ARGUING AND CRITICIZING IN PUBLIC: AN ANECDOTE

“I don’t want to accept that invitation,” a friend of mine said to me one morning recently, when the postman brought her a week end invitation as we sat together on her porch.

“Why not? I thought they had a lovely big house.”

“They have, but the last time we went there, X found so much fault at meal times that it made me awfully uncomfortable.”

“Isn’t his wife a good cook?”

“Not very, but that doesn’t matter half so much as having to sit there and hear him criticize and ask her why she has a cold dessert on a cold day, and if she will learn not to get the roast too raw by the time they have been married 10 years? And she looks as if she might weep any minute and you feel as if you wanted to get away somewhere. I think there is nothing in the world so embarrassing as being forcibly made a witness to family quarrels or criticisms.”

“Why does he do it?”

“Well, I think it is partly because he is dissatisfied with her cooking and partly because he is a traveling man and wants us to know that he is used to the best of food and the best service and can’t get along without it, and he takes that way of impressing it on us. I don’t blame him for criticizing her. She is a pretty poor cook but I do wish, for our sake as well as for hers, he would do it afterwards.”

Who hasn’t had that feeling when made a party to some form of criticism or correction or quarreling?

Arguing and Criticizing in Public: Right or Wrong?

To keep all such things as much in the background as possible is one of the hallmarks of true breeding.

Children sometimes have to be spoken firmly to in public for the sake of both child and public, but a tactful mother does all she can to minimize this public correction.

Servants should never, unless absolutely necessary, be instructed or criticized or corrected in public. It embarrasses them, makes them more likely to make mistakes, and leaves resentment. Ten words afterward are more endurable to them than one at the time of occurrence.

Public criticism of each other by married folks should be absolutely taboo; and even those little half-jesting digs that are half humorous, half acrimonious arguments that the several years married are apt to indulge in, spoil the peaceful, pleasant atmosphere that should be the background of all true hospitality.

Out and out quarreling should always be avoided. It is frightfully bad taste.

There is nothing that you can give your guest in the way of food or service that will counter balance the discomfort that comes when one is conscious of a strained, unpleasant atmosphere.

— taken from A Ruined Meal by Ruth Cameron, 1922

Advertisements