Delicate Dance of Social Ettiquette

This last week my boyfriend and I have been house sitting for our good friends who are out-of-town for two weeks. They offered their place to us due to all my previous gushing over their beautiful, quite, and petite home. It also gave my boyfriend and I some much-needed alone and quite time. We haven’t’ been able to do many weekend getaways this year due to saving for our big trip to Spain, which is two months away.

My boyfriend has felt a bit awkward staying in someone else’s home. I, on the other hand, love it! He feels like everything we do makes a mess, and I feel like we have hardly done anything other than the usual coffee table clutter and dishes. This then started a discussion about how I felt relieved to be staying somewhere else for a bit, like a mini vacation. Which then brought us in to a larger discussion about social etiquette when living with other people, and the additional effort it takes to maintain those social relationships.

I’ve lived with many, many, many different people. Friends, family, strangers, friends of friends, etc. Through all those different interactions I’ve learned how to be a better person, and a better roommate. It’s not easy. Most of my friends now live on their own, without roommates, with a few less, or still live with family. Since we (technically) own our home, we couldn’t afford to not have roommates to help pay the mortgage. Which is also true of many other home owners who have to rent out their own homes and live with family because they can’t afford to pay their own mortgage.

However, having endured awful roommate situations I’ve learned that keeping to a certain level of social etiquette has its rewards when living with roommates. For example, saying “Hello” and “Goodbye” helps to make people feel welcome in their new home, and this may seem simple enough but you’d be surprised how many people don’t put forth that effort. Saying “Thank you” and “You’re welcome” also makes a huge difference in helping feel appreciated for their effort of cleaning up, or helping with the dishes from time to time. Again, simple gestures that make a huge difference when living with people and how you make them feel. Especially when you live with people in a large place, like we do, your mood affects others mood. Even if I’m in a bad mood and I say hello and let them know I had a bad day will help them be more understanding of me, and listen to me rant for a bit. This goes both ways of course. If I place all the dirty dishes from the sink in to the dishwasher, I then ask, “Can someone please put away the dishes once they’re clean.”

I’ve lived with many people who never say hello or goodbye and just wonder in and out of our home like it’s a hotel. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s not very polite, and it does effect how you see the other person and how you will react to them once they do talk to you about bills, cleanliness, other roommate situations. If I’m usually friendly and making conversation it then becomes easier for me to ask them when they will have a check ready to pay rent or utilities versus only speaking to them when a bill is due. Not very friendly.

I’m not gonna lie, I have not always been a great roommate, or friendly. However, I’ve at least grown as a person and learned how to live with other people more harmoniously. It’s not easy, and it takes a lot of effort on my part to ensure not only my happiness by their happiness as well. I don’t want to have to look for a new roommate every 3-6 months because I can’t learn how to be polite.

I still know a few people who have never learned these small social cues, and it’s been interesting to watch how they react to these roommate discussions. It’s also been interesting to see how others react to small things like asking to pay a bill. For example, one roommate we shall name Rm A, another to be called Rm B react differently to the same questions. When I ask Rm A if they have a check for the utility that is due tomorrow their reaction is, “Yes,” with no further response. Rm A does not make a motion to write a check, or ask when I would like the payment. They simply reply with an answer. Not the greatest interaction, and preferably not what most people would be expecting. I then have to ask Rm A when they can pay the bill, and then follow-up the next day if nothing has transpired. Rm A is also the same person who never says hello or goodbye. When Rm B is asked the same question they respond with, “Yes, do you need it now? Can I write a check for you tomorrow, or pay you in cash?”, which is a more preferred, at least for me, and makes the tedious task of paying bills more tolerable for everyone. Rm B also says hello and goodbye every chance they get, and makes chit-chat when talking about their day. The interaction with Rm B makes both of us more comfortable, informed, and brings a more mellow mood to the household. I’m in no way implying Rm A or Rm B is better or worse than one another, but their varied reactions to innocuous things makes everyone’s life that much more livable depending on what you prefer, or expect out of one another. Everyone assumes people will pay their bills on time if left to write a check or give cash to the person in charge of collecting money for bills. I have learned this is not true. You don’t need to nag, but sometimes people get caught up in their own lives and forget from time to time, and when you have to actually go to someone and ask them to pay the bill the personal relationship you have with them, whether good or bad, will affect how they respond to your request.

A few years ago I made an effort to always say please, thank you, you’re welcome, hello and goodbye to every single person I interacted with on a daily basis. I found these small social cues tend to make people feel more comfortable and responsive when you have to interact with them on a deeper level. There is a higher level of respect and you are viewed in a more positive manner. Even going so far as to introduce to myself to others instead of waiting for someone to do it for me has made interacting with people more positive. I’m no longer seen as shy or silent and brooding. I am now seen as friendly and positive. I’ve been in a few social situation lately with people I’ve never met before and tried to be friendly, but they didn’t really want to know me. I tried to say hi, they ignored me. I was talking to the others in the room, and they would interrupt or pretend I wasn’t there. It was really awkward. The old me would have made a scene, or started talking shit in front of them without actually talking to them. Realizing I’m an adult, and I was at another persons home, made me bite my lip, and wait for an appropriate time to let me friends (who lived there) know how I felt about what happened to me. They were surprised, to say the least, that I kept quiet about their rude behavior, and apologized for not introducing us to the selfish people.

Living with multiple people is a bit of a social burden from time to time. Making sure I’m polite, but not overly talkative can be a challenge. Listening politely when the other person is being friendly and talkative, even though I’m in a bad mood and would be prefer silence, is also an adjustment from time to time. Offering to make enough food for everyone who are home has been helpful in making people feel welcome in our home, and I love cooking for others because I feel it’s rude to eat in front of other people without offering at least a taste (I love to taste other people’s food, as my good friends know). Even making polite conversation helps everyone to understand where you’re coming from, and helps build those relationships to ensure you don’t grow to hate one another. I may avoid talking about Harry Potter with one of my roommates, but I know I can chat about novels, writing, and politics from time to time.

Every bit makes a huge difference when you want to stay positive and be known as a welcoming place to stay, or just being someone other people want to know. Leaving your shoes in the living room is not a big deal, but if you leave dirty dishes or trash behind often you probably might be annoying to live with. So stay positive, be polite, and please just say hello, and thank you next time to someone you just met and you’d be surprised at the reaction you get. 😉

<;3 The Roommate

Let me know what you think about being polite!

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