The word is French in origin. Its a word that reflects an act that people regret and feel embarrassed about, an act that they desperately wish could be reversed and erased.
When we find someone else committing it, we feel sorry for them. “Oh my God, I wish those words were never spoken”. “Faux Pas” implies an embarrassing social blunder.
One weakness in social etiquette that I often used to suffer from was forgetting a person’s name or addressing a person by a wrong name. Over a period of time, I realized that it is far better to admit our issues with recollection than the blunder of playing a guessing game. A blunder that is not just embarrassing for the addressed person but an unintended indirect communication that that person does not merit my attention to remember her name.
Another often committed social faux pas is avoiding eye contact while speaking.
You may find a person you meet for the first time, shaking your hand while looking at his watch. Of course, in all fairness, perhaps he has a train to catch and feels urged to ensure there is enough time left. The question is, “Is this verification so important that you cannot spare a couple of seconds to make eye contact as you shake hands and then attend to the time concern?”
One habit that is definitely considered rude is asking inappropriate personal questions, like, “Are you married?” or “How much do you earn?” I still remember how unwittingly rude I was to a classmate and friend of mine during school days. Coming from a family of limited means with five children, she would repeat the dresses she wore to school alternately. Looking back, they were probably the best (or the only) ones she had. As a 6th grader, I was unaware of such sensitivities while making what I then believed were merely honest observations. One day I asked her, “Don’t you have any other clothes than these two brown and black dresses?”
One of the most dangerous social faux pas that I have come across is having self as the focal component all the time in communication. I say dangerous because it is one mistake that literally can lead us to further social blunders in our eagerness to chat about ourselves.
Few days before, a friend of mine narrated an interesting case of faux pas she had observed. It was a surprise to her that she was not among the invitees for her next desk colleague’s wedding. What surprised her even more was a call she received on the day before the event from the colleague. He spoke at length how successful and popular he was, not forgetting to mention that their boss had “personally” called to congratulate him and spoke very warmly for a long time “as soon as he received the invitation letter”.
Much to the amusement of my friend, the colleague went on further and assured my friend that after the wedding he and his wife would certainly visit her home.
Checking our phones while in conversation with someone is a powerful signal that we really do not have time for them. We can definitely answer an important call by informing them in advance of the expected call or by excusing ourselves while it arrives.
To merely enjoy the action of checking up our mails or browsing on social networks in a habitual manner is best avoided. Giving our complete attention to those in conversation with us is a courtesy they deserve.
Cross-Cultural faux pas, Business faux pas, Foreign Language faux pas, Social Media faux pas, Fitness faux pas, Interview faux pas …. there are many along our path. A mindset of politeness and common courtesy with a general awareness of social and political correctness would see us avoiding most of them.
In the endeavor to become effective communicators and successful at personal and professional levels, comprehension of the finer nuances of civilized living is an integral component of our social being.