Good Manners = Good Conflict Management

I hadn’t meant to be rude

This week I was at a typical stand-with-a-glass-in-hand cocktail reception, standing in a group with a glass in my hand. Two women stood chatting very near me in the crowded room. One of the two held a book with a striking cover image. I love books so I must have stared, perhaps also interested in the title. The woman glanced at me, looked uncomfortable, and moved away.

I quickly apologized: “I’m sorry to stare, your book looks really interesting.”

The woman seemed very relieved: “I  thought you were angry that we were standing too close.”

Had I unconsciously looked angry?

Or maybe my curious look comes across as angry to those who don’t know me? I hadn’t meant to be rude nor intended to make the woman and her companion feel uncomfortable, yet somehow, unintentionally, I had done both.

Simple good manners and an early apology let them know my intention had been benign. We wound up having a fascinating conversation about our favorite books. These strangers, had believed I had judged them, and judged me in return.

Assumptions and triggers

We’re fragile beings in many way, quick to judge, easily triggered, harsh with ourselves and others, and often over-sensitive. It would be nice if we intuitively knew how to live full lives without offending anyone. That isn’t realistic. Someone will find fault with what’s called ‘political correctness’ or label some opinion as ‘thought police’ and the conflict is on again.

Sometimes though, it only takes basic good manners to correct the potential for conflicts.

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