Is Formality Such a Bad Thing?


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“Dosti ka usool hai Madam, No Sorry, No Thank You” said Salman Khan to Bhagyashree in the super hit movie “Maine Pyar Kiya” and this dialogue just stuck on-much to my dissatisfaction. It literally translates to “there is a rule in friendship-no sorry, no thank you”. The spirit here, of friendship and later love, is based on the fact that the two involved have crossed all barriers and have reached such an understanding, that formalities are not required. If one makes a mistake, the other already knows that he or she is sorry for it or if you do a good deed, you already know the other is grateful for it- no need for explanations!

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While it is comforting to have that level of understanding with anyone, my question is, do close relationships have to be devoid of courtesy? While the above explanation is all grand it doesn’t work in the long run, if we are true to ourselves. This is in fact, the perfect way to enter into the taking for granted zone (which eventually does tend to happen anyway) and when the newness of the friendship/relationship is gone, it can be a terrible place. Extending common courtesy to the ones we love and care about through little gestures is well understood but sometimes a few spoken words can go a long way in comforting one another and stop many a misunderstanding. Magic words that are taught to us in kindergarten are taught to us for a reason after all. 

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Personal space of an individual is sacred. No matter how close you may be and no matter what the relationship between two people may be, personal space is a boundary made by each individual for himself/herself and must be respected at all costs. Some people need little space while others need more- this is not a comparison and you don’t negotiate! You just accept it IF you want the relationship to work. Double standards in this respect are unpardonable. 


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When my husband and I had just moved in to our first home after marriage it was the first month of the year. Those days’ people didn’t have social media and we would send and receive cards on New Year and these kept trickling in till mid February. Being in the Indian Air Force, we would send and receive a number of cards which were made in each unit/squadron bearing the crest on the outside and a simple “Season’s Greetings” on the inside. I myself sent out a hundred cards every year and got back as many, maybe more. I took pains of reading each one impersonal though they might be and took great pride in displaying them. One afternoon my husband and I walked in together after work and I pulled out a number of unopened cards from my briefcase and laid them on the table. On freshening up and finishing all that was required to be done I went to read the cards when I found my husband announcing who those cards were from. I froze. “Were they addressed to you?”I asked in disbelief. He saw my expression and looking puzzled said, “No, but they aren’t sealed. They are those regular cards.” I couldn’t believe my eyes or rather ears! I was livid. “When something is addressed to me, I open it. Nobody else. Period. Personal or impersonal, sealed or not, it doesn’t matter.” He was taken aback at my reaction. “You could read mine, I have no problem” he added. Of course not!! I would never ever do that unless he handed me an envelope and told me to open it! That day I lay down ground rules and though he isn’t particular when it comes to his stuff, I extend the courtesy. It is so important to have that freedom of being you!

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I am listing a few essentials that are non-negotiable.
  • ·        Letters, cards, diaries, emails, whatsapp messages, any social media messages are to be read by the person they are addressed to unless the person herself/himself requests you do to so and even then it ought to be considered as a onetime thing and not a blanket clearance for the future.
  • ·        Ditto for bank accounts and all kinds of passwords.
  • ·        All personal items of clothing or otherwise, including cupboards are not to be touched without permission.
  • ·        Use of magic words is mandatory. Please, Thank You and Sorry are meant to be heartfelt and are meant to be spoken out.


Credits: askideas.com
There are many more little courtesies and gestures of kindness that ought to exist in any and every relationship- love does teach you most of what you need to do or say, but we ought never to forget that love is about freedom and not about breathing down each other’s necks.




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Coming to parties and socializing, one must have this clear in one’s head: “Feel at home” is a courtesy that is extended by the hosts to their guests and should not be taken verbatim. The idea is not to make the hosts feel uncomfortable in their own home because you are feeling so at home there!! 

When you leave their home it is mandatory to say a heartfelt thank you – say it with genuine feeling. People these days skip this all important gesture and call it “a whole lot of English” and make it sound like lip service. It is lip service if you don’t mean it but if you do, the sincerity of a genuine compliment will be understood and appreciated. Most men get away with “I was like this with my Mom too. If I take a second and third helping, it’s a way of complimenting. We don’t say anything.” Well, terribly spoilt Mama’s boys, do something really special for your Mom for she has really tolerated a whole lot of nonsense and now you are grown up! If someone has made the effort to do something for you, do acknowledge it and be sincere in praise even if the dish wasn’t all that good or you didn’t have such a great time because their choice of guests didn’t appeal to you, a whole lot of effort has gone in so be kind.       

                




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I am a person who believes that familiarity breeds contempt. Let friendship be gradual and love too- nurture it gently, as best as you can but don’t ever take it for granted. If you are kind and say the “right things” from your heart, none of it will sound artificial to you or to the person you’ve said it to. Being formal is a good thing; keeping your distance is wise and none of it means you are a snob or a false person. When you extend niceties you are only being kind. Formalities are synonymous with decorum, with good conduct and good manners and not how it is often used “the work will be done the way you want it, this is just a formality”.

Comments

  1. Completely agree, Anu!! Loving someone should not make us unkind to them. In fact, I think we should reserve more of our courtesy and manners for those who matter so much to us....
    I never save the 'good crockery' only for guests. I take out the good china for just my family too on special occasions.
    If I can spare the thought and attention to say the magic words to friends or even mere acqaintances, I can surely do it for those who mean the world to me....

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  2. Couldn't agree more! In fact, most people like to receive the courtesies but get a big lump in their throat while extending them !

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    1. Being polite is so natural if you mean it...I believe people mean well but I never understand why they shy from saying so!

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  3. It is suggestive and a good idea to maintain this formality by one of the ways- use of the goodmannered 3 golden words PTS.
    However, one may or mayn't get the same response as we all are similar or different in aspects likewise time,age, place,energylevels etc.

    Choose your mannerism style!!! Bottom-line be happy! Pls let me know what you have to think or feel about it?!?!

    Blogger, am still working on to deal with personalities with utmost formal good manners.MORE THAN SOMETIMES, am able to keep the balance within me. ALWAYS ....is still on it's way.

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    1. Happiness is something that comes from within- a different matter entirely. Good manners is just extending certain feel good courtesies to show that you care. Yes, people are different but I am sure everybody likes a kind word or two so why not reciprocate? Why reciprocate to people at work but not to those close to you?

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  4. Replies
    1. :) I realise I am like a fish out of water without those emoticons!!

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  5. Bang.. bang... Bang on.. hot the nail bang.. on the head!!! Well Mr. Khan can shove his usool wherever he wishes to. As for us mere mortals.. I am in absolute agreement with what you have written.. be it the magic words.. be it taking things for granted.. be it personal space.. ultimately even in a relationship.. one needs to maintain one's individuality!
    Growing up in a typical middle class Mallu household.. I remember how it was the norm that letters addressed to another family member would be nonchalantly opened. The excuse cited would be that there is nothing intimate or personal after all in the letters and that there are no secrets being shared. It took me to have pen friends (now an ancient extinct custom) for me to realise that I didn't enjoy my parents actually opening and reading letters addressed to me..albeit the content being neither confidential nor politically incorrect! Anyways.. all said and done.. I think Formality is absolutely essential!!!

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    1. Thank you Jiji...no wonder we get along so well!!! :D

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  6. My dear friend, you do not know what pleasure it brings me to read thoughts at your end......call us old school or outdated.... But manners and etiquettes should be imbibed as they only and only they will keep safe our pride....PHEW!!!!! that is the most poetic I can be. But you are absolutely right, forgetting our manners means taking our loved ones for granted, and we will never want to do that, would we?

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    1. I am flattered if I can inspire poetry ;) Good Manners can never go out of fashion...thank you so much dear dodo d :)

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  7. Good blog and the topic was addressed appropriately with apt examples. .......
    I am sure all couples need to know this and develop respect rather than feeling it's ok to invade privacy as the right of partner

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Shyam...the concept of personal space is absent in some cultures...people feel we are distancing them if we express our need to have breathing space...it will change with time and awareness, I hope :)

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