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The Art of Receiving: The Five Week Manners Makeover Step 5

by Danica Waters / photo credits at bottom of post

 

Now that we’ve covered Basic Table Manners, The Art of Conversation, The Art of Greeting, and the Art of Giving, now it’s time to learn The Art of Receiving.

 

Everybody likes to receive presents, right?  In theory, receiving an outpouring of someone else’s thoughtfulness and generosity should not only make us feel super-special, it’s supposed to be downright fun.  So why is it that so very many of us unwittingly make an absolute mess out of the act of receiving a gift?  See if any of these scenarios sound familiar:

 

Scenario #1:

After spending a month quizzing common friends on gift ideas, scouting out every retail shop within a 50-mile radius for exactly what she was looking for, and spending nearly an hour gift wrapping, Betsy finally found what she thought was the perfect gift for her dear cousin.  She was so excited!  Upon arriving at the cousin’s annual holiday party, Betsy proudly handed her the gift and said, “This, my dear, is for youwith a look of anticipation all over her face.  “Oh!  Thank you so much!” her cousin replied, giving her a hearty hug.  Then, without opening the gift and much to Betsy’s dismay, her cousin proceeded to tell her all about the wonderful, mind-blowing gift she’d just received from another friend of hers.  Betsy’s package disappeared into the hustle and bustle of the house, and she ended up leaving that evening not even knowing if her cousin had opened her gift or what she thought of it if she had.

 

Scenario #2:

Still smarting from her gift-giving experience the night before, Betsy delivered a small but thoughtful gift to a co-worker.  Upon presenting the gift, the co-worker looked at her, cleared his throat, and said, “So I suppose you want me to open this now?”  The situation became instantly uncomfortable; Betsy replied that he should feel free to open it whenever he had a minute – it was nothing big, just a small token to say “happy holidays”.  The co-worker brusquely said “Thanks”, and Betsy spent the rest of her workday feeling awkward and uncomfortable about having tried to do something nice.

 

Scenario #3:

Betsy had had just about enough, but she figured that the holidays were really for children anyway.  She’d been invited to have afternoon tea at a friend’s home.  Knowing that her friend had children, she brought a little something for each of them in beautifully wrapped boxes.  Her friend called her children, telling them that Betsy had brought them each a present.  The kids ran into the room, snatched the presents from Betsy’s hands without even saying “hello” to her, and ripped into the boxes.  Two of the three seemed to like what they got, quickly saying “thanks” as they ran upstairs with their new toys.  The third opened his box and said, in front of everyone in the room, “That’s it?  But I don’t want this one.  It’s a little kid toy.”

 

Ever been in Betsy’s position?  “Just can’t get no respect“?  Before you find yourself stocking up on lumps of coal to hand out next year, here’s something to consider:

 

For some people, receiving isn’t as easy as it seems.

Sometimes people who are normally terrific, jovial, outgoing folks can morph into somewhat defensive, definitely ungracious, and in some cases downright rude individuals when they are presented with a gift.  These folks demonstrate receiving issues for a variety of reasons:

1.  They feel embarrassed that they don’t have anything to give in return;

2.  They don’t feel worthy;

3.  They’re not comfortable showing you how much your gift really means;

4.  They feel vulnerable, like they’ll owe you something by accepting your gift;

5.  They simply don’t know how to be grateful;

6.  Alas!  They are rude and selfish ingrates who should be banished from society forevermore.  (Thankfully, this isn’t usually the case.)

 

The Art of Receiving

Receiving is an art form that must be carefully considered and even practiced, especially if you or your child happens to experience receiving issues accompanied by any of the feelings listed above.  Receiving graciously is ultimately an act of humility, and, in the words of Jacques Maritain, “Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy.”

When mentally practicing the Art of Receiving, here’s some things to keep in mind:

1.  Receiving is the other part of a two-way street.  By receiving any gift graciously, you are allowing the Giver to experience the joy of giving.  To receive in an ungracious, stunted, or rude manner strips the Giver of his/her opportunity to experience that joy..

2.  The Giver has already decided that you are worthy.  Accept their opinion.  Insecurity is a heavy beast to battle.  But if feelings of low self worth are stunting your ability to receive graciously, turn your attention to the thoughtfulness of the Giver.  Make them feel appreciated and special for their kindness and consideration towards you.

3.  The Giver didn’t expect you to have a gift ready to reciprocate.  Honestly, unless you just totally blew off your duties as a Secret Santa, the person who just gave you a gift really has no expectation of receiving anything in return.  Your sincere expression of joy and gratitude will be enough to make their giving experience complete.  Don’t rush to reciprocate, either, or you’ll run the risk of looking like you’re giving out of a feeling of obligation rather than inspiration.

4.  Learn how to be grateful for the little things. Learning to focus on and be grateful for seemingly little things that we receive every day is a great way to become accustomed to the experience of receiving.  Maybe it’s really appreciating how your mom always put the right amount of brown sugar on your oatmeal in the mornings, how your husband always brings you perfectly-brewed coffee every morning as you are getting ready for work, or how Grandma always sets out hot tea and cookies when you drop in out of the blue.  Maybe it’s really noticing that your co-worker always has your back in a pinch, or that your neighbor always brings in your trash cans while you’re at work. Getting used to feeling grateful on a daily basis will hone your ability to experience and convey a genuine feeling of gratitude for any gift you’re given, no matter how big or how small.  Becoming acutely aware of and grateful for the little gestures people extend to us every single day sensitizes us to our own ability to positively impact others’ lives in little ways, as well.

 

The Formalities: What to do when you are given a gift:

Having tuned into your sense of gratitude, it’s now time to practice the formal expression within the Art of Receiving:

 

1.  Look the Giver in the eye, smile, and say “Thank You”.

2.  Mention that you sincerely appreciate their thoughtfulness, and express excitement at seeing what they’ve given you.

3.  When opening the gift, your focus and attention should be on the Giver; try to avoid becoming distracted until you’ve finished opening and appreciating the gift.

4.  Take a minute to compliment the gift wrap, if applicable.  Express gratitude over the time and effort taken.

5.  Even if you HATE the gift you’ve been given, look past any personal disappointment and find a way to compliment the Giver’s selection, i.e. “This scarf is simply the nicest color pink!”

6.  Look the Giver in the eye again, smile, and express your gratitude again for the Giver’s time, consideration, and generosity.

 

How to teach your kids the Art of Receiving

Practice makes perfect.  Role-playing potential gift-related scenarios in advance helps kids know what to do and say when the time comes.

 

Hopefully, with awareness and a bit of practice, the circle of giving will be complete and joyous this holiday season and beyond.

 

Enjoy!

 

Photo Credits:

Baby with gift courtesy www.thehalfwaypoint.net

Woman handing gift courtesy www.jessicakateproductions.blogspot.com

Woman with several gifts courtesy www.life123.com

Disappointed child courtesy www.parentsconnect.com

Rodney Dangerfield courtesy www.ranker.com

Insecure girl courtesy www.ronedmundson.com

Circle of hands courtesy www.nonprofitlawblog.com

Chinese women exchanging gifts courtesy www.blogofasia.com

 

Posted November 15th, 2011.

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The Art of Giving: The Five Week Manners Makeover Step 4

by Danica Waters / photo credits at bottom of post

With three weeks of practicing Basic Table Manners, two weeks of practicing the Art of Conversation, and a week’s worth of practice on how to nail the perfect greeting and a great handshake, it’s time to move on to the next step in our Five Week Manners Makeover:

The Art of Gift Giving

 

This next step takes some time and lots of talking, so be prepared.

 

With the sometimes mind-numbing hustle and bustle of the holiday season, all too often gift-giving endeavors are reduced to:

a)  an ever-evolving list of people who should receive something of equal or greater value to the gift slated for the next person on the list, often based on a sense of historical or social obligation vs. inspiration and joy;

b)  a distribution from a pile of whimsical but impersonal things collected from various sales throughout the year;

c)  a detached, materialistic and rather mechanical “thing that must be done” during the holidays, often accompanied by little or no thought of the person to whom the gift is to be given;

d)  a dreaded financial burden when all is said and done.

 

Needless to say, kids get confused when they are told time and again that “giving is better than receiving”, and yet they never really learn the art of giving and how it can make them – and the gift recipient – feel when the act is genuine, personal, and from the heart.  Like any other life skill, kids only know what they’re taught.  Kids can learn how to “get off the hook” and mechanically give Grandpa another token pair of holiday socks just as easily as they can learn how to really consider everything Grandpa really means to them and construct a meaningful gift accordingly.

Listen to your heart.

Try this:  before you write your holiday gift-giving list, take a quiet moment to ask yourself who impacted your life in a truly positive way this year.  What does that list look like?  Don’t be surprised if you’re surprised; the list may include people you don’t really know, but really, really appreciate, like that checker at the grocery store who always manages to put a smile on your face, even when you’re grumpy after a long day, or that teacher that makes your children feel inspired, like they can achieve anything?  (Note from author: To me, honoring these folks first makes me feel like I’m honoring myself and my intuition, adding emotional substance to the gifts I choose to give and the reasons why I choose to give them. It also helps me put my values and my relationships in perspective, while taking a good look at how I impact others’ lives, as well.)  Do this by yourself first; then sit down and try the exercise with each of your children.  You’ll gain precious insight into their lives and their values, as well.

 

Give unconditionally.

Sometimes folks can feel put on the spot, or perhaps as though you have ulterior motives, when they receive a gift of appreciation. In instances where you would like to show your appreciation but feel that it might result in an uncomfortable situation, giving anonymously is a great way to go.  Even if you don’t get the pleasure of seeing the recipient’s response, please don’t ever underestimate how much that coffee house gift card will be appreciated.

 

On the same note, unconditional giving means that even if you give personally and directly and do not receive the kind of appreciative response you’d hoped for, your heart was in the right place.  Do not become offended.  It just might be that the recipient is overwhelmed, self-conscious, or simply doesn’t know how to respond appropriately.  Move on, forgive, and be happy knowing you gave for all the right reasons.

 

A great way to teach your kids the joy of unconditional giving is to come together as a family to choose a recipient for an anonymous family gift.  In addition to charitable giving, choosing an anonymous gift for someone who is just simply an awesome human being is a fun way to bring your family together to celebrate great energy.

 

Great gifts mean something .

Retailers are there to be, well, retailers.  They put lots of “pretty shiny things” out to attract and distract shoppers, usually overwhelming and confusing them to such an extent that they end up purchasing items they never intended to buy in the first place.  Putting thought into the meaning behind your gift-giving will not only help you stay on track with your budget, but it will ensure that the meaning behind the gift you give will not be diluted along the way.  Does your aunt really need another scarf/hat/mitten set?  Or would it mean more to her for you to give her a unique piece of vintage jewelry to add to her collection?  In talking with your son about a possible gift for Grandpa, chances are that token pair of holiday socks will turn into an elaborate handmade picture of the time he took your son fishing, accompanied by an assortment of Grandpa’s favorite fishing snacks.  More expensive?  Nope.  More meaningful?  Absolutely.

 

“Think beyond the stuff”.

Most of the time, stuff is just that:  STUFF.  We don’t know what to do with the stuff we’ve already got, let alone more of it.  As a happier alternative, give gifts of shared time and/or experience, such as a monthly scheduled tea party with Grandma or tickets to the museum for your child and his/her BFF.  Be creative.  Make it special.  Try giving Grandma a new calendar with pre-scheduled dates for your tea parties already marked in bright, happy colors – make each party have a different theme, i.e. – February = Valentine chocolates, March = lemon cakes, September = celebrate the blackberries, etc.  Lighter on the heart, easier on the environment!

 

Wrap It Up!

Yes, it takes time.  And patience.  And maybe even a couple of tries.  But what would YOU rather receive:  an unwrapped gift, or one that had been carefully wrapped to the best of the giver’s ability?

 

Now take gift wrapping one step further:  how can you make it eco-friendly?

 

Here’s a video on how the Japanese utilize pieces of cloth to wrap their gifts:

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Photo Credits:
Gift w/ Gold Ribbon courtesy of www.mysmartshop.wordpress.com

Hands holding heart courtesy of www.esquire.com

“Pay it forward” courtesy of www.midatlanticarthritis.wordpress.com

Smiling Child courtesy of www.couponsaver.org

Seedlings in eggshells courtesy of www.themorningnews.org

Clip art gifts courtesy of www.absoluteuniquegifts.com

 

Posted November 8th, 2011.

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The Art of Greeting: The Five Week Manners Makeover, Step 3

by Danica Waters / photo courtesy of liluinteriors.com

Remember being a little kid and absolutely dreading those first few awkward minutes of meeting someone you hadn’t seen in a long time, or perhaps didn’t know at all?  No matter if the semi-strangers had extended an invitation to an event at their home or if the occasion found them invading your home, one of two things was certain to happen during the greeting process:

1.  You’d be eyeballed up and down like you were some sort of germ-ridden-troublemaker-to-be and summarily dismissed, or;

2.  You’d end up having your cheeks pinched off your face as you were slathered in kisses and lipstick stains,  barraged with a million questions you didn’t know how to answer, by someone you really didn’t know all that well at all.

Not knowing what to do in either instance, you’d visibly shrink there next to your parents, feeling awkward and silent and uncomfortable and wishing to all heck you could will yourself to disappear altogether.  Anxiety amplified as you quickly realized that your own embarrassment was unwittingly embarrassing your parents.   “Say something, silly!” they would admonish, nudging you further into the line of fire. “Don’t just stand there like a bump on a log!  Ha ha ha….!  Kids – I’ll tell you…”

And there you were, feeling like a germ-ridden-troublemaker the rest of the evening.

 

In the words of America’s etiquette expert, Peggy Post, “Most etiquette dilemmas arise when people don’t know what to do. This results in a feeling of uncertainty and, ultimately, a sense that you may do something wrong or offend someone.”  Yep.   And that’s not a happy space for anyone to be in – especially kids.

Now’s the time to practice the Art of Greeting, so that your children can negotiate these awkward moments with confidence and poise now and in the future.

 

Tips to a perfect greeting:

1.  Look the person in the eye and smile!

2.  No mumbling!  Speak confidently and clearly, even if you’re feeling shy.

3.  It’s best to call the person by name:  “Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Humphries / Aunt Matilda / etc.  It’s nice to meet you/see you again.”

4.  Strangers or acquaintances should be greeted with a handshake; if the person is a relative or someone close to you, you should greet them with a hug.

 

How to give a proper handshake:

1.  Right hand to right hand, thumbs up (not a limp, palms-down hand)

2.  Firm grip, but not too tight or too limp

3.  Only two to three “pumps”, then release hands.  No shaking the other person’s arm off!

 

Other tips:

1.  Feeling useful is one of the most powerful confidence builders out there.  If the event is being held in your home, children can offer to help take guests’ coats or show them a secure place where they can put their bags.  Teach them to treat these articles with care.  (If you are attending an event at another home, remind children to say “thank you” when someone takes their jacket.)

2.  If you’re hosting the event, it’s a great idea to review the guest list with your kids in advance.  Letting them know about the personalities and interests of the people coming to the party goes a long way towards helping kids feel confident about their participation in the event.

 

With practice, your kids’ kind, confident greeting skills might even help them avoid lipstick and cheek pinching altogether.

And remember:  keep practicing Basic Table Manners  and The Art of Conversation!

 

 

 

Posted November 1st, 2011.

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The Art of Table Conversation: The Five Week Manners Makeover, Step Two

by Danica Waters / image credits at bottom of page

Now that we have a week of practicing basic table manners under our belts, it’s time to add Step 2 to the etiquette arsenal.  One of the most frequently overlooked aspects of having great etiquette is the art of making conversation.

Table conversation is magic.  This is the place where children get to know adults as real people rather than basic authority figures.  This is where the family stories are told, where children learn about themselves, and about life.  Of equal or greater importance, this is your opportunity to get to know them.  The ability to maintain a healthy table conversation, rather than responding in uncomfortable monosyllables or completely monopolizing the entire conversation, is a skill that will serve them for the rest of their lives.

 

Here’s a quick review of the most basic rules of conversation etiquette:

 

1.  Don’t talk with your mouth full.

In the event someone asks you a question while you’re mid-mouthful, simply smile and indicate silently that you’ll need a minute to finish chewing.

 

2.  Don’t speak too loudly, or too softly, either. 

Practice good table speaking volume, and talk about whether any of your guests have hearing problems, so everyone can be aware and act accordingly.

 

3.  Speak to people on both sides of you, and directly across the table.

Talk to your children about how they’d feel if the people they were sitting next to at the table never acknowledged or spoke to them.  Manners are about making everyone feel comfortable and welcome.   To that point, take some time to consider who your children will feel most comfortable around.  Some people simply make kids want to shrink, or they encourage impish misbehavior at the table.  This is where seating arrangements can come in very handy.  Have your kids help make the place cards!

 

4.  Practice the art of small talk.

A great way to make enjoyable conversation is to know in advance about the interests, talents, or experiences of your guests.  Let your kids know that Uncle Bob once went on a jungle safari “back in the day”, or that ancient Aunt Gertie won a Blue Ribbon at the State Fair for her knitted saddle warmer.   It will give them a conversation-starting advantage.

Also, if small talk is a challenge, try picking up a conversation game like Table Topics at the local bookstore.  It’s a great way to get folks talking, laughing, and sharing at the dinner table.

 

5.  Choose appropriate topics to speak about.

You don’t want to embarrass anyone by divulging personal family issues or speaking about things that are not appropriate for table conversation.  Discuss in advance what topics would be best kept off-limits at your event.

 

6.  NO RUDE NOISES!

Not. Even. One. Single. Teeny. Tiny. One.  Not from you, not from me. I don’t care if you heard that a loud, voluptuous burp is considered a “two-thumbs-up” to chefs in Arabic countries.  It’s not true, and we’re not there.

 

TIP:  Make up an emergency code word for etiquette emergencies. 

In the world of good manners, there’s a lot to remember, and even with lots of practice, kids sometimes get ahead of themselves.  That’s why it’s a good idea to develop a code word or phrase or signal system you can use with your children in the event they get a bit too excited or forget their manners at the table.  With practice and teamwork, a simple phrase like “My, I am looking forward to that PIE” and some direct, meaningful eye contact can easily and effectively curb behavior without the public embarrassment of a point-blank reprimand.  This method makes kids feel “partnered in” rather than feeling belittled, and it works beautifully most of the time.

 

Given that etiquette accidents do happen, be sure to discuss with your kids ahead of time how to react to others’ faux pas.  As hysterical as it might happen to be, if someone else at the table accidentally slips up, no laughing.

 

Not even if

dear, sweet, ancient Aunt Gertie

lets out a post-champagne

BELCH from the BOWELS of BEELZEBUB.

Not one peep.

image #1 – crowd at dinner table courtesy of www.squidoo.com

image #2 – burping cartoon image courtesy of www.thedailyloves.files.wordpress.com

 

Posted October 25th, 2011.

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The Five-Week Manners Makeover

by Danica Waters (photo credits at end of post)

Aahhhh…. Autumn.  Blustery late-October winds send the last leaves scattering and Christmas holiday merchandise creeps steadily onto Store-Shelves-Near-You.

This is an exciting time of year; with the onset of winter holiday festivities, you find yourself considering travel plans and gift lists, mulling over menu options and guest lists. And then, at the dinner table one night, the chilly mists of anxiety waft over you as you realize that the family table etiquette you thought you’d whipped into shape long ago has not even remotely recovered from the long, lazy, finger-licking days of summer.

 

Finger-licking indeed.

You watch for a minute or two with a bit of a sickening feeling accompanying your current state of disbelief.  Yes, you really did see Johnny lick his fingers after using them to pick up a long green bean and nibble it from the bottom up.  And yes, you really are watching little Katy blow air in and out of a limp macaroni noodle that has had all the cheese sucked off of it.   Eeesh.


The Five-Week Manners Makeover

There’s just enough time from now until Thanksgiving to give the whole family a manners makeover.  Since most major holiday celebrations involve lots and lots of time around a table, practicing basic table manners is the best place to start.

Week 1:  Focus on Table Settings and Basic Table Etiquette

Explain the placement of table settings and let them practice setting the table properly at mealtimes.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly they’ll learn with a little practice!  To brush up on the correct way to set a table, feel free to visit the following videos, compliments of The Emily Post Institute and Howcast:

 

Basic Table Setting

 

Formal Table Setting


 

Review the Other Behavior Basics:

1.  Wash your hands before coming to the table.

2.  Put your napkin in your lap.

3.  Don’t start eating until everyone at the table has been served, or until the hostess eats.

4.  Hold and use your utensils properly.

5.  Say “please” and “thank you” when food, seasonings, or condiments are passed.

6.  Food is usually passed from right to left to avoid confusion; however, observe what’s happening and act accordingly.

7.  If you happen to be overlooked for something, no reaching across someone else’s plate; quietly ask for something to be passed.

8.  Chew with your mouth closed; don’t talk with your mouth full.

9.  Wait to be excused from the table; offer to help clear dishes from the table.

10.  Always remember to thank the cook!

 

It’s their party, too. 

Kids learn better when they are involved and treated as an integral part of the big picture.  Rather than teaching manners as “Rules-That-Must-Be-Followed”, explain that using good manners helps make everything more special.  Then get them involved in the creative and planning stages of the event.  Entrusting them with responsibilities, such as folding fancy napkins or making personalized place cards for all the guests, gives them a personal stake in the overall success of the event.

Practice makes perfect.

Every mealtime presents another opportunity to make something good even better.  Use the extra time afforded on weekends to practice something a bit more formal.

And remember: kids aren’t the only ones who need reminders and repetition. (Just sayin’.)

 

 

 

 

 Photo Credits:

table image:  www.photoshopessentials.com

girl licking fingers:  www.chocolates-made-easy.com

boy scratching head:   www.mombuzz.com

boy eating spaghetti: www.parentsconnect.com

man eating spaghetti: www.deathandtaxesmag.com

 

 


 

Posted October 18th, 2011.

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