Wednesday, March 3, 2010

'rules of convention'



I have been known to bristle at the rituals of convention - resenting having to do something I would never usually choose to do.  Sometimes I balk and say "No", but generally I acquiesce, not wanting to make a scene or make others uncomfortable.  Maslow, in his quotation above, seems to recommend the latter course of action. 

Are there rituals of convention that bother you and that you choose to ignore?   It's interesting that the word 'convention' comes from the root 'to convene', so it would seem that the 'rules' are there to help us gather together in a civilized manner - functionning as the grease that keeps our human social network running smoothly, so to speak.

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29 comments:

  1. So true - and such efficient advice... well, so long as you are a self-actualised person :)

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  2. I recognize most conventions as having a social purpose (even where not necessarily self evident) and happily go along with them.

    However, I was one of the first to discard a tie at the office when I sensed this particular "convention" had run its course.

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  3. it allows us to see the world through the eyes and actions of others...to enter their world for a bit...i am always game for something new, but i do reserve the right to say no on ocassions. smiles.

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  4. Hi Bonnie

    I think that the deciding factor for me when choosing to opt out of conventions is to consider if it will hurt or offend someone to a degree that is greater than my discomfort with the convention...
    I shy away from many of societies norms that I find meaningless or insincere.

    Happy days

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  5. It was my sweetheart's turn to supply refreshments for his bridge club the other day - about 25-odd people, of whom a large number are British. I had packed up a nice little assortment of teas (among other things) but his reaction was 'It's customary there to have a proper pot of Earl Grey. The British don't do tea bags in a cup.' My back went right up! I do not like being expected to do things the same way as everyone else, an attitude I definitely inherited from my mother. And I didn't like the idea either that my dear man was concerned about things like that.
    To go along with something just because it's 'convention' but not necessarily effective or rational or interesting is not something I find easy, especially if it's not my idea!! There's the real truth - I just don't like being told what to do. :)

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  6. Hi again Bonnie

    I just had to add a note to Deborah's comment about drinking tea from a pot as opposed to the cup and tea bag. That is one practice I am very strident about because it is less a convention than a flavour...tea bags just don't have the flavour of a pot of tea...in fact they often have bleach in the bag itself...

    and also if you are a tea drinker used to the pot you become accustomed to the 2nd cup...maybe the 3rd...

    I can't find loose Earl Grey tea here in Kauai - I usually pack my own but forgot - and am really missing the satisfaction and the comforting ritual of making a pot of tea...a real 'cuppa'...

    Happy days

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  7. Shaista: Yes, and as we see from other comments it is probably a little more complicated that Maslow's quote would have us believe.

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  8. Barry: That was a convention that was good to see die. I was always aware of men coming into my office and loosening their tie. That is one area where women had it easier!

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  9. Brian: Such a good point - it is a way to get to know other cultures - by being open to their conventions or ways of doing things.

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  10. Delwyn: That's a great way to 'measure' whether you want to go along or not. I often ask myself, too, if it goes against any of the values or principles I hold dear. If not, then if it matters to someone I love, I will go along.

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  11. Deborah: It is a form of being told what to do.

    Your comment made me realize that there is the whole other side of the coin - how we react when someone doesn't follow the conventions we hold dear.

    Being of British descent - making a proper pot of tea is not a simple convention - it is sacrosanct!!! :) I will drink tea in the way it is offered to me - but at home it MUST be made in a pot and served in a china cup or real bone china mug. It has to brew to taste right. It cannot brew in a cup. It tastes different if not brewed and if not served in real bone china! Crazy eh? :) I guess it is a bit like the Japanese tea ceremony.

    I guess unless we have had it made that way, we do not appreciate the nuances of difference.

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  12. Delwyn: As you can see from my response to Deborah I am strident about my tea too. I will often order a coffee in a restaurant, because I know if I order tea it will not be brewed properly and as you say will then affect the flavour.

    So Maslow is right in calling them "rituals" of convention. Our reaction to the making of tea demonstrates it is a ritual (affecting outcome) as much as a rule, that we hold dear.

    We humans are curious creatures, aren't we?!!

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  13. I've never thought about this. I guess because if I'm in a group, and there is a ritual that they enjoy, I'm more than happy to oblige. It doesn't effect me. I don't take it personally. I don't engage my image.

    much love

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  14. i agree, it seems we need that common ground to walk upon, but it doesn't need to rule our individual hearts perhaps x

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  15. I, of course, mis-spoke (in my comment to Delwyn) - tea needs to steep, not brew!!!

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  16. Stacey: We can merge with a lot of things if we don't take everything personally. Good point.

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  17. Nollyposh: What a tender, sweet way of articulating it!

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  18. I think my oldest son has perhaps taught me the most about the things we do for the sake of convention... his constant need to know why... and because is just not acceptable to him. So at times, when I really think about it... I let go of convention just a bit. I do believe it is somewhat situational though.

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  19. Vicky: It is situational isn't it? There can't be a blanket way to respond to convention. It certainly does make one think twice when we have children around to question our habits.

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  20. One of the conventions or expectations that amazes me is that it is a daughter's job to take care of aging or ailing parents and that sons are exempt. I have just spent a week taking care of my mother after her surgery. I don't think there was ever any consideration given to having one of my brothers take off a few days to tend to her -- after all, I'm the daughter. I was happy to be able to help out for the first week, but I really resented my aunts who thought that I should extend my visit for a week or two because it wasn't convenient for them to work an ailing sister into their busy schedules when the need arose (though in advance of the surgery, they'd offered to come stay with her after my week of caregiving).

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  21. Bonnie, I laughed at your response, then I read Delwyn's. OK OK I get it. Next time I'll just put out the pot.

    (PS My dad was British....but not a tea drinker)

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  22. Meri: Yes gender role expectations are conventions - interesting point. It is simply taken for granted that the females of the family will do the caretaking. I'm sure there are exceptions to the 'rule', but you don't see them very often. Buried in the convention is the old assumption that men's work and men's time is more valuable than women's.

    Okay, I can hear many of the more evolved men here in the blogosphere screaming that they carry their weight with their families. We applaud you and are grateful!

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  23. Deborah: What happened here with regard to making tea is an interesting example of the power of convention and how 'disturbed' people can get when their conventions are 'broken'. We supplied concrete examples of both sides of the coin!

    Thanks for being such a good sport about it Deborah. Clearly, for some people, certain conventions are like a religious rite!

    It was interesting for me to observe how inflexible and rigid I can be!

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  24. i think we have the right to choose which conventions we go along with. If you are doing something for someone else especially someone really old, its nice to do it their way. As for myself, I hate dressing up for occasions and have skipped out of special occasions because of that. But looking back I wish I hadnt, because I missed a fun time. I should either have dressed up, or showed up dressed down. Either way was preferable to skipping.

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  25. Please and Thank You are conventions we almost all take for granted. In China please and thank you are used much more sparingly - especially in the situations where we (westerners) are more likely use them as status-levelers like with waitstaff (unless you're trying to re-enforce status differences). In China, where the custom is for waitstaff to remain absent until called for (not like US where they hover, "Is everything all right, can I get you anything?" etc) I use my American-measure of please and thank you and the waiters and waitresses always respond with a slight opening up or relaxation that they don't with the others who maintain the Chinese status quo (which is to basically ignore them, even as they're pouring your tea or bringing your extra napkin)...

    In spite of years of trying to get my girls to say please and thank you they're now (ages 9 and 13) at a point where I THINK it ought to be automatic. It's not, though, and so I'm gnawing on the bone it's thrown me. I'm consistently grateful for things others do for me (or that help me indirectly) and I'm not reserved about expressing that - so the fact that it hasn't translated down to my kids is providing interesting mind-food. I'm still working on it...

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  26. I don’t know if this comes under “convention” or just culture but it is still difficult for me. When I came to the US and was invited for dinner in a family in Greenwich, Co., they started the meal by saying “Grace.” In all my life in France and travels I had never heard people say prayers before meals. I was terrified. I thought they were fanatics and could hardly eat a bite. Since then I realized that many families in the US say prayers even when they have guests. This is totally different from what I knew in Europe (I lived in England for a while and Italy too.) Religion is very private over there and people would never dare say any type of a prayer, in any religion, in front of guests whose religion or non-religion is not known, they would feel that it is rude. I might say the guest might take it as an insult. So I have become used to this US convention, but it is still very difficult for me. I can’t help feeling scared. Scared is not a good word it’s more like: ils ne respectent pas mes sentiments, do you understand what I mean?

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  27. Nancy: I feel the same way about both situations you mention.

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  28. neighbor: Children are so savvy - if they know what we really, really want you can usually be sure that is what they will withhold. If there are pleases and thank-yous around them - they will surely introject them and conform to the convention as adults. Not to worry! :)

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  29. Vagabonde: It is so true that if we do something all the time (a norm or convention) we do not think that it might make someone else uncomfortable. The example you cite does demonstrate how they did not take your feelings into consideration.

    We recently had the opposite happen - where religious relatives of my husband came for supper. We discussed before hand whether we would say 'grace' as a courtesy to them - and be false to the norm here in our family - or be consistent with what we usually do (not say grace). We decided to be true to ourselves and our norm ... DH's relatives were shocked and tho they said nothing while here - DH received a phone call to chastize him for not praying before the meal.

    Seems to be one of those examples where you have to sometimes let people be uncomfortable in order to be true to yourself.

    If, your example happens to me. I do not interfere with their grace saying, but I do not necessarily close my eyes, bow my head or say 'amen' at the end. Of course it is always situational - and depends somewhat on my state of mind/heart that day.

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