Not Thinking Leads to Rudeness

by Peter Post on November 12, 2012

Entry originally appeared in Peter Post’s E Word blog for The Boston Globe.

People say the darndest things.

Recently, I clicked on an item titled, “18 Rudest Pregnancy Comments We’ve Ever Heard.” I was whisked off to the CafeMom website and read the piece. It’s remarkable what people will say without any forethought as to how it might sound to the person they are talking to. And, that in a nutshell is the problem: no forethought. No thinking.

In my job I don’t start out teaching people which fork to hold or how to write a thank-you note. I start out with a basic tenet: Think before you act. It sounds so simple, but if it was simple, then none of us would ever be apologizing for things we say or do.

But we all do, at one time or another, have to apologize for the thoughtless things we blurt out or do. Wouldn’t it be better to get it right the first time than have someone say to us, “What did you do (or say) that for? What were you thinking?” Because when we hear those words , our first thought is, “What was I thinking? If I’d been thinking, I never would have said (or done) that. I’m so sorry.” And now we’re in recovery mode hoping that the other person will accept our apology.

Not thinking. That’s what the 18 rudest pregnancy comments shout out at me. Like “God, you’re gigantic.” It had to come out spontaneously because no one could say that intentionally. At least I hope not.

Think before you act. Take a moment before you say or do something you’ll regret. That hesitation may be your best friend. And in the process you may save a relationship or build a stronger, more positive relationship. And that is what etiquette is really all about: building good relationships.

Essential Manners for Men was first published in 2003 and became a New York Times bestseller for advice books. Essential Manners for Men 2nd Edition (William Morrow) is available now.

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