And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
--"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Elliot
Relying on good manners can make a difficult situation less awkward.
Difficult experiences never go away. At every point in life, there are situations and encounters that make us want to cringe, cry, or do some sad combination of the two. Although it is natural to want to hide from these moments of awkwardness, sometimes it is not always prudent or possible to do so. After all, with great risk comes great reward. What if you had never asked your significant other out on that first date? What if you avoided going to that interview? What if you had never tried your new favorite food? Your life would resemble that of the great J. Alfred Prufrock-- a tragic assembly of what-ifs.
My high school music teacher was fond of saying, "You're only nervous if you're unprepared." Being prepared for a situation can make it easier because you will know what to do and how to conduct yourself. Practicing good manners is one way in which you can reassure yourself that you know just how to act in any situation.
Good manners are a skill set. Rely on your good habits to help you through a difficult encounter. Most of the time, we are nervous because we are unsure of what the other person's (or people's) reaction will be. Although we can't control what someone else will do, we can remain in control of our own actions. Good manners are essentially about executing self-control.
And so-- here's how I used good manners to help me overcome a difficult encounter.
I quit my job recently.
It was not an easy decision to make, but it was one that I had been considering for some time. My mind had been made up for quite a while, but I hadn't made the formal announcement yet. I was nervous about "pulling the trigger," if you will. I had worked in this position for some time, and I was concerned about the potentially awkward emotions that would arise from my announcement. I was personally on good terms with the people I worked with, yet at several times throughout my career there, I had felt slighted and angry about the decisions made by company managers. Being passed over for promotions, at times being treated rudely or unfairly criticized, and the low pay rate were all unhappy memories that I would have enjoyed throwing in the company's collective face as part of my grand exit.
Yet on the other side of that anger was genuine sadness. I generally liked my job and the people with whom I worked. My main reason for leaving was not out of anger, but out of a desire to pursue another career opportunity that had recently arisen. I could not commit to both jobs. And so, after weeks of rational thought that factored in sensible considerations like money, working hours, and my hopes and dreams and the potential to fulfill those goals, I realized that it was in my best interest to leave.
After puzzling over these emotions and initially delaying any action, I decided to take the high road and rely on my good manners to help me through. I followed the polite and proper protocol by writing a formal letter of resignation and presenting it at a private meeting with my boss two weeks in advance of what would be my final day of employment. I did not sneer, gloat, or present a litany of reasons why I was leaving-- I merely stated my sincere and honest intent to pursue another career opportunity.
If I am successful in this new opportunity, my actions will speak for themselves-- no need to boast or use damaging words to prove my point. One of my favorite expressions is a variation of, "The best revenge is living well." I'm fairly confident that leaving this job will improve my life and career prospects! But just in case it does not, I haven't burned any bridges. Leaving on good terms, thanks to my good manners, has made this awkward transition a little bit smoother, not only for me, but also for my former employer. One never knows when a previous employment reference may be needed!
On a final note-- this new decision will help me to fulfill one of my resolutions for the new year-- to attend more cultural events. Having my evenings and weekends free will be such a wonderful change.
"Above all, don't fear difficult moments. The best comes from them."
- What have you done lately to assist your New Year's resolution(s)?
- When have your good manners helped you through a difficult time?