Because You Are Polite

by Ginger Philbrick

I love to make people laugh, but there is a form of humor out there that isn’t funny.

I was recently greeted in a store by an acquaintance whose negative comment insinuating I didn’t belong in the establishment insulted me. She does it every time we meet.

Maybe because I had a lot going on and would have liked a kinder response, I asked her why she always seemed to enjoy such a greeting. Her response was that she was only being funny.

Well, it wasn’t funny; it was offensive. I can still hear my mother saying, ”if you can’t say anything nice, say nothing.”

I would add what I’ve learned with age; everyone is dealing with something—be kind.

The Queen, Kilmarnock

Dear Queen, a sense of humor, such as I perceive you have, can be a blessing in this life. Not only does it actually lighten our physical self when we laugh, but seeing experiences from a humorous perspective can enable us to make a very upsetting event even funny.

For example, I was having a coming-of-age party for two young relatives and was carrying a beautiful cake, candles lit, on a glass cake stand into the dining room. As I came through the kitchen door, the plate corner hit the door frame and everything went crashing to the floor and broke apart. There was a horrible silence in the room….seemingly for hours. Then my 10-year-old niece timidly offered, “That didn’t go well.” Even I laughed, and felt better.

But that is humor well used. Your experience deals with a hurtful type of comment which is inappropriately called humor. You and your mother said it well. What point is there in degrading another person in the name of humor? I daresay it is rarely received as humor by the other.

The ability to say things that make others laugh is truly a gift. However, when being witty, we are wise to make sure our comments are not at another’s expense. If they do denigrate, even unintentionally, they could well be seen as an attempt at intimidation, which in turn is the heart of bullying.

If someone slaps us with a not-so-funny-zinger, we can either see it as a teachable moment and tell them in a steady voice, “I didn’t think that was funny.” Or we can just remain silent and deny them any other reaction. If an apology is offered, we can accept it graciously and be proud of ourselves for taking the high road.

Humor is at its best when it’s natural, healthy, and positive, much like that first kiss.

Ginger Philbrick is the owner of Because You Are Polite LLC. You are invited to email your manners questions to her and she will respond as time and space allow. You may contact her at youarepolite1@gmail.com.