The Posts Teach You How to Take a Compliment

This week we called in etiquette reinforcements Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning to help our listeners with the back-seat Uber driver quandaries, proposal problems, and more.

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Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning. Courtesy of The Emily Post Institute.
Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning. Courtesy of The Emily Post Institute.

Rico Gagliano: Each week, you send in your questions about how to behave. Often, we ask them willy-nilly to totally unqualified celebrities, but today, we’re calling in etiquette reinforcements.

Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning are the great-great-grandkids of Emily Post and our all-around protectors of politeness. They are co-authors of “Emily Post’s Etiquette: The 18th Edition.” You can also catch them hosting the podcast “Awesome Etiquette.”

Lizzie and Dan, thanks, as always, for joining us.

Lizzie Post: Thank you so much for that awesome intro.

Rico Gagliano: You are welcome.

Daniel Post Senning: And to you gentleman that cast as etiquette superheroes.

Lizzie Post: I want a badge, I want a cape, I want stars.

Brendan Francis Newnam: You have a creased cape, always the right cape, the right time. So, guys, the election — there’s this election happening right now. And let’s just say that a lot of etiquette matters have come up, right, in recent weeks?

Lizzie Post: I know.

Brendan Francis Newnam: But we thought we’d focus on the positive. The last question in the recent presidential debate had Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each giving each other a rare compliment.

It got us wondering, though, what’s the etiquette around compliments? How are you supposed to receive them?

Rico Gagliano: Or to give them, even?

Daniel Post Senning: Well, the advice about good compliments is the practice is to get good at complimenting people for their work: the qualities that a person brings to a situation, the content of their character so that you go a level deeper than their appearance.

Lizzie Post: And I think when it comes to receiving the actual compliment, we really try to encourage people to receive a compliment well, as opposed to brush it off, ignore it…

Daniel Post Senning: Deny it.

Lizzie Post: …Deny it — come on! Say, “Thanks. I really appreciate that.”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah. Do you have to respond with a compliment?

Lizzie Post: Nope. It’s nice to do so when you can, but you want compliments to be genuine, like gifts. You don’t have to give someone a gift or tell them that you were going to give you a gift just because they gave you one.

Rico Gagliano: All right. Well, we’ll leave it to the American people to decide if those were genuine compliments or not that we saw on the campaign trail the other night. How about we get to some of these etiquette questions folks have written in for you?

Lizzie Post: We love it.

Daniel Post Senning: Let’s do it.

Back-seat Uber driver

Rico Gagliano: All right, here’s something from Karen in Arlington, Virginia. Karen writes: “Is it OK to be a backseat driver in an Uber? I recently had an awful Uber ride where the driver missed many turns and also didn’t correctly follow the GPS, but every time I wanted to chime in with my own directions, I felt shy about it, didn’t want to come off aggressively and risk tarnishing my own five-star passenger rating. What should I do in the future?”

Lizzie Post: First of all, I like the fact that Uber, because they have passenger ratings, you’ve got to watch your own behavior when you’re in the car.

But I raised a question to Dan on our car ride over here where I said, “Hey, would this be like telling someone how to do their job? I mean, this person, clearly, they’re supposed to know how to get from A to B.”

And he said, “You know, not all Uber drivers drive all the time, the way a cabbie might.” And not all cab drivers do, either but…

Rico Gagliano: This is why we’re in a difficult situation, right, as passengers? Because these are not actually professionals. That’s kind of supposed to be the point.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Some of them are, but not all of them.

Lizzie Post: They are, but they’re not, exactly, and you just don’t know.

Daniel Post Senning: And nobody likes a backseat driver except, maybe, an Uber driver who needs a little help from you figuring out how to get where you’re both trying to get to.

Rico Gagliano: So, what do we do?

Daniel Post Senning: I say go for it, but be polite about it. Don’t be obnoxious. Don’t be shouting directions. Offer to help. Mention if you’ve got some familiarity with the area, or if you’ve got a phone in your hands, that’s going to make it easier for you to keep an eye on the map than it is for them.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I would add that you have to suffer the consequences if the route you select is slow. You don’t get to moan and complain about it. You just have to suffer the consequences.

Lizzie Post: I agree.

There is no perfect proposal period

Brendan Francis Newnam: This next question comes from John, and this is almost like an LSAT question. So, listen closely.

The question is: “I plan to propose to my girlfriend of seven years on an exotic trip to India. She’s the oldest of three sisters, and we just learned her youngest sister’s boyfriend will propose to her just one week after our India trip. Should I propose before the trip to create space between the two proposals?” You got us? Did you write that down?

Rico Gagliano: I’m an only child. So, this is something I never, thank god, have to think about.

Lizzie Post: We actually do get this question commonly, and it comes in the form of engagements, it comes in the form of celebrating a baby and a wedding at the same time, wedding dates that are too close together for family then have to choose which they go to. It can be fraught, and I think that — good of you to think about it. Don’t worry about it. Move ahead organically with your plans.

Daniel Post Senning: There are so many factors. If you try to anticipate, and they’re trying to anticipate. Just do what’s going to make sense for you.

Lizzie Post: And let’s also not assume. As much as you might think that their proposal is going to go well, or that yours might — I mean, not that I want to put the seed of doubt.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Exactly. John might meet someone in India before he proposes.

Rico Gagliano: That’s right.

Lizzie Post: Oh, nooooo!

Rico Gagliano: John, just something might happen.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I’m just saying, the world’s an amazing place! Who knows what’s going to happen? There you go, John.

The etiquette of a reproachful glance

Brendan Francis Newnam: Our next question comes from Belinda in Southern California, and, oh, what a surprise, it’s about a car.

Linda writes: “I was looking for parking one morning, and the only spot I found had neighboring cars badly parked on either side. I managed to get into the space but couldn’t my door open without hitting the other car. I resigned myself to finding another space, but then made eye contact with one of the bad parkers still in her car. I think she noticed but quickly looked away. It’s rare to actually see the culprit in these cases. Given this golden opportunity, did I have the right to call this person out?”

Rico Gagliano: Oh, as a Southern Californian, I seethe.

Daniel Post Senning: So, I’m wondering about the nature of the call-out. And I think the reproachful glance that sort of emerged as the call-out very spontaneously in this situation is often appropriate. It’s often just enough to bring someone’s attention to bad behavior that they might not be completely aware of.

Safety trumps etiquette advice. Always be careful. Be really careful about approaching other people and confronting them about their bad behavior.

Lizzie Post: Especially when their weapon is, like, a 2,000-pound car.

Rico Gagliano: Yes.

Daniel Post Senning: And you don’t want to be that person who’s walking around glaring at people all the time.

Lizzie Post: Right!

Daniel Post Senning: Like, that’s not a pleasant place to live or be.

Brendan Francis Newnam: And who knows what that person’s going through? Why are they sitting in their car in a parking lot? Like, maybe they had horrible news, and they just slipped into a space really quickly to field a call or something, you know?

Lizzie Post: Oh, yeah.

Daniel Post Senning: How understanding of you.

Rico Gagliano: Yes, it’s very understanding.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Says the man who doesn’t drive anymore!

Rico Gagliano: Exactly. Easy for the New Yorker to say from the comfort of his subway car.

Lizzie and Dan, thank you so much for telling our audience how to behave.

Lizzie Post: Thank you both. We love being here with you.

Daniel Post Senning: You are most welcome.