Sept. 23, 2017
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Anson Stevens-Bollen

Politics, Religion & Money

It’s more important than ever to be polite

July 5, 2017, 12:00 am

For 12 years Bizia Greene has taught children and adults about everything from table manners to business mixers. She’s the founder of the Etiquette School of Santa Fe (988-2070, etiquetteschoolof and now is the author of the Etiquette Rules column in the Santa Fe New Mexican.

In October 2008, SFR interviewed Greene at the height of the Obama/McCain presidential race—and it’s downright quaint what we were concerned about then, when it comes to the politeness of politicians. We caught up with Greene again to get her thoughts on the state of niceness in America.

SFR: In 2008, I asked your thoughts on the presidential race between Obama and McCain. You were very concerned that, during the debates, McCain did not make eye contact and did not turn his body toward Obama. What has happened since then in American politics?
: It’s gone more downhill, and a prime example of that was at one debate between Trump and Clinton when he didn’t shake her hand. That is such an aggressive behavior. The social norm is to shake hands. That is the mainstream American greeting. It doesn’t matter who you’re meeting—whether they are friend or foe, you shake hands. There have been other examples where Trump won’t shake hands, like with the German chancellor. He just sat there looking away. Body language reveals a lot.

Even more pointedly rude is all the name-calling, from “nasty woman” to “deplorables.”
I’m of the mindset that we were all told in our childhood that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. … Every child knows that’s the rule at age 4. But now, it’s out the window.

In a non-partisan spirit, what observations have you made about the politeness level of the president? I am particularly struck by how he consistently walks in front of his wife.
From the top down, I see a lack of awareness and sensitivity in the White House. … [On Inauguration Day], Trump gets out of the car, doesn’t wait for his wife, and just walks right up the stairs. He’s leading the charge. … This is a man who is not aware of his surroundings, not aware of the people around him; he is not chivalrous. Whether it’s old-fashioned or not, your wife is your partner. She is the First Lady of the United States, and she deserves to be side-by-side with you. I thought it was disrespectful, given what a big moment that was on the world stage, and that it would be photographed.

How have the social changes of the last 10 years influenced your curriculum?
I have a whole curriculum on social media and using cell phones, and that was not as extensive when I started. The main message is, ‘Any time you press send or enter, it’s out there for good. You cannot take it back.’ It’s something I tell all my clients, even my corporate clients, especially with ‘reply’ and ‘reply-all.’ That can be a disaster, and people have lost their jobs over that. There isn’t a CEO or a beauty pageant queen who hasn’t been called out on some Facebook post they put up five or eight years ago.

For my corporate clients, I tell them not to use their cell phones at networking events. Don’t take down people’s contact information on your phone. You don’t have enough hands, with your hors d’oeuvres, your cocktail—it’s cumbersome. I tell all my clients to have business cards ready to exchange, that way you don’t have to deal with technology at all. If they are going to a business lunch, if they’re expecting an important call or email, announce at the front of the meeting that you might need to step away. Or say to everybody, ‘Why don’t we take three minutes to check our messages right now?’ So there are designated times and you don’t have a table top full of smartphones.

When I was growing up, I was always told there were three things it was impolite to discuss: politics, religion and money. All of that seems to be completely disregarded right now.
It is, and it isn’t. For some of my family, they live in a tight-knit neighborhood where there are a lot of different political leanings. They’ve been able to carry on wonderful decades-long relationships, but there is an unwritten rule that politics will not be brought up because it would cause such a breakdown in the relationships. It just depends.

I think this is one of those times that it’s even hard to agree to disagree. Even though a lot of the rules have gone out the window and we do talk about politics and religion and money, there are a lot of times where it isn’t worth it because you know that you can’t change the other person’s mind, and vice versa—they’re not going to change your mind. Are you open to being enlightened? If you’re not, don’t go there.

Manners for Munchkins
(age 4-8): Thank-You Notes
4 pm Saturday July 8. $10.
Indigo Baby, DeVargas Center,
185 Paseo de Peralta,

Young Ladies and Gents (age 12+)
11 am-2 pm Monday and Tuesday
July 17 and 18. $95.
Cowgirl BBQ,
319 S Guadalupe St.,


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