You may have read in the news today a story about a woman emailing her stepson’s fiancé to give her some etiquette pointers. If you haven’t seen the story, click here to read.
This is an interesting case. I completely agree with what Mrs Bourne, the mother-in-law, says. All of her points are technically correct. It is the way in which it was handled that, sadly, lets her argument down.
Doing the job I do I am constantly looking at how people behave and making mental notes and observations (although, I should just say, not as often as people think – I do switch off socially, honest!) But if I dared to tell people my thoughts and highlight which rule they had just breached I would lose a lot of friends very quickly. It’s what I like to call ‘the politeness paradox’: it’s rude to tell someone that they are being rude (even though in the long-term it may benefit them).
The tone of Mrs Bourne’s email was probably the definition of bluntness and there was no softening of anything. This may be down to a generational difference. Older members of my family will sometimes say things to a younger generation that is not considered politically correct, or that is (on the surface) quite cutting and nasty. Nine times out of ten they are not meaning to come across like that, it is simply that they were brought up (rightly or wrongly) in a much more direct and ‘speak your mind’ way (partly as there were fewer laws and social codes telling them otherwise).
I would be very surprised if the accused of Mrs Bourne’s email (Heidi Withers) decides to marry her fiancé now that this has become a national news story and she seems to come out of it badly. That said, Mrs Bourne hardly comes out smelling of roses. I think it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other.
A hard one to call as to who is right and who is wrong. Who do you think is right?