Social Survival


It’s a matter of manners that can help in everything from dating to missionary work.

It started with a phone call. Elmer wanted to ask Geraldine for a date to the prom, but she hadn’t been his first choice. So when Geraldine answered the phone, Elmer blurted out, “I couldn’t get anyone else to go with me; do you want to go?” This approach did nothing to make Geraldine feel special, so she answered, “Let me see. I’ll have to check the television schedule first.” Arriving at the dance, Elmer let the door swing shut in Geraldine’s face. She, in turn, left Elmer in an awkward situation when she huddled to talk with her girl friends and left him standing alone.

The situation may be a little farfetched, but the antics of Elmer and Geraldine doing all the wrong things on a date started a discussion on dating manners at a series of workshops held by the Ammon Stake in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The skit was a way of introducing a discussion on the subject, and the majority of the audience agreed that they are impressed by a polite girl or guy as a dating partner.

Good manners are more than just knowing which fork to use at a dinner party or whose name to say first in an introduction. Manners involve learning to get along with people, having consideration for others’ feelings. Knowing good manners lets you make a good first impression so new acquaintances have a chance to really get to know you. In other words, manners are a survival technique.

Learning good manners is a way of becoming a more effective missionary. Respect for other nations’ customs was the topic assigned to three returned missionaries. Dressed in a long kimono, one elder explained some of the manners of the Orient, where a bow replaces a handshake, shoes are slipped off outside the front door, a meal is admired three times before it is eaten, and a gift must not be handed directly to the recipient.

The former missionaries talked about behavior that was considered polite and impolite in the areas of the world in which they served. They stressed that learning proper manners in a foreign country is essential in becoming a caring, effective missionary.

The workshops on manners took place in one evening, but the Ammon Stake is following up by having shorter lessons every month as part of their Mutual activities. These lessons include such topics as ways to make introductions, phone etiquette, and table manners.

When asked if they and their friends need to be told about manners, the Ammon Stake youth were unanimous, “Yes, we do. We need to be reminded.” They realized that good manners are part of social survival.

Manners for Missionaries

Good manners often depend on the customs of the country in which a missionary is serving. Be careful not to judge a local custom by your own standards. Learn what is correct and polite from more experienced companions or local members.

In general, however, there are some things that are good manners no matter where you go.

  1. 1.

    Be on time for appointments. It is courteous to arrive at the time arranged. If you are going to be late, try to contact your appointment and explain your delay.

  2. 2.

    Follow your host’s lead as you are told where to sit. Don’t touch or pick up decorative items in the home.

  3. 3.

    Stand when another member of the family enters the room.

  4. 4.

    At a dinner appointment, eat what is placed before you without negative comment.

  5. 5.

    Show respect for the heads of the household by greeting them personally and allowing them to be in charge of the meeting being held in their home.

Perhaps the best rule of all to remember is that people are most important. The discussion or activity is secondary. Sensitivity to the needs and feelings of the people you are visiting is essential.

How Do I Rate as a Date?

Dating is a fun and exciting way to get to know someone better. But rating as a good date takes good manners.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself about your dating experiences:

  1. 1.

    Am I considerate when asking for or accepting a date?

  2. 2.

    Do I dress appropriately for the occasion?

  3. 3.

    Can we have a good time without spending a lot of money? Do I plan interesting things to do?

  4. 4.

    Am I a good conversationalist? Do I avoid talking too much about myself?

  5. 5.

    Do I resist having to be the center of attention?

  6. 6.

    Do I avoid talking about other dates I have had?

  7. 7.

    Do I avoid situations or actions that would be embarrassing to my date?

  8. 8.

    Do I have a sense of humor?

  9. 9.

    Do I make my date glad to be with me?

  10. 10.

    Do I return home by the time arranged with parents?

[photo] Illustrated by Gay Nickle Lauritzen; Photo by Jed Clark