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Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners: Master the Slippery Rules of Modern Ethics and Etiquette [Bargain Price] [Paperback]

by Robin Abrahams
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)

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Paperback $14.15  
Paperback, Bargain Price, May 26, 2009 --  
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Book Description

May 26, 2009 0805088776 First Edition

A witty, sophisticated guide to the new principles of modern social behavior, by a psychologist and popular alternative-etiquette-and-ethics guru

This is no rule book about forks and calling cards. As a child, Robin Abrahams was bitterly disappointed when her parents forced her to have a lemonade stand rather than a booth for dispensing advice. In Miss Conduct’s Mind over Manners, Abrahams, now a psychologist and the popular “Miss Conduct” columnist for The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, tackles the perplexing social dilemmas of our time:

  • Is it polite to say “Bless you” to a sneezing atheist?
  • Should a foreign person’s name be pronounced in his native accent?
  • Does knitting at a meeting display a lack of attention or superior multitasking?
  • Can a restaurant these days still be so fancy that you cannot request a doggie bag with dignity?
  • What’s a nice vegetarian to do if Gypsies give her bread smeared with lard?

Bringing to bear the insights of psychology, Abrahams outlines eight steps to more graceful living that can be applied to uncertain situations—and for handling the inevitable mistakes—involving food, religion, children, pets, health, sex, money, and more.

With humor, compassion, and gusto, Miss Conduct’s Mind over Manners delivers thoughtful and thought-provoking advice for everyone navigating the complex world of modern human interaction.

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Editorial Reviews


“Abraham’s antidote for the deterioration of modern etiquette is elegantly simple…. This etiquette manual is winningly fueled by common sense, flexibility, and a consistent emphasis on mutual respect.”—The Boston Globe
“Far beyond the usual ‘where-does-the-nut-spoon-go?’… simple etiquette just doesn’t cut it anymore…. [Miss Conduct’s Mind Over Manners] is more rumination than rules, and Abrahams is as likely to quote Edith Wharton as she is to cite the wisdom of Ali G.”—The Chicago Sun-Times
“Witty as well as perceptive, [Abrahams] keeps the tone agreeably light as she dispenses practical advice on social interaction in an increasingly diverse and fragmented society…. Sensible counsel and etiquette for survival in our post-Emily times.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch

About the Author

Robin Abrahams is the “Miss Conduct” columnist for The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine and writes the “Socially Scientific” column for the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research. A research associate at Harvard Business School, she has also worked as a stand-up comedian and holds a doctorate in psychology. She and her husband, Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, live in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; First Edition edition (May 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805088776
  • ASIN: B005FOIAQ2
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.2 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,955,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars not your mother's guide to manners March 24, 2009
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Wow -- this isn't just an etiquette book; it's an everything book. While advising the reader on how to navigate contemporary social quandaries, the author sails smoothly from topic to topic -- neurobiology to sociology, philosophy to economics -- with tremendous wit and grace. This book is informative, culturally sensitive, and makes liberal use of relevant quotes (from diverse sources ranging from Shakespeare to Adam Smith to Mark Twain) and reference to pop culture (Wallace & Grommit, Gilligan's Island). Even the footnotes are educational and entertaining!

The book is organized as follows:
Introduction -- the author talks about our increasing cultural diversity and homogeneity -- though we're exposed to more different groups, we increasingly stick to our own kind; we connect with, live in communities with, and talk to, like minded folks. We avoid topics on which we disagree. And we think we're very busy, too busy for niceties like writing thank you notes. For all of these reasons, we're not as polite as we used to be.

First chapter -- food -- and not simply which fork to use or how to hold your wine glass at a cocktail party. The author addresses "food rules" -- vegetarian, kosher, halal, food allergies, and assorted other eating restrictions. Portion size and perceptions of masculinity, her own evolving relationship with Ramen noodles.

Second chapter -- money -- why over 90% of Americans call themselves "middle class," how to be a rich friend or a poor friend, splitting restaurant tabs, when it is okay to give $$ as a gift (a gift of money "means `I can't figure you out'" . . . , and teens and young adults "take it as the highest compliment to be considered unreadable by their elders").
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected, but humorous May 21, 2009
By Mary S.
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I was hoping for a revamped, indexed, how-to etiquette book. This is not in that format, at all. It is more of a funny look at etiquette, not a how-to. I do not find it easy to reference, so it serves little purpose as a reference etiquette book, but I believe that many people will enjoy reading this book for the humor, not as a guide to manners.

Based on the above, people probably wonder why I would give this 4 stars. Well, it is a funny, insightful book and even though it wasn't what I expected, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and suspect most people will, too.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Manners For The Twenty-First Century April 14, 2009
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
How do you deal politely with someone of a different religion? Or no religion at all? How do you discuss careers with a stay-at-home mom? What do you say to a person in a wheel-chair? A fat person? A childless person? A vegetarian? A person with peanut allergy? These and many other questions are addressed in this delightful slim volume. But you won't find THE ANSWERS. For this is not the traditional etiquette book. Rather it's a book of thoughtful principles. How to comport yourself in a post-tribal society, where EVERYONE is deserving of respect?

Yes, that's the world we live in now, in the twenty-first century. A world where everyone is deserving of respect--at least in theory. And no one is automatically despised, no matter their ancestry, customs, religion, diet, whatever. It's a remarkable new world indeed, a pluralistic world where the rules haven't all been sorted out. Sometimes you just don't know what to say.

Author Robin Abrahams writes in a clever, lighthearted way, sharing personal experiences as well as drawing on her Miss Conduct columns to guide us through the minefields of this daunting new social universe. She doesn't give us a set of simple rules, rather she offers some commonsense principles to guide us. You may not agree with everything she says, but if you let her, she will get you to thinking. I must admit, the book is sometimes slow going, because it deals with difficult and touchy situations. I had to stop often to think about what I had just read. If you can read it with an open mind you will love it. I recommend it but it's not light reading. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A step above the old fashioned etiquette book September 23, 2009
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book is great. It covers the gamut of subjects ranging from Food, Money, Religion, Sex and Relationships, Children, Health, and Pets. It is a real easy read and Ms. Abrahams style is full of wit and humor which made me not want to put it down. This book is "modern" so you won't get a diagram showing you which side of the plate to place the fork, instead you will find out the correct way to address someone who has had gender reassignment surgery. Try and find that in your 1950's etiquette book!
I enjoyed reading this book and would definitely recommend to anyone, especially those who want to be sure that they are doing the right thing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A new take on an old Mantra August 13, 2009
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Manners can be boiled down to this golden rule "Treat others as you would have them treat you." But when you love eating meat, you might not know how a vegetarian would like to be treated. Or if you haven't been around kids, what's the best way to act around them? We all have situations where we don't know the best way to act.

So Mind over Manners can clarify those sticky situations where you could use some help. This guide has a bunch of common sense and modern situations not covered in previous etiquette books. You can get some solid advice on making people comfortable...which is what manners are all about.

Here are just a few things to think about:
How should you treat your friends who have a lot more money or a lot less?
How should a religious "believer" treat "nonbelievers"... and vice versa?
How do you treat people who are sick, or how do you treat others when YOU are sick?

I found tons of situations in the book where I kept thinking "Yeah. I've been there and I did NOT know how to handle it real well." How did Robin think of all these things? I kept wanting to hear what she had to say and measure my skills against her advice.

Some of the advice seems obvious, but we can all use a refresher, right?

Great book...Have fun. Learn something new. Our society today could certainly use a better example of manners than we see on the t.v. screen.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent and extensive
This is only one reader's opinion...

This style of book (rules for this and that) seems to be holding in popularity. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Jarucia Jaycox Nirula
4.0 out of 5 stars Oh, how I wish I could give this to everyone!
Yes it's the 21st century, but for many of us, etiquette and ethics are not dead subjects. A little dose of reality TV might make you think otherwise. Read more
Published on April 18, 2012 by J. Moore
4.0 out of 5 stars Modern ethics and etiquette primer
Robin Abrahams tackles issues that leave us sometimes baffled and uncertain. Sometimes I wish someone would just write a list of do's & don'ts but it's helpful to have some... Read more
Published on November 22, 2010 by Deborah Crawford
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Genius!
This is the first book that has moved me to write a review on Amazon.

Witty, wise, and warm, this book is helpful not merely because it provides clever strategies, but... Read more
Published on August 19, 2010 by K. Bowers
3.0 out of 5 stars Miss Manners
The author provides good common-sense guidelines written conversationally vs. rigid, unbending rules. Read more
Published on January 22, 2010 by S. J Parker
4.0 out of 5 stars good advise
I enjoyed this book quite a bit, as it handles so many new etiquette situations of modern life that aren't covered in traditional books. I liked her advise in most cases too. Read more
Published on October 15, 2009 by scolvig
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Advice on How to Think Through Etiquette Issues
The advice in this book is funny and smart and warm and kind. With arguments that draw from science, psychology and thousands of letters seeking the author's advice, this book... Read more
Published on September 15, 2009 by A. D. Hoskins
4.0 out of 5 stars Miss Manners for the 21st Century
Etiquette does not exist in a vacuum. While there are common-sense rules that apply, but it remains a primarily elusive and forgotten art, that of social interactions. Read more
Published on August 20, 2009 by Adrian Black
3.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't fill the bill
This book was okay, but really didn't fill the bill it advertised. I really wanted a chapter to guide how I could deal with problems concerning my vegetarian diet when I eat at... Read more
Published on June 25, 2009 by Tina Hayes
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful, useful, and lots of fun!
This was a great book. What I love about it was that Robin Abrahams wasn't creating a laundry-list of do's and don'ts, but rather was trying to establish a larger framework for... Read more
Published on June 11, 2009 by R. Murphy
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