January 10, 2020 Feature

Ways of Doing

Habits account to a considerable degree for what we call professional.

Robert E. Shapiro

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Has this ever happened to you? At your dinner table, you pass the mashed potatoes to a teenager to offer a second helping. “Would you like some more?” you ask generously. Smiling, your young companion responds: “No, I’m good.” How’s that? Is there anything wrong with this answer? It all seems rather standard these days, the typical breeziness and affability of the younger generation on display. But weren’t you taken aback? Did you puzzle over why? After all, it is hard to criticize your youngster for being impolite. Your gentle question has been acknowledged, and it has received an unquestionably pleasant reply. Nothing here would seem to violate the rules of courtesy. But something seems not quite right. There’s the absent “thank you,” of course, but, honestly, is there really anything amiss?

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