend has the annoying habit of looking upward and giving me the eye roll when he disagrees or doesn't like something I've said. When we're at dinner, after he's executed the eye rolling, he'll take up finger drumming and make a sarcastic comment. To signal me that he's impatient, he'll tap his fingers on the table when he's lost interest in what I'm saying or that he thinks I'm rattling on too long or that he totally disagrees with my opinion. I love him but when he behaves like this it feels like a relationship deal-breaker. How do I get my feelings about his bad behavior across to my boyfriend?  HB, Atlanta, GA


A.  Nothing is more corrosive to a relationship than the ongoing behavior you've described. Your boyfriend may not know he's annoying but if he does, he may not know how to control his despicable nonverbal behavior. They are bad social cues. The ability to control body language is one of the keys to social success. 

  • Eye rolling is the equivalent of the door slam, the shrug, the smirk and the sarcastic tone of voice that are all acts that show disrespect and arrogance.


Using a sarcastic tone of voice and eye whites to convey blatant social cues, like rolling your eyes behind someone's back or refusing to make eye contact, are unconscionable behaviors. They are simply ways to shame someone. 

  • Much like name calling, sarcasm expresses disgust. He shows signs of being a covert narcissist. Tell him that his body language and tone of voice is sometimes (or often) unacceptable because it makes you feel belittled.
  • When he doesn't agree with you he should have the decency to say why outright instead of using the passive-aggressive eye roll. Stop him at the eye roll and call attention to how he's handling his negative -- or perhaps ambivalent -- feelings.


One of the traits of a well-mannered person is having the ability to refrain from using inconsiderate body language and sarcasm to show that you disagree. Tell him that. Not that it sounds as though it will do much good.



Q.  Our eleven-year-old burst into tears last night and told us that boys at school made fun of her by calling her "whale tail." She's pleasantly plump, but she has a lovely disposition and is very bright and funny so has lots of girlfriends and a gay guy friend. Her brothers are also chubby, so they don't tease her. When we asked the boys if their chubbiness has been made fun of at school, they said they hadn't. Making a big deal of this will only call attention to the unfortunate name calling, and could lead to making "Whale Tail" a permanent nickname. What do you suggest?  LL, Salem, MA


A.  First of all, help your daughter to persevere when being bullied. The kids who are bullying her now are the same boys who will be bullying her next year and the year following that. You need to bully-proof your daughter by building up her resilience.

  • Make sure nobody in the home is teasing anybody about being overweight, because if a child feels secure at home she will be more resilient to name calling outside the home. When kids consistently accept who they are, they are better equipped to handle the cruel bullying in the schoolyard.
  • Encourage your daughter to try different activities to find one or two she can become engrossed in, such as a musical instrument, drawing, painting, singing, cooking, basketball, acting, until she finds her passion.
  • Don't be the makeup mom who overpraises her child for achievement she doesn't deserve, because she'll see through you. It backfires.
  • The compliment should match the accomplishment.
  • When she's upset, teach her to calm down by being mindful of her reactions to having been teased. Have her draw a cartoon, do a jigsaw puzzle, practice yoga, make a healthy salad for the family, or read a book.
  • Suggest that she be brave and talk directly to the person who teases her to tell him that he makes her feel badly when he calls her names, even if she needs an adult to facilitate the conversation.


At the end of the day, you don't want to support maladaptive thinking, because negative thoughts contribute to a child's low self-esteem and insecurities. You don't want her to dwell on the teasing. 

As a parent you can't protect your daughter from being bullied on the school playground. Nevertheless, you can build up her resilience by giving her effective coping tools that will serve her into adulthood. 

Being considerate of other people's feelings is good etiquette.


Guidelines for college students

Q.  My students not only call me by my first name, but their emails are equally casual and disrespectful. Grammar, spelling and punctuation are sloppy. Furthermore, they don't address me by my surname, nor do they use my title. How do I encourage students to address me as Professor Brown or Dr. Brown, as opposed to using a greeting such as, "Hi there" or "Hey," in their emails, or no salutation or closing at all? Transitioning into the workplace or graduate school, they should learn to put more polish and protocol into all their emails.  Dr. Brown, Providence


A.   Dr. Brown, it may be too late to have an effect on this year's students. Don't be timid, you are not trying to make friends. Your job is to prepare students for the real world. At the start of the your next session set guidelines: "In my classes I command a certain amount of respect and the use of protocol. The same respect you will expect from younger people when you're my age. 

You are to address me as Professor Brown or Doctor Brown in person, or Dr. Brown in emails. Your emails to me are to be as grammatically correct as would be expected in all written material. 

Attach a memo of your etiquette requirements to every syllabus, as well as to your website. It should cover:

  • Learn to use a greeting, either in person or in an email, address your professor formally by his or her title and last name.
  • When your professor has a Phd., address him or her as Professor Brown or Dr. Brown.
  • Use spellcheck and grammar check.
  • Have an email address that isn't cutesy or sexy. You're not trying to impress someone on DateMySchool.com.
  • Always use a closing along with your full name at the end of your email. We can't be expected to identify you by your email address alone: Kind regards, Elmer Fudd.


Graduation presents

Q.  Is it possible to ask our son's relatives and our close friends to send him money instead of a boxed graduation present? He needs money for college. He doesn't want some random article of clothing, bedding or towels. We're having a graduation party early in the evening with the older people and then he's going off with his friends. I know guests will feel that they have to bring a wrapped boxed gift: he won't pretend to act gushy about having to unwrap it in front of them.  Cecily, Worcester, MA


A.  It would be more polite to ask for gift cards and suggest stores he'll use. For instance gift cards for CVS, J.Crew, Bed Bath & Beyond could be utilized before he leaves home -- or at college. 

  • A Starbucks or a Subway can be found pretty readily in most college towns. 
  • The only problem with gift cards is that they can go missing, but so can checks.
  • Placing a twenty dollar, fifty dollar, or hundred bill in a gift envelope with his name on it, would probably work best. 
  • Be honest with your family and friends. Just say, "Zack doesn't want stuff, he only wants cash." 


Cash in a envelope is something a guest coming to your son's grad party can walk in with, hand to your son, and in return receive a firm handshake from the graduate. Tell your son that. Get the word out: Gift card or cash. Don't expect him to write a thank-you note, but spending a smidgeon of time with a gift giving guest can go a long way.


Didi Lorillard researches manners and etiquette at NewportManners.


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