The Civilized Minute

a minute of manners and musings

what my nice surprise can teach you

In a very unexpected turn of events, my children have shown me that I’m doing something right.

No, no, I still don’t have the most favorite pair of jeans ready for school on the most important morning. I still don’t have enough milk on the morning that only cereal will do for breakfast. And, I don’t have the good snacks organized into containers like Aunt Loucy. What I have done….they don’t even get yet.

It’s been a year or so since the concept of The Civilized Minute as more than just a blog came into being.  Since then, it’s been TV segments, book writing, presentations and guest blog posts galore. Only recently, did I realize I was taking the approach of packaging some useful tidbit and presenting it in an under-a-minute sound byte into motherhood. I don’t know why this was so surprising to me…any working mother will tell you it’s impossible to not do work at home or do home at work.

Here’s what has gone down: My husband and I took our 2 children to a dinner theatre production last week.

Do you know how many different kinds of social skills you need to possess in order to not look like a doofus at a dinner theatre production? 

To appreciate the significance of this outing, you must know that the last time we did this, it prompted a career change for me. I had considered this idea of consulting with businesses to beef up the social skills of their staffs for years but when we took our (then) 10 and 7 year old children to a local dinner theatre, I decided the world needed someone to help them realize the importance of not giving your mother (or boss) a heart attack by announcing to the table that you need to be excused and why. In short order, I trotted off to the Protocol School of Washington.

Last week’s trip to a dinner theater was very different. I saw table manners and conversation skills.  I saw introductions being made with handshakes and eye contact. I saw smiles at servers and ‘thank-you’s’ and ‘pleases’. And, I thought I was going to see the big bright light in the sky since I was sure I had died and gone to heaven.

Afterward, I asked them about what I had seen (sans the what-in-the-world-is-going-on-here tone that was screaming in my head). They started quoting little Civilized Minute sound bytes back to me! It seems I have been talking to my children about social skills and behaviors in Civilized Minutes and didn’t even realize it.  And, holy above holy, it is working. I’m slipping something in their Kool-Aid and they don’t even taste it!

What can you take from this?

1) Talk to the people who work for you about ways to be respectful and likeable in a context they can understand and appreciate.

2) Don’t drag it out. Say what you want them to hear and be done with it. Let’s be honest, most people don’t care to go through the demonstration of a limp fish handshake.  Offer up 1 or 2 tips and stop. 

3) Give feedback often – good and bad. Be swift and sure about what you expect and what you see. Most people know what to do, they just don’t do it. Inspire and remind them of the greatness inside themselves that can only get out through kindness.

Today is Monday. Sounds like a good day to start with some Civilized Minutes, dontcha think?

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One response to “what my nice surprise can teach you

  1. Suzanne Nourse September 13, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Great blog!
    I make a point, when in a restaurant, to compliment the family with small, well-behaved children. It’s so easy to glare at the “screamers” but we tend to ignore the well-behaved little ones. When I say a kind word to these parents I can see the “it’s all worth it” in their eyes. It’s the hardest job in the world.
    You’re doing a great job!
    ~Suzanne

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