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Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners: Master the Slippery Rules of Modern Ethics and Etiquette First Edition Edition
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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.
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If you want psychological insights on the reasons WHY we have etiquette and one should act/be a certain way...read on.
I really like the cordial and conversational tone the author has struck with the book. It does a really good job (of what I've read so far) in explaining basic psychology as to why people do what they do---something that the Emily Post or Miss Manners materials generally do not. You get the "you do x for y" or "one should do a for b" but never a clear explanation in your usual etiquette manual. I always think this is a disservice because it can come off to some readers that the rules are arbitrary or merely traditional. Whereas, if people actually understood the thought-process they might actually be more receptive to understanding good manners.
The other thing that most etiquette books do not do enough is that they fail to really emphasize that etiquette, like language, is a living breathing thing that is not meant to be static--but rather to evolve with the changing of the times. So, you get die-hard traditionalists battling with "the youth" or other social progressives who rightfully point out that we don't live in a world where one requires strawberry forks or calling cards. (Of course, I exaggerate about the traditionalists here a little. It's worth mentioning that I myself admire tradition and quaint pastimes and am somewhat of an old soul myself.)
All in all, I think this book has a wonderful conversational and easy to understand tone and has filled in a much needed behavioral niche when it comes to "etiquette books."
Witty, wise, and warm, this book is helpful not merely because it provides clever strategies, but because it helps the reader see other people's points of view. She sometimes advises silence, sometimes encourages agreeing to disagree, and sometimes advocates boldness.
An old saying is "Good fences make good neighbors." Miss Conduct helps to build fences that are high enough to mark your boundaries, but not so high that they obscure your neighbor's view.
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.
Robin Abrahams cranks out an etiquette column for The Boston Globe Magazine, and she's compiled her expertise into this interesting and informative book. She provides good common-sense guidelines written conversationally vs. bullet-point rules set in stone. Her writing style is easy to read, and she has a self-deprecating manner that's humorous and comforting. Thankfully, she avoids the trap of sounding like a haughty dispenser of rigid methodologies in favor of advocating reasonable and relatable behavioral standards.
Each chapter focuses on navigating an aspect of etiquette such as religious differences, health issues, romantic relationships, and dietary choices. Topical questions from various folks are sprinkled throughout the book and are thoughtfully answered by Ms. Abrahams. However, if you only read one chapter, make sure it's the last one. The seven listed principles are the bedrock of the author's material, and they are useful as general guidelines when one encounters awkward and confusing social situations. Indeed, it might have been better to have this chapter at the beginning to provide context for everything else.
Despite this book's impressive load of useful social guidance, I was let down by the lack of substantive etiquette information concerning online romance. I've tried various dating websites, and I'd hoped for some assistance dealing with the murky free-for-all of communicating with and meeting online matches. I guess I'll have to rely on Ms. Abrahams' seven principles, but her insights on this stuff would've been appreciated.
Despite the flaw mentioned above, "Miss Conduct's Mind Over Manners" is a recommended beacon for the person seeking illumination on the dark road of modern etiquette. Indeed, I wish my local newspaper carried Ms. Abrahams' column, but at least her additional writings are available online.
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This style of book (rules for this and that) seems to be holding in popularity.Read more