Manners in Conversation: Dangerous Topics

I am sometimes asked about general guidelines for conversation for those times when one may have to be around others whose views and beliefs are unknown to you. It is always better to be circumspect; remember the goal of all etiquette is to put people at ease. Here are a few items to be extremely careful of when chatting!

  1. Money is a dangerous topic, especially directly asking someone what something costs or how much they earn. The person who is asked such questions, has every right to ignore the asker. 
  2. Age is a subject to be deftly avoided due to the sensitivity some people have about their age. Let’s face it, yes…if you are entering a contract with someone, then the question is appropriate, but not in general social situations. If someone asks you how old you are, feel free to ignore this one, too. 
  3. Gossip can cause all sorts of problems. Avoid being the spreader of this muck. Want to stop a gossiper? Ask them pointedly “How do you know this?” It is funny how most gossipers won’t be able to answer.
  4. Advice is only given if it is asked for, and even then, I’d be uncomfortable giving it.
  5. Religion and politics….avoid at all costs. Yes, even in this time of wicked polarization on both subjects.
  6. Avoid criticizing your own family members publicly, even if you do not like them. I can’t tell you how many business deals have been lost due to the optics this causes. Why would anyone want to do business with someone who has no loyalty to their family?

Best Conversational Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Writing Thank You Notes: Someone Gave Me a Gift of Money.

I am often asked about the proper procedure for writing a note thanking someone for their gift of money (or even a gift card, as this is also common). Some of my readers are unsure where to start, so I have included a sample letter after my basic guidelines.

I believe that a true and proper letter…pen and paper!…is the only way to thank the person who has sent you a gift. No texting or emailing.

The amount of money gifted to you is never mentioned, no matter how large it may be. It is proper to say what you intend to use the money for and you may also include some comments on life or inquire after the person you are writing to.

A sample letter:

Dear Mrs. Smith,

Thank you so much for thinking of me on my birthday! I have deposited your gift in my living room furniture fund for when I move out in the fall. I hope you will come visit me when I am in my new apartment. I am excited to have my very own place!

How are you and Smith? I hope your own move to Miami went smoothly and that Mr. Smith is doing well at his new job.

Thank you again for your generous gift. I hope to see you soon!

With love,

Susie Grateful

As you can see, the note needn’t be long, but it must be sincere. In addition to expressing thanks, Susie asked after Mr. and Mrs. Smith as she remembered it is nice to recall details about others. Susie will  get high marks from Mrs. Smith!

Best thankful wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Household Tip: Help, An Oafish Guest Spilled Wine on My Tablecloth!

I’ve no doubt that in the course of entertaining friends and family, there has been an instance where someone with a bit of clumsiness knocked over a glass of ‘something’ onto your table linens. One hopes that it was only water…but if it was wine…here is something that may help. *

Firstly, never show by word or action that you are peeved at your esteemed guest. Though your teeth may be clenched so hard you are cracking your crowns, smile and tell your guest that all is well.

When your guests have left, you may then feel free to scream and curse and cry over your Great-Great-Great Aunt Catherine’s linen tablecloth that she sailed across the Atlantic with when she emigrated to our fine country.

Fair warning: This tip is for fabrics that are a bit stronger, so please do not use on flimsy fabrics. Boil water, preferably in a kettle for ease of pouring. Cover the stain with salt and set your timer for five minutes. When your timer dings…fasten the stained area over a large sieve or bowl with a rubber band. I would use as large a bowl as you can find. Put in sink or tub (can be messy!) and cautiously pour the boiling water over stained fabric from about a foot above the bowl. Please do not burn yourself and be careful. The key is in slowly and safely pouring the water.

*This tip has worked for The Lady Hooper-Brackett and her friends. No guarantee that it will work for you is implied. You assume all risk in trying. And again…take care not to burn yourself*

Best tidy wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Serving and Eating Corn on the Cob

Summer is coming…and corn will be served.

I bet you didn’t think people ask me about eating corn on the cob, but they do!!!.

Corn on the cob is a delightful side dish that is served only at the most informal of gatherings. The very eating of the corn from the cob can be quite messy, so one would certainly NOT serve it to those wearing their most formal clothes. So how can one graciously consume this summertime staple?

Grasp the ends of the corn cob firmly and rather than eating it in large mouthfuls…be mindful of how things look and eat in neat little rows all the way across the cob. Also, when buttering or salting the cob, do just a few rows at a time. To do the whole cob at once will result in a slippery mass in your hand and quite possibly grease stains on your shirt.

It is proper to cut the corn off the cob with a knife, but be careful or your poor cob might slip from your grasp and make a unholy mess.

Toothpicks become a necessity when serving corn on the cob, so if you are the hostess have them available for your guests. And if you are a guest…remember…no picking the teeth at the table. 

Best corny wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Welcome from the Lady

Your Welcome Letter

Welcome, cherished friends and readers. It is my pleasure to play hostess to you as we explore the world of good manners. Please do make yourselves at home.

In the busy, sometimes impersonal world that we live in, there is a true need for etiquette and manners. And before you say, “But my dear Lady, surely nothing as old-fashioned as etiquette is relevant any more,” let me say that knowing what to do in common situations is one of the greatest skills that you can develop. The charm, poise, and self-esteem that comes from having a good grasp of the social niceties are invaluable assets. More than ever (as more people look at their phones rather than looking at people) those with the polish that good manners provides will find that they have increased opportunities. People still matter even in this technology-driven world.

I extend to you a permanent engraved invitation to check back often as we cover a variety of subjects. I look forward to your acquaintance.

With Best Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett