The Civilized Minute

a minute of manners and musings

recession etiquette: it’s not all about you

Dang.  Really?  Seriously, not every person I run into cares to hear my snide remarks about what used to be?


Shocking, I know.  But, take a look at these stats:

  • 8.4 million jobs have evaporated since December 2007. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • 1 in 7 of the 52 million households who hold a mortgage are either missing payments or are in default.(New York Times)
  • 45.9% of those unemployed have been out of work for more than six months. That’s the highest such rate in at least six decades. (

Yeah, I think it’s safe to say It’s Not All About You.

So, take this advice when hanging out with your friends – professional or personal. 

You do not have it the worst.  Have you heard “The grass is always greener in someone else’s yard”?  These recessionary conditions present the opposite of this.  In other words, someone else’s yard is always worse off than yours. By thinking you are in the worst situation that anyone could ever imagine, barring none, you create a very unattractive and self-absorbed mind-set that is able to think and talk only about what’s happening with the self-absorbed you.  It’s imperative for any personal or professional relationship to develop that you force yourself to empathize with another person’s position.

Recession humor can be funny as long as you don’t overdo it.  I was at the grocery store checkout line and ran into a friend.  As I was putting my groceries on the belt to be scanned, she said, “Wow.  Beef. Fancy.  I haven’t had beef since 2007.  We are having hotdogs until I get paid on Friday.”  Now, even the etiquette lady was stumped on an appropriate response to this and realizes this was a poor attempt at humor to boot.  I finally said, “We love hotdogs at our house.  It’s fun to cook them on the grill with the kids.”  I decided to avert the intended topic of who-has-how-much and change it to there-is-something-good-in-everything.  Be mindful that when you think you are being funny, you may be making someone else very uncomfortable.

If you are invited to anything (backyard cookout, afternoon toddy with a friend, a full-out dinner party, anything!), don’t bring the party down with your personal troubles.  If someone went to the trouble of thinking of you, calling you up, asking you to do something fun, it’s likely they weren’t looking to include a therapy session – they just want the pleasure of your company. If you would like your friend’s input or advice, make a plan for an appropriate time and place.  It is your responsibility as an attendee to help maintain a pleasant atmosphere, so watch your mouth.

If you have just received some bad news and don’t want to wallow alone, it’s ok to call up a friend, but you have to be honest.  You should tell them what’s going on so your sour mood won’t be misinterpreted.  It’s not ok to call up a friend, ask them if they’d like to meet for a drink, then cry in your beer while you friend sits wondering what’s up.  Nor can your mood be so sour that you’re a bear to be around.  You should remember that your friend is dealing with his or her own set of issues and may need a friend, too.  

While we hear plenty of bad news about hardships this recession has brought about, people still have things to be happy about.  So, it’s wrong for you to rain on their parade.  People are having babies, birthdays, anniversaries, kids are making good grades in school, long-time friends still get together for a visit, people are accomplishing personal goals regarding their health and weight…there are lots of things to be happy about.  So, if someone should share a piece of news that makes them happy, it’s your job as their friend to be happy, too.  If you immediately think, ‘Must be nice’, you need an attitude check and quick. 

Don’t bemoan the bad or begrudge the good.  Smile at least once a day and consider someone else’s plight.  I promise you will feel better.


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