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?