Making the Distinction Between Etiquette and Ethics with The Posts

Just in time for Valentine's Day, we invite back our etiquette loves, Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning. They are the scions of the an etiquette dynasty over at The Emily Post Institute, co-authors of the 18th edition of "Emily Post's Etiquette," and co-hosts of fellow APM podcast "Awesome Etiquette" (on which, by the way, Dan recently revealed he used to be a mime, so be sure to listen to that).

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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.

Brendan Francis Newnam: They are the great-great-grandkids of manners maven Emily Post, co-authors of “Emily Post Etiquette: 18th Edition,” and they co-host the podcast “Awesome Etiquette.”

Rico Gagliano: That’s awesome.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Lizzie, Dan. Welcome back.

Lizzie Post: Thank you so much.

Daniel Post Senning: Gentlemen.

Rico Gagliano: Are you ready to get people to behave?

Lizzie Post: Yes we are!

Daniel Post Senning:

Talking to your romantic partner?

Brendan Francis Newnam: So next week is Valentine’s Day everyone. And surely, we were talking about this earlier, you must get a slew of mail with questions about how to behave on this holiday, or non-holiday depending on how you think of it. What’s on peoples’ minds? What are common questions you get this time of year?

Lizzie Post: Biggest thing is, “When you’re just starting out, is it OK to ask someone on a date for Valentine’s Day or does that feel like too much pressure?” And then follow-up is, “We’ve only been dating a month or two. What kind of gift is appropriate on something like a Valentine’s Day?” Truthfully, the best thing to do is, talk with the person that you’re romantically involved with and say “Is this something you like to celebrate? Like what are your feelings about the holiday?”

Daniel Post Senning: And one other just word to the wise, survey results show, Valentine’s Day matters to long-established couples. So, folks out there that are in long term relationships, married…

Rico Gagliano: Right, who are maybe not going out on dates, and have let things get stale.

Daniel Post Senning: Exactly. Take heed and make an effort. People appreciate it.

Brendan Francis Newnam:
I love that they’re not the people that are sending you questions.

Lizzie Post: Yeah.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Both those questions are about new love. Old and established, like, “Here’s your box of chocolates.”

Gesturing, not paying

Rico Gagliano: “Now get out of my face.” All right, and here’s a bunch of other questions that were sent in. Surprisingly, no Valentine’s questions from people, but Andrew in Cambridge, Mass writes:

“A coworker recently offered me a pair of tickets to a sporting event from his season ticket package. Tickets he is unable to use. I accepted and dutifully offered him some cash, which he dutifully declined. But the face value of these tickets is $200 and I feel uncomfortable accepting without some sort of gesture in return. How do I proceed?”

Lizzie Post: Say thank you, and if you want to make some gesture in return, offer one. Like, you know, take the guy out to dinner. I don’t know, do…

Rico Gagliano: Well he’s saying the guy is refusing his gift.

Lizzie Post: No, no, he’s refusing payment for it. I think if you said “Hey, you know, that was just so awesome that you gave me those tickets. I’d love to return the favor in kind somehow. Could I, you know, take you and your wife out to dinner, or lets get together at this sporting even that I have tickets to,” or something like that.

Daniel Post Senning: And if they don’t accept, thank them twice. Thank them when you get the tickets and then follow up after the game. Tell them again how it went, how much you appreciated it.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Double thanks.

Rico Gagliano: That said though, I will say that you should first offer, I think you should offer to pay for them.

Lizzie Post: Absolutely. He’s already done all the things and now I think he needs to just get over his guilt.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I just got offered tickets the other weekend, this similar situation, and I didn’t offer. Because they were offering it to me.

Lizzie Post: That’s because you’re you. No.

Brendan Francis Newnam: But I did send a thank you note.

Lizzie Post: See that, I think that’s polite too.

Daniel Post Senning: You’re covered. You’re in good shape there.

Rico Gagliano: And if you know the person, like, maybe they’re the kind of person that’s not going to take your money. I trust you Brendan.

Telephone “Attack Calling”

Brendan Francis Newnam: All right. So our next question comes from Amy in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Amy writes: “I work in an office and I’m on the phone a lot. When did it become acceptable after calling someone and reaching their voicemail, to immediately call back four and five times in a row, and then leave a message. This happens often from both customers and other businesses that should know better. I call this attack calling.”

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, it’s like basically someone is trying to tell you pick up the phone. It’s super important.

Daniel Post Senning: The question is when did this become acceptable? It’s not.

Rico Gagliano: Yeah.

Daniel Post Senning: Be aware that what you’re communicating by calling repeatedly again and again, is urgency, and importance, an emergency. And it’s why it’s rude to do it, particularly if there’s a not a real emergency.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Because in this day and age, actually, a phone call indicates that it’s a level of urgency beyond texting, right?

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, that’s true.

Daniel Post Senning: Already the medium has the message.

Lizzie Post: Potentially, yeah.

Brendan Francis Newnam: All right, Amy, there you go. You’re in the right.

Rico Gagliano: Yes. Here’s something from Jacquelyn via Facebook. Jacquelyn writes: “When given a gift of homemade food like jams or preserves, what does one do with the jar?” Oh, these crushing problems that our listeners have!

Lizzie Post: I was going to say.

Rico Gagliano: But it is, it’s a thing. Jacquelyn continues, “My canning friends are sort of non-committal, saying you may return the jar or not. I’m half Japanese so lack of clarity about social rules makes me crazy.” She writes, “Please help. WWTPKD, what would the Post kids do?”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Aw, the Post kids.

Rico Gagliano: There’s your bumper sticker.

Daniel Post Senning: I’m going to make this really clear for Jacquelyn. You do not have to return the canning jar. You do not. It is unnecessary, that is a part of the gift. Don’t worry about it.

Rico Gagliano: Done.

Lizzie Post: I say keep it for your jelly jar collection that everyone seems to love to drink beer out of these days.

On being ethical when nobody, not even your boss, is looking

Brendan Francis Newnam: Okay. This next one comes from Milo in Oakland. He writes: “My employer had failed to account for some paid time off I took over the past two years and now I have more than I would have otherwise accrued.”

Lizzie Post: Woo hoo!

Brendan Francis Newnam: “Do I tell them? It’s two and a half days total.”

Rico Gagliano: So he’s got a little bit more vacation in his docket than he should have.

Lizzie Post: This is like, this is an ethical question, not so much an etiquette question.

Daniel Post Senning: Do you want the boring answer or Lizzie’s answer?

Brendan Francis Newnam: Let’s start with the boring answer.

Daniel Post Senning: The boring answer is you tell them. You don’t want to get caught.

Lizzie Post: That’s the honest answer.

Daniel Post Senning: It’s so tempting to take that prize and run with it, but you don’t want to be answering for that years down the road, or a year, or six months, or a month, down the road. I say be forthright. Be honest. And you’re never going to regret it.

Rico Gagliano: All right, Lizzie, your answer?

Brendan Francis Newnam: The sleazy, more fun answer?

Lizzie Post: The sleazy, youngest person at the company always winds up saying, “Take what you can get and run with it until you catch it.”

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, that’s true.

Lizzie Post: I you know, I think it’s kind of one of those, hey, you know, sometimes, “Bank error in your favor: Collect $200.” Like you know, it’s not ethical, it’s not honest, but…

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, we all know what the right thing to do here is, but there is an added benefit to what Dan is saying, is you will definitely win goodwill. You know, you have a chance of gaining.

Lizzie Post: Or they’ll think you’re stupid.

Brendan Francis Newnam: No.

Rico Gagliano: You might, if you were their boss.

Daniel Post Senning: I like where you’re going with this. Your reputation is important. It’s not just an opportunity to avoid harm. It’s an opportunity to really start to build a reputation.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah.

Rico Gagliano: That I’ll accept. Because I think this is one of those problems though that, even if you get caught, they’re going to, there are so many easy excuses, it’s like “Oh, I didn’t notice.”

Lizzie Post: Willful ignorance.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, come on. It’s what you would do when no one’s looking that determines your ethics.

Lizzie Post: Yeah.

Rico Gagliano: Well, so what?

Brendan Francis Newnam: All right. There you have it folks. The right way to behave, and the way Rico and Lizzie behave. Lizzie and Dan, thanks for coming.

Daniel Post Senning: Take good care.