Etiquette and San Diego

I just got back from making my presentation to the political communication subset of the National Communication Association Convention in San Diego. It was a small, international and enthusiastic group. Thank you all for your prayers and positive thoughts — the presentation was a success.

In case anyone’s interested, the title was something like, “Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution: A Cultural Critique.” It was suggested that I have my post-dissertation book published in Europe rather than in the U.S., which should provide a wonderful opportunity to get back to the Old Country for a visit.

While en route, I pulled out a relatively recent Vogue magazine (October, 2008), to get in the right frame of mind for an academic presentation (insert laugh track). Well, I found some interesting advice on modern manners, in an article by William Norwich. It’s about asking for favors and declining favors.

About asking for favors:

First of all, you don’t begin by saying, “I need such and such.” For example, if you need to borrow $10,000 from your cousin, you start off by saying, “It is perfectly all right to say ‘no,’ and if you can’t, I would love to know what you think I should do.”

This way you extend the opportunity for someone to help you, but without so much pressure.

Now, about declining favors, Norwich makes an excellent observation:

…when you are asked for help, saying “yes” but harboring any resentment, isn’t granting a favor — it is a prison sentence.

Some of you may want to reread that part.

He continues to make these other highly relevant points about declining extra commitments:

1. You have no obligation to explain or justify or provide evidence for your not accepting what’s being asked.

2. He offers this incredibly graceful way out, I think we should all practice this in front of the mirror, “I am sorry to say ‘no,’ but let’s think who else might you ask.”

This way you offer support and keep the conversation moving, but away from committing yourself.

3. Alternate explanation: I’d love to lend you [fill in the blank], but I simply can’t for insurance reasons. Isn’t that a bore? (182)

I’m not sure if #3 will get me out of the bake sale, but it’s worth a try.

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