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How are your 'other' social skills?

Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes, the highly clever and sadly defunct comic strip by Bill Watterson, being rude as only Calvin can.

In today's post, we're not talking about various 'soft skills' like the kind beloved and espoused by human resources folks in the workplace.  Neither are we considering more basic social skills like firm handshakes, listening attentively when speaking with someone, pleasant table manners, or certain exceedingly unpleasant personal habits that too many adult males still revel in and consider funny.  We're going to take a a quick look, instead, at 'other' personal habits and behaviors that average guys working to kick up their everyday style several notches should remain aware of and do their utmost to practice. . .  Or not as the case may be.  Ready Teddy?  Then, here we go.

1) Control your temper!
Losing it now and then is ugly enough, but when it happens routinely, the inability to control your anger is inexcusable.

2) Avoid offensive speech.
Shouldn't have to say this in 2014, but sadly it remains necessary.  A gentleman does not allow sexually or racially derogatory words to creep into his speech.  It just sounds awful.  There is not other word for it, and it's also highly offensive to more people than you might think.

3) Watch your #%$@&*!!#%$ language! 
The same thing applies when it comes to obscenities, and the number of people who fail to realize this and fill their everyday speech with this kind of talk is mind-boggling.  As my maternal grandmother cautioned us, "Not only is swearing extremely common and a sign of people not having much of any worth to say, it's also a sign of an extremely limited vocabulary."

4) Keep it down.
Lower your voice in both personal interactions in personal spaces AND when you are out in public.  No one is suggesting that we whisper.  Don't misunderstand my point here.  But the rest of the world neither needs, nor wants to know about your intestinal issues, your ingrown toenail, what Da Bears should have done to win the big game last Sunday, or why your 3rd cousin's neighbor's best friend from high school is no longer talking to your great aunt on your father's side.

5) And when others are talking. . .
Avoid habitually interrupting conversations that you are not a part of as well as interrupting people in general.  It's obnoxious, intrusive, and irritating.  If the people in said conversation wish to include you, and solicit your, no doubt, valuable and informed opinion in the process, they'll make it clear.  Enough said?  And hey, sometimes it's just better to keep your mouth closed and keep those witty replies to yourself.

6) Avoid making an inordinate amount of noise.
Don't make all kinds of unnecessary noise in your daily movements or comings and goings to and from home, the workplace, or anywhere else.  Keep yourself to yourself, and that includes opening and closing doors/drawers loudly, slamming things when you put them down, or tossing your keys noisily onto a table or desk top each time you empty your pockets.  If Mom never told you, being obtrusive is nothing to be proud of.  Ok?  Be quiet.

7) Pick up after yourself.
You're not eight years old anymore.  Surprise!  Besides leaving a room or space the way you find it, it's also a sound idea to avoid leaving a trail of detritus and effluvia in your wake everywhere you go.  You know what I mean?  So, make sure to sweep any area you've been with your eyes, push in any chairs you've pulled out from a table or desk, and pick up things like paper clips, thumbtacks, bits of paper, pocket change, food crumbs, snack food or candy wrappers,  soda bottles, discarded clothing, and the like.  Not only will it make future clean-ups much easier and faster, but it is considerate of others, and will make you much easier to live with for those poor souls forced to share a dwelling with you.

8) Honk!  Honk!  Hooonnnkkk!
Sound familiar?  We've all experienced it, and I'm not talking about an irate driver sounding his or her horn incessantly in traffic.  I'm talking about blowing one's nose loudly, habitually, and obtrusively in public.  The issue is not whether someone uses facial tissues, or a cotton handkerchief.  It's simply about not doing something that is loud and just plain gross if others are within earshot, or worse having a meal at the dining table.  Excuse yourself and go somewhere private to take care of the problem.  Likewise, don't be a chronic sniffler.  Blow your nose!  Oh, and an over the counter nasal decongestant like Duration will help dry up those sinuses when you have a bad cold and congestion.  Buy it and use it until your head clears.

9) Avoid touching and/or picking at yourself.
Another pointer that should not need any mention, but if you spend any time with people from different backgrounds, it will become clear that it DOES need to be said.  So, here we go.  Stop touching, poking, picking, or prodding at your face, your nose, the corners of your eyes, or frankly anywhere else on your clothes or body.  Not only is it distracting for anyone forced to look at you, but doing so also makes you seem nervous and uncomfortable in the extreme.  In addition, it's just downright icky for others to witness.  Besides, who among us, assuming we are more mature than a group of 8-year old boys at summer camp, wants to come across and be thought of as disgusting and socially awkward?  Right.  I didn't think so.

10) Clearing your nose and throat.
Constantly 'snorking' mucus from your sinuses and/or clearing your throat is another gross, irritating, and apparently very common habit that far too many men -- and amazingly also quite a few women -- indulge in all of the time besides just first thing in the morning.  In short, don't.  Just stop it.  It is a jarring, disgusting noise that is so far removed from anything approaching gentility that I don't know where to start.  In a word, it's offensive.  Incredibly so.  If you are aware of it and genuinely cannot stop the problem, see either a medical doctor, a mental health professional, or, if you've got a bad cold, purchase some over the counter decongestants in the form of pills, nasal spays, or syrups to solve the issue.  Anyone who is forced to spend time in your company at work, at home, on the street, or a long flight will be silently grateful.  

Bonus Tip
Don't spit!  Ever.  If I've failed to mention it elsewhere here at The Average Guy's Guide to Classic Style, I should have because loads of people everywhere still exhibit this charming habit.  Not only is it disgusting, but it's also highly unhygienic.  Spitting spreads germs, no one should have to see you do it or walk through the remains, and, as an older female friend and former colleague once remarked a year or two ago, "Gentlemen don't spit."  There really isn't much else left to say, is there?  If a guy is proud of being a crass rube, so be it.  But any man worthy of the term, who genuinely wants to come across as a bit more polished, sophistiated, and well-bred should take great pains to break the spitting habit and never look back.  Ugh!

There we are.  Ten 'other' social skills and habits for us to become better aware of and make a concerted effort to either practice, or eradicate from our personal behavior, so that we do not come across to others as rough around the edges.  Paying attention to the kind of things I describe above will also help ensure that you become a more pleasant person to be around. . .  even at a distance, and certainly up close and personal.  It will also help you to kick up your everyday style several notches.  Perhaps even more than might an expensive suit, necktie, or a pair of shoes.  Personal style is, after all, about so much more than simply our attire.  Rather, it has a great deal to do with the kind of person we are beneath  those clothes.  A guy can drive an expensive car, have a high status job, an MBA from a first class university, and a vapid 'trophy' wife 20 years his junior, sure.  But if his personal habits and behavior are, shall we say, less than attractive. . .  Well, he can hardly be thought of as pleasant or stylish.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


  1. I lived for a year in Hong Kong and one of the more dubious habits the Chinese have is clearing their throats first thing in the morning and spitting very noisily. Its not just the occasional person doing this but thousands. Now this might be an urban myth and I am definitely not condoning the atrocities of the Japanese during WWII but when they took over HK they said that anyone doing that would have their heads chopped off. The practice ceased for 5 years and immediately restarted as soon as the Brits came back. Nuff said.




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All opinions are welcome here. Even those that differ from mine. But let's keep it clean and civil, please.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

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