Is It Okay to Point Out a Social Faux Pas?

Recently, I had a familiar conversation with a new friend.  Whenever I tell people I am a Protocol Consultant, it seems to immediately spark a pet peeve.  The next sentence is always, “you know what drives me crazy?  When people . . .” It can be anything: people who don’t RSVP and then show up; kids left to run wild in restaurants; people who don’t send thank yous; texting at the dinner table. The list goes on and on. 

We all have things that drive us crazy.  Most of the time, I think, people are oblivious to the fact that their actions - or lack of action - are being received negatively and acutely.  I believe the average person does not purposely set out to be rude or to make others uncomfortable.   

Should you say something?  Is it okay to tell someone that they are making you feel uncomfortable or unappreciated? 

I believe there is a way to approach the subject in a delicate manner, without hurting anyone's feelings.  Humor is always a good way to drop a hint without offending someone if you can pull it off - note the key words “if you can pull it off”. For example, in the case of a child, I think taping the thank you note to a gift sends a clear yet gentle message. 

However, in the protocol world, the answer is no.  It is never acceptable to point out someone's flaws. You do not have any right to address someone on issues of rudeness.  This would make you just as rude as the person making the social faux pas.  It is never acceptable to be confrontational toward another person. 

As difficult as it may be to hold your tongue, if you are going to follow what is considered appropriate behavior, you must keep your ill thoughts to yourself.  This is not a fun message to deliver but sometimes we need to bite the bullet, show discipline, and keep our critical comments to ourselves. 

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Volume 1, Issue 10, Posted 3:22 PM, 04.02.2014