I’m annoyed with people who can’t use their chopsticks properly

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a man in my 30s. I was disappointed with an older person at a dinner engagement when I saw him using his chopsticks very awkwardly. Now I’ve come to avoid him.

My parents were very strict on table manners. I suppose this is the reason I get so disgusted seeing people using chopsticks improperly. I wasn’t able to enjoy the meal or the conversation with others on that occasion.

Since I can’t escape these functions, I try to sit in an area where I can avoid seeing him. Yet, I can’t help being irritated and distracted whenever I see his movements. It makes me feel so uncomfortable.

I know I should pity him as a person who’s still not mature enough to handle his chopsticks properly. But that won’t free me from the uneasiness. I did consider telling him directly that he should improve his chopstick technique. But then, if I pointed that out in the presence of others, he would probably feel humiliated. I also think he would be infuriated with the fact that I’m younger than him.

I’m aware I shouldn’t be judgmental since I also have my weak points. What can I do?

M, Kanagawa Prefecture

Dear Mr. M:

Yes, I agree it’s hard to avoid noticing how others behave at the dinner table. I myself get annoyed when people make big slurping sounds with their soup or pasta. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to correct them once they’ve become adults.

Personally, I would point it out there and then, if they were my family members or relatives. If they were good friends that didn’t have the proper manners, I would look for other occasions to meet them. If it’s neither of these cases, I would say to myself that enduring people’s bad manners is part of my job.

To start with, I don’t think we should perceive dinner engagements as opportunities for pleasure. I suggest you take them as opportunities to socialize and convene. We manage to endure unpleasant people and distasteful remarks at work, don’t we?

If you start thinking that such occasions are within your scope of work, you will no longer be disturbed by how others use their chopsticks. How about arranging dinners that have nothing to do with work?

Junko Umihara, psychiatrist

(from June 1, 2016, issue)Speech

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