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Didi’s Manners & Etiquette: Dating Etiquette Update & Modern Weddings

Thursday, June 11, 2015


What is dating etiquette when it comes to paying for dinner? Modern wedding etiquette for introducing extended family, funeral etiquette about what to say, and email etiquette for what to do about an employee's snippy emails. 

What Not to Say at a Funeral

Not to sound socially inept, but how does one know what to say and not say at a funeral or in a condolence letter? I hear people uttering silly comments such as, “She is in a better place,” or “He is with God now.” What exactly is the funeral etiquette for what should be said and not said?  

~E.F., Portland, OR

There are words and phrases that are spoken because they are appropriate, and other cliches that should not be said at a funeral or in a condolence letter. It is smarter to keep personal feelings to yourself.

No matter how religious you are, the survivor — the spouse, partner, child, parent, colleague or friend — may be too angry to be comforted by cliches — religious or otherwise.

Hold your tongue, cliches are not always consoling and can actually annoy the survivor. Everyone deals with the death of a loved one in their own way and in their own time. You don’t really know how bad they're hurting, because you are not the survivor.

Don’t say: He is in a better place now, God had a plan for her, Because you’re still young you’ll find another husband, She is in God’s hands now, I know what you’re going through, It will get better soon, My uncle died of the same thing. It took me three years to get over my mother's death, and I'm still not really over it. 

There are no time limits when it comes to mourning.

People never truly understand the death of a loved one until it happens to them.

Nor would you say months later, I would have called you sooner but I didn’t want to be intrusive (or I thought you would be too busy).

More importantly, don’t make a gesture you do not follow up on, such as saying, “Let’s have lunch next week and go to a movie, I’ll call you.” It would be better not to suggest a tentative plan, rather than make one and not follow through with it. She may be anticipating the distraction after family and friends have gone back to their routines leaving her alone with sad thoughts.

Nor would you ask, What can I do for you? Do something even if it is baking a coffee cake, walking her dog, mowing the lawn, paying a funeral expense, inviting him to go sailing or her to play tennis.

Don’t ask personal questions: What happened to your son? When are you going to sell your house? How are you? Let me know if I can help? Do you want me to get rid of some of her things so you're not reminded of her?

In their own stride, eventually the survivor will find a new normal at their own pace

Often weeks or months after the death of a loved one is when your friendship is needed the most.

About condolence cards and letters. The same mindfulness applies. Don’t start every sentence with the pronoun I and talk about yourself. The person is too wrapped up in their own grief to relate to how you felt when your loved one died from same illness.

And don’t ever write, I know what you’re going through. Because you don’t. Nobody does. Only the survivor knows what they feel.

You can certainly express your sorrow and sympathy by writing (or saying), I am deeply sorry for your loss, or, You have my deepest sympathy.

Most importantly, be a good listener. It takes patience to listen to a recently widowed person’s reminiscences. Show interest by encouraging him to share stories about the deceased’s triumphs, missteps, accomplishments, and most of all her sense of humor. Start by reminding him of an anecdote of your own about the deceased.

Remember something thoughtful, funny or clever the deceased said or did to leave the mourner with another memory, especially a good one, to cherish. 


Introducing The Ex-Wife

Our daughter is to be married next month and her father's first wife and their family are coming to the wedding. How do we introduce her? We're all very friendly, but she is from Texas and won't know most of the guests.  

~L.B., Shelter Island, NY

Your husband's first wife is introduced as, "Janet Bradley, David's former wife" or "Janet Bradley, David's first wife." Be sure not to use the more common expression "ex-wife" because it has a negative connotation similar to "ex-con." 


Who Pays on the First Date?

What is the modern dating etiquette for who pays for dinner? Newly back on the dating scene I’m a bit confused as to whether I am supposed to insist on paying for dinner, or is that considered piggish? If she persists on paying her share, does that mean she’s not interested in me? Who decides who pays for dinner?  

~Henry, Providence

In the same manner as modern business etiquette, the person who does the inviting pays for dinner, unless it is established from the start that you are going dutch treat -- each paying their own expenses.

When you ask,"Would you like to go out to dinner with me next Saturday night?" you're asking her out on a date to dine with you as your guest. As opposed to,"Do you to want to meet for dinner some time?" which infers you would like to spend time with the person, but you're not committing to paying for their dinner. After the first few dates, it can get more complicated as to who pays. Nobody pays all the time. 

A recent study of 17,000 men and women in the United States found that 84% of the men and 58% of the women surveyed believes the man still usually pays for dinner. However, two-thirds of the men felt women should contribute to the cost of the dinner, whereas less than half of the women disagreed.

More and more, men feel that being chivalrous is sexist. That telling a woman he insists on paying the bill is patronizing. Many people of both genders acknowledge that once men and women make the same pay for the same work, it will be time to split the bill — and put an end to this conundrum facing new couples.

Clearly there are many exceptions. On a date in an ongoing committed relationship you either share the cost or it works itself out because the other person does the cooking and food shopping. In the true love match there is give and take that works out over time. When one says to the other, "I'm not cooking dinner another night this month," the partner either learns to cook or becomes the master finder for take-out and ordering in food.

In a new relationship such as on a first date, if the woman is losing interest, she’ll insist on paying her share of the meal as a way of expressing a social nuance that she doesn't wish to be indebted to him.

On a first date before a committed relationship has been established, he pays for dinner because it is a cultural nuance that the man makes a social bid to show he is willing and able to provide for her. Basically, he’s offering sustenance and hospitality. If she accepts the date (bid), she's not obligated to also accept his bid to pay for dinner, and pays her share.

The romance of dating is the oldest dance. A social nuance is recognized when a social bid is extended and it is either accepted or rejected. If she lets you pay for dinner, the nuance is that she likes you. She's accepted your social bid a second time.

Bear in mind there can be huge cultural differences with their own sets of particular social nuances, which have to be taken into consideration when dating someone from a dissimilar background. 


What About Employee's Snippy Emails

What do I do about an employee’s snippy emails? She sends me a cc of her email to all clients and too often they sound snippy. She is doing an excellent job otherwise, but the tone of her emails is off-putting and rude. Her probation time is coming up and its time to permanently hire her or let her go. What’s your advice?  

~Anonymous, Providence

You cannot have an employee’s snippy emails affecting business relationships with clients. Talk to her. Sit her down and discuss the problem with the tone of her emails.

Say, “I can’t hire you permanently, if you don’t change the tone of your emails to our clients. Too often your emails sound snippy and rude. Nobody needs to know that you are in a bad mood, because bad moods are contagious. Like a bad cold.”

End with, “Aside from your tone, your job performance is excellent. How are we going to solve this problem?”

Then make a couple of suggestions. Ask her to take more time with her emails. Tell her to hold back on firing off a response before she’s gone over the email at least twice.

Suggest that she edits her emails not only for spelling, content and grammar, but a second time for tone; asking herself how she would feel receiving an email in that tone of voice?

Give her an example of her snippiness. Print it out and show it to her. Ask her what she thinks about the tone. How does it make her feel?

Ask how can she say the same thing in a friendlier tone with an equally strong voice?

Lastly, tell her that you cannot hire her permanently until she can demonstrate that she can control her emotions when communicating with clients.

Offer her a trial period in which you give her feedback on how she is doing. But don’t make it longer than a week. It may be too difficult emotionally to break the snippiness.

If she continues to emote her personal feelings in company emails, she is not a good fit for your company’s business relationships.

It is truly possible that by pointing out the problem to her, she can learn to monitor when she is wearing her heart on her sleeve and appropriately self-correct. 


Do you have a dilemma about love, family and life in general for Didi? Go ahead and "Ask Didi."  If your Question is used, we can withhold your name and/or location.


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