Greetings and interpersonal skills

                Suppose a male acquaintance you are not close to summons you loudly across a room and stretches his arms wide for a hug.   What should you do?   In order not to embarrass him needlessly, I would give a brief sideways hug and wrap up the interaction as quickly as possible.   However, in a relationship it is best to wait until both parties are comfortable enough with each other to engage in hugging;   when in doubt, ask.   It is inconsiderate to maintain a one sided view that “I am just a hugger, so if I want to I will hug people.”   If you do not know for sure, stick to an arm or shoulder pat or a handsqueeze (more intimate than a handshake, but not as invading as a hug).   Remember, the epitome of being well mannered is to seamlessly move through life leaving everyone feeling as pleasant as possible under the circumstances while portraying your best character.

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                Someone pressures you to become an ambassador for her particular MLM (multilevel management) company.   You are not interested, but she keeps asking.   You do not want to give detailed reasons for your refusal, nor should you have to.   If she asks again, decline politely but make it clear that you are not refusing out of ignorance or a wish to be convinced.   Over this past week I dealt with such a situation by letting my friend know that I had thoroughly researched the company and concluded that the types of products they sell are just not for me in terms of using or selling.   Though I have great reservations not only about MLMs in general but particularly the product my friend was peddling, I did not list any specific reasons because many MLM salespeople have been trained to combat such statements and I did not wish to debate.   (Something I have slowly been realizing over the past few years is that the goal is not to walk away from every encounter leaving the other person in full ownership of my personal opinion.   The well bred woman pursues the life best suited to her goals and style without trying to change others forcibly.)   The bitter pill at the bottom of the sweet glass of the “Join my MLM as my ambassador” rhetoric is that the person who draws you into the company makes money off every sale you make.   That is, in part, what fuels their persistence but knowing this can help a person look objectively at the situation when deciding.   With MLMs taking the States by storm, I know by past experience that it is easy to get in and hard to get out, and the more money you put into it the worse you feel about quitting.   So unless that type of sales experience and those particular business ethics suit you, and it does work for many people, declining an MLM invitation is something that needs to be done politely but firmly and preferably as soon as possible.

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                A stranger randomly starts talking to your child, beyond a mere hello.   Expecting a cute reaction or a response, they just keep talking to your child even though you as a parent can tell the child is uncomfortable (compounded in children who have been taught not to talk to strangers).   What do you do?   Usually I gently pull the child to my side (to make him feel safe) and while keeping a hand on the child explain, “We teach our children not to talk to strangers.”   That might sound cold but every time I have said it, no one has become visibly upset;   usually they either apologize or laugh and agree that it is a good policy.   Even now I remember incidences as a child where I had to deal with unwanted attention from a strange adult and I still remember how empty and scared I felt not to have a trusted adult step up and say something to make them stop bothering me.   Yes, children need to learn communication skills, but these are best learned within the safety of the family, friends and community acquaintances that the parents place in their child’s life.   The only thing that a child should have to say to a stranger asking them things like where they go to school and what their favorite color is “None of your business.”   There are far too many bad people in the world nowadays for parents to have to endure a stranger interrogating their child.   For me, if I see a child staring at me I sometimes smile or make eye contact but that is all.   I usually just let them stare and go about my business;   it is child’s job to observe adults and learn from them, and it is a bit presumptuous for me to take a child’s notice as an invitation to go and speak to them.   If anything needs to be said to or about the child, the proper channel is to address her parent or caregiver.

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                Speaking of addressing others properly, when meeting and greeting at a function, if a person you know is present with their spouse or another guest, remember to address both your friend or acquaintance and their spouse or guest.   After making eye contact and hand shaking the person who is known, you should briefly turn to their partner and at least smile.   That gives your friend an opportunity to make introductions, and it is the least a person can do to acknowledge everyone within the same space.   I am flabbergasted by how many times an acquaintance of my husband has addressed him, yet never even made eye contact with me as I stood right next to him!   Another thing to remember is not to assume that you know who the other person is or how they are related;   if I had voiced my assumption a few months back, I would have referred to my church pianist’s daughter as his wife!

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                And on that note, less said is better.   Countless needless things, sometimes hurtful but often simply unnecessary, have been said because too much was said.   Less said is always better and you do not have to take back what was not said.   Smiling at and making eye contact with those around you is a good way to stay on top of your surroundings while learning more about the situation through observation and listening.   One need not begin every interaction with her tongue.   This is wisdom that I hope to find.

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