The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


December 19, 2011

Columnist writes a modern-day etiquette book

JOPLIN, Mo. — “Social Q’s: How to Survive the Quirks, Quandaries, and Quagmires of Today” by Philip Galanes is a modern etiquette book written by the weekly “Social Q’s” columnist for The New York Times, who also appears regularly on The Today Show .

The book has eight parts, the first part being “Getting Ready” and consisting of three chapters on grooming and related issues. Like the rest of the book, much of the advice is based on how/whether/when to share your thoughts.

Galanes provides a three-part test to determine whether you should say anything about hygiene issues. First, is anyone’s health at risk; second, who’s got the power in the relationship  (i.e., don’t tell your boss his cologne reeks, but maybe tell your assistant if hers does); third, will there be “backdraft” if you say something.

All very reasonable points to be sure, and fairly obvious, like much of the advice in the book was to me, but probably helpful for the less analytical among us.

The second part of the book concerns transportation and part three covers work issues, including the chapter “Taking the ‘Woe’ out of Co-Workers: Just Because You Sit Together Doesn’t Make You Besties.” As you can see from the chapter title, Galanes writes with a good deal of humor, which helps lighten the subject matter a great deal.

Part four concerns e-mail and all the social media that seem to rule most people’s lives these days, including advice on online dating and “unfriending” people. Next is the section on relationships with family and friends. There’s some pretty on-target, and funny, stuff here about children’s behavior (your own and others’).

Part six moves on to money issues, such as dealing with loans that don’t seem to get repaid, how to deal with damaging or losing someone else’s items you’ve borrowed and so on. Again, mostly common-sense advice, but the sort of thing a lot of people seem to need coaching on.

Part seven, “Getting Lovey-Dovey” covers what to do when you have a crush and dealing with breakups. Best advice there is probably that you should keep your mouth shut (aside from making supportive statements) when friends or family members go through a breakup and want to spend time dissing their ex.

Big reminder: Sometimes people make up, and if you said your friend’s husband was a big jerk (because she told you awful things about him), you’re the bad guy when they get back together.

I’ll spend the last of this on part eight, “Getting Through Our Big Days” since it gives some pretty good advice for dealing with the holidays (along with bridezillas and other big-day issues).

The final chapter is “Surviving the Holidays,” and includes the “Ho! Ho! Ho!” plan to do just that.

The first Ho! Is “Ho(ld) Back a Little.” You don’t have to attend every party you’re invited to. You don’t have to buy/make presents for everyone you’ve ever met. Consider doing Secret Santas for just one person in your extended family if there are more than a few that you exchange gifts with. Give money to causes your loved ones believe in instead of spending hours trying to find yet another ugly sweater to give, and feel free to re-gift (carefully Ñ don’t give someone what they gave you two years ago!).

The second Ho! is “Ho(ld) Your Tongue, If At All Possible: The Other Guy Is Just Trying to Make It Through the Holidays, Too!” As the title makes it pretty clear, just try to be patient and kind. Someone re-gifts you what you gave them two years ago? Smile and say, “I love it.” You should love it anyway, right? After all, you thought it was a worthy present when you picked it out!

The final Ho? “Ho(ld) Off on the Booze Ñ Really!” Just because there’s alcohol available doesn’t mean you have to drink it all. Office party? No more than two drinks. Period. And it doesn’t hurt to keep your wits about you at family get-togethers, either, so moderation, folks.


Linda Cannon is a collection development/circulation librarian for the Joplin Public Library.

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