Newport Manners & Etiquette: Modern Day Etiquette for Old Fashion Manners + Friendship Etiquette

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


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Sorry not sorry which is it? Do ladies still go first? When to call someone by their first name and friendship etiquette were all questions to Didi Lorillard at NewportManners this week.

Ladies First

Q.  Is it bad manners or condescending to let a woman go through a door first? Sometimes I add insult to injury by standing there like an idiot because I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be doing. Opening the door for her and letting her pass through? Or open the door and pass through myself before holding the door open? Or totally ignore the person behind me and rush through? What is a gentleman to do?  JT, Portsmouth, RI


A.  Ladies first is a chivalrous custom that most of us have hung onto. A good habit passed down from parents to child. It is a protective protocol that prevents us from bumping into each other. There's a French theory about the origin of ladies first. The lady went first to give the gentleman protecting her from behind time to draw his dueling sword, if villains were waiting to ambush them in the street.

Nowadays, it is more than likely that kids in school are encouraged to be considerate and helpful. Much the way saying, "Please,""Thank you," or "You're welcome" are commonplace. So, they're more apt to hold the door open for the person -- irrespective of gender -- who is behind them, but not necessarily wait for that person to walk through ahead of him. The same holds true for etiquette and manners in the work place and public buildings. When it comes to dating, well there's a whole other nuance there -- even without the threat of being ambushed on the street.

Do boys still carry girls' school books? Well, I doubt it because it would be near impossible for anyone to wear two knapsacks at once. 


Helping an addicted friend

Q. My wife and I received a joint email from a good friend we greatly respect that brought us deeper into her relationship with her husband in an uncomfortable way. Her husband had been pulled over for impaired driving, failed a sobriety test, and was given a DUI summons to appear in court later that week. 

We had been at a party with them and she had gone home early because the baby sitter had to leave. She wanted to know if her husband, also our good friend, had gotten drunk at the party. He told her he hadn't been drunk. After expressing her concern over her husband's drinking since he had been laid off his job, she asked for our help in assisting him to address his drinking problem. 

We're skeptical about getting involved. Was it possible that she might be trying to build a case against him? Should we be careful about taking sides? How should we have responded to both of these good friends?  Name Withheld


A.  Contrary to the popular myth that "you can't help an alcoholic until he wants help," compassion is the key to helping someone with an addiction problem. Don't wait until your good friend hits bottom. Talk to his wife about your hope that her husband can figure out how to manage his problem and get treatment. 

  • But first talk to him suggesting that there are many options for treatment in addition to 12-step programs and residential treatments. 
  • You can have a positive impact on his motivation to learn new patterns of behavior.
  • Addiction and shame go hand and hand. If your friend is to be saved, compassion from his friends and family may be the only thing that counteracts the isolating, stigmatizing, debilitating poison of shame.
  • Shame and addiction are deeply intertwined. For example, alcoholics may be prone to shame by disposition and they may drink, in part, to cope with chronic shame and low self-worth. In addition, drinking can, in turn, cause shame, creating a vicious cycle. -- Beverly Engel


Since you can't have true compassion for him until you understand why he behaves the way he does, take the time to talk to him and listen. It will make you feel less angry that you've been put in this position. 

  • Don't be one of those friends who has chosen to stay with him in denial about just how serious his problem is. 
  • Be compassionate by showing him respect and optimism. 
  • Keep reaching out to him.


After your initial conversation with the husband, make it clear to his wife that you have discussed the problem with him and that you will continue to encourage her husband to set boundaries for his behavior. But he must seek treatment.


Calling a person by their first name

Q. I have a pet peeve: "Hello, I'm Christopher Jones" - answer: "Well, hi Chris." I just want to smack them! This would apply to all abbreviations such as Bill for William, etc. This goes to the importance of the Logos. Names have deep significance. Why do people assume a nickname?

We were taught to address a new acquaintance by their title and last name, until they say "Call me Bob." For instance, my ranch manager who is 25 years younger (and is like family) called me Chris in the beginning until a friend of mine corrected him. Our relationship works much better since he's been calling me Mr. Jones.  Name Withheld


A. It is hard to go back to a more professional tone once someone is calling you by your first name, when you want to be called Mr. Jones. Set boundaries. When leaving a voicemail or message for him, say "Mr. Jones here." Referring to yourself as Mr. Jones in his presence should help. As you said, it took a friend to set your ranch manager straight. Engage others to help you in your endeavor to be called Mr. Jones. Even if you have to start calling your range manager "Sir." Correct someone who is overly familiar by assuming that you've got a nick name.


Sorry Not Sorry

Q. People are always saying sorry, even though they're not really, truly sorry. Most of the time, I just say, "sorry" because at the time it seems like the thing you're supposed to say -- even if you don't mean it.

Like the guy who nicked my car when getting out of his truck. He didn't see me coming to unlock my car. I caught him in the act. His nick left a little red paint, but luckily no dent. He said, "Sorry." He couldn't have cared less and only said that because he needed something to say while buffing the red paint off my car door. How do you say I'm sorry and really mean it?  JL, Point Reyes, CA


A. At the very least, sorry means: I won't do it again. On the other hand, a lot of people find saying sorry a difficult thing to do and, because they feel it is a sign of weakness, it is not part of their interpersonal repertoire.

When you're truly regretful, you say, "I'm sorry I left a bit of paint on your car door." Briefly explain what you're really sorry about and be sure to say "I'm sorry" and not just the word "sorry." "I'm sorry" sounds more authentic. Adding the reason you're sorry is even better, because it is more convincing.

Didi Lorillard researches manners and etiquette at for her forthcoming book NEWPORTMANNERS.


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