What’s Common About Sense?

Aka: Etiquette to get you through any event.

Call me optimistic, but I truly believe most people do not start their night by deciding to be woefully socially inept. However, ignorance of your social space and how to act in it can quickly get you labelled as an undesirable – a branding which can take years to overcome.

No wonder then, that going into new communities and new spaces can be such a nerve wracking experience.  What if you say or do the wrong thing?  What if you offend someone unknowingly and don’t get a chance to make amends before you read about yourself and your “predatory” nature on FetLife.

I know this is something that keeps people quiet – too nervous to go out to new events, too nervous to start the conversations that could lead them to so much growth, too nervous to even say hello to the hottest piece of ass they’ve seen all year.

That, my dear readers, is bullshit.

Common Sense (™) will get you through the vast majority of your life – but here’s the problem:  Common Sense (™) really is not that common.  Common sense (I’ll stop with the ™ now) is built on an understanding of shared social norms and mores, which shift from country to country, and scene to scene.  Truly – look closely enough and you’ll even see differences within larger communities.  For example; in my local community, it’s considered proper to leave at least 5 feet of space between yourself and a play scene you’re watching.  When I went stateside for a conference a few years back there simply wasn’t that much space available to leave.  So I stayed very, very still, until someone came over to tell me I was free to walk around and I only needed to leave 2 or 3 feet.

There are, however, some basic rules that you can follow to get through the night with enough social grace to win you a comfortable acceptance – or at very least avoid being written off as a douche canoe.

1.        Look with your eyes, not your hands.

Remember that one from grade school?  I heard it a lot.  And as someone who is pretty touchy it’s a rule a still need to review myself every now and then.  If you have permission to touch, you may.  Until then, you do not.  But how do you know if you have permission?

You ask.

Seriously.

Let’s call a space a spade.  If you’re reading this for some take home tips, and this info is new to you, your people reading and touch receptability sensors probably aren’t super keen.  Save yourself the drama, save yourself the negative press, and save yourself the potential faux pas.  A simple ‘May I….(you need to fill in the blank here)’ will most often do.

Following this rule shows respect for other’s ownership, and shows respect for other’s personal boundaries.

You’ll benefit because:

–          When we evaluate people in BDSM one of the measuring stick used is ones ability to respect boundaries – especially when considering play partners.  Asking ‘may I x y z?’ shows that you understand the concept of boundaries and respect them.

2.        Please, Thank you, and Excuse me: Use ‘em early, use ‘em often.

Manners are classy and one of the easiest ways to leave people with a positive impression of you.

Please. Use it when:

–          Ordering food and drinks

–          Asking to see something

–          Asking to join people

Thank you.  Use it when:

–          Receiving something

–          When someone allows you to see/use something (or someone!)

–          When someone allows you the right of way.

Excuse me.  Use it when:

–          Walking in front of someone

–          Getting someone’s attention

Following this rule shows you know how to respect traditions, and other people.

–          See above point about people liking manners

You’ll benefit because:

–          Really; people like manners.  It will give people a positive opinion of you and assume you have ‘good breeding’

–          People are more receptive to questions and requests when they are asked politely

3.  Smile.

Self explanatory – just make sure it isn’t a creepy smile.
If you aren’t sure if your smile is creepy or not, ask a trusted friend.  Then, get yourself a mirror and practice.  The goal should be a relaxed, genuine smile.  Forced smiles are always masking something and that leads people to be suspicious of you and what you could be hiding.

Following this rule gives visual cues that you’re a friendly, open, social, person.

You’ll benefit because:

–          You’ll appear easier to approach and more likely to be approached.

4.         Listen twice as much as you talk.

If you’re too busy talking, you aren’t going to learn anything.  Listen to the behaviour people complain about so you can avoid doing it.  Listen to people when they state their preferences so you can indulge them if the opportunity arises.  Listening also gives clues about the volume of conversation that’s appropriate in a certain space.

Listen with your eyes as well.  No, really.  You can learn so much about a group of people and their norms by watching how they interact with each other and their space.

Example?  Sure!  I’m drafting this in a line for customs at my local airport.  Looking around, I can see that people are keeping about one foot of space between them/their luggage and the person ahead of them.  Wanting to fit into this pace, I mimic the others around me, leaving space.  Not so much the child behind me.  She’s about two inches from accidently sticking her tiny head up my skirt.  Purely accidental, but also purely inappropriate; and disrespectful of my space.

Following this rule will provide you with most of the clues you need to figure out what is considered ‘common sense’ in this space.

You’ll benefit because

–          You’re less likely to commit a social faux pas within the group

–          People will assume you fit in because you’re good people – not because you have keen observation skills.

5.        Be gracious

Show appreciation for what others around have shared with you, be it time or knowledge.  Just like rule two (manners!), gratitude scores you the same benefits – it’s classy and others like it.   By the way – this rule applies when you’re hosting new people into your community as well.  Next time you have the opportunity to interact with someone new remember when that was you and treat them the way you wish you had been treated (or the way you’re grateful to have been treated).

Following this rule shows you respect the contributions others have made to your experience, and that you aren’t ridiculously egotistical.

You’ll benefit because:

–          This is a characteristic that earns respect from others.

–          Gratitude for people’s time and company makes them want to invite you back.

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