Open Thread

by epi on April 30, 2013

Welcome to the Etiquette Daily

This open thread is your space to use as you like. We invite you to discuss current and traditional etiquette. Feel free to ask questions of each other and the community moderators here.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Magy April 30, 2013 at 9:19 am

I’d like to pose a question in response to the dilemma regarding an employee winning a plasma tv while representing the company as a whole. Would this be an issue if the employee had won a lesser prize, like a travel bag, wine bottle opener or travel mug? If the answer to that is “no”, then perhaps the employee is entitled to the television.

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Josie May 3, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Hi! I’ve recently found myself in a bit of an etiquette dilemma and am hoping for some advice… I’m a high school student who will be graduating in a few months, and I’ve always been smarter than most of my peers. This is fantastic and I consider it to be a great blessing; it’s gotten me accepted at a great college, earned me some fantastic scholarships, and allowed me to graduate high school a year early. That’s where the problem comes in. When someone I haven’t spoken to in a while finds out I’m graduating this year, they almost always say, “Wait, I thought you were a junior?” I typically answer with “Yes, I was, but I skipped my junior year,” because I don’t want them to feel dumb – after all, they remembered! When I tell people about my early graduation (or my test scores or scholarships, but I avoid bringing those into conversation at all costs), the response is almost always, “Wow, you must be a genius!” This should make me feel good, but to be honest it makes me feel uncomfortable because I’m afraid that people just see me as a jerk who likes to brag. I’m going to be leaving high school forever in a few weeks, so this issue probably won’t be much of an issue any more in the future, but I plan on accomplishing a lot more interesting and worthwhile things in my life than graduating high school early. How can I tell people about the things I’ve done without feeling like a braggart, and how can I graciously respond when people call me a “genius”?

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Winifred Rosenburg May 3, 2013 at 7:59 pm

A little modesty can go a long way. For example, if your scholarships come up, you can say “I’m sure they’ll realize they’ve made a mistake and be asking for their money back any day now.” Yes, people will realize you’re not seriously, but they will appreciate that you’re not bragging anyway and it will give you a chance to change the subject.

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Chocobo May 6, 2013 at 9:00 am

Telling people about the things you’ve accomplished is easy. As you have said, friends, family, and strangers are full of questions about your college acceptances; what you will be doing, where you will be going, even about your finances, etc. You hardly have to do anything at all to get the chance to say something.

However, when given that chance, couch your statements in humility. When people exclaim at how great a college you’ve been accepted to, say something like: “Oh yes, I’m so lucky to have been accepted!” and then change the subject to how excited you are about the student activities available on campus, or something like that. Trust that everyone knows one must be very accomplished to get into prestigious schools and will already be impressed with your acceptance. If you defer your acceptance to luck, it won’t diminish people’s opinion of your intelligence. Quite the opposite: people tend to be most impressed by people who are clearly successful but who are also modest. If someone asks you about scholarships, you can tell them what you have been given, but I would not bring them up yourself.

When someone calls you a genius, thank them with humility. You could say something like “Oh, thank you, that’s nice of you to say. I know I have much to learn at college, though.”

But while it is best for you to be modest, you are in luck that there are some people close to you who can brag in your place. A parent’s pride of a successful child is understandable, and I don’t think too many people would object to your mother or father telling everyone within earshot of what scholarship awards you have earned, what college you will be attending, and how you accomplished it all in just three short years. If you are standing with them, let them do the talking and the bragging, leaving you able to be gracious while soaking in the accolades.

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Elizabeth May 6, 2013 at 10:47 am

The other posters had great advice, I just wanted to add a couple of things:
1. You should not tell people you skipped your junior year “so they don’t feel dumb.” You should tell them because they obviously have not heard and are simply unaware of things going on in your life.
2. You should not discuss test scores with anyone (except your parents). No good can come of your spreading around how well you did. You can just say, “I tested well.”
3. When someone says, “You must be a genius!” I agree that it is most charming to deflect with humor. Second best (and perhaps a better fit with your personality) is to emphasize the hard work you did to accomplish it. You could say, “Actually, it was a bit brutal – I had to double up on my course load and take a couple of courses over the summer. (or whatever the case may be)” This way you let people know that success is not (just) a matter of talent, but of choices and hard work – something not everyone is up for.

The best thing to avoid awkward conversations, though, is simply to guide the conversation to more neutral ground, a place where the person you’re talking to can have some input or a point of view. You could go on to say, “I’m really excited to be attended X-University this Fall, but I’m having trouble deciding on my courses. We’re required to take either Great Books or Classic Civ, but I can’t decide. How did you choose your classes when you first entered college?” Turn it back to them, let them give you some advice.

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Cyra May 3, 2013 at 5:11 pm

Hi Josie,

I actually know a bit about how that feels, being an early-graduate myself (but it was 2nd grade that I skipped!). The best course of action, I think, is to pass the praise on to someone else. “Wow, you must be a genius!” can be easily answered with “I’ve been fortunate to have some very good teachers.” This will carry on to your future achievements as well, “My team worked very hard to achieve this,” “X and Y were essential to the success of this project,” etc. This way you’re not only taking the compliment graciously, you avoid looking like a braggart by sharing the praise.

Hope this helps!

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Crystal May 3, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Josie…

One of the wonderful things about college (especially “great” colleges), is that they have a way of making young people who have been exceptional and even a little strange all of their lives much less exceptional. I also skipped a year of school and went to a great college. The beauty is that very ambitious young people (like yourself) tend to gravitate to schools where suddenly no one is very much smarter (or more accomplished) than anyone else. Everyone graduated at the top of their class; everyone had great SAT scores; everyone has a plan for a non-profit or small business by the time they’re 19. What you’ll find is that your peers in college (and beyond) will be much less likely to think you’re a genius or a wierdo for your high achievement. This next part will sound sarcastic, but I mean it sincerely…

Relax. You won’t be special for very much longer.

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Josie May 9, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Thank you all very much for your advice! :)

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