The following ebook was written out of the desire to offer some guidance to freelancers who are stuck between hustling to make it and apologizing for running roughshod over others. Yet the Freelancer’s Dilemma, as I call it, can be overcome but only if one learns the gentler art of manners: of greeting, introducing, inviting, praising, thanking, and saying graceful farewells.
I’ve included a copy of the Preface. Below the Preface you’ll also find a Table of Contents. I hope you find it edifying.
How to Order a Copy of Manners and Mores
I live and work in a gift economy. To determine how much you would be able to offer for Manners and Mores, simply ask yourself what you would be able to give wholeheartedly in order to meet some of my material needs, provided that this offering wouldn’t count as a financial burden for you. Such an offering would be an example of ‘just generosity’: neither too much nor too little.
You can make your offer via PayPal, the link to which is here. Expect to receive your copy the following day.
How to speak well to strangers; how to introduce yourself to acquaintances; the most suitable way of offering praise to others; the finest way of being a good guest; the most appropriate manner of conducting yourself: all of these subjects have traditionally fallen under the general header, ‘manners and mores.’ And yet, the right practice of manners–once important for courtiers and noblemen, for monks and diplomats, at once delicate and prescient, timely and well-timed–has become an art sorely neglected among those frequently taught to individuals receiving a formal education today.
This neglect has not come without great costs: few know how to speak kindly and appropriately to each other. In my own life outside the academy, however, manners have made all the difference. After I finished a Ph.D. in 2009 and subsequently left the academy in order to strike out on my own and to see whether I could live according to my wits, I’ve found that what is rarely taught in schools, in coffee shops, over social media, or at home but what is most in need of practice is the art of conducting oneself with poise, grace, and ease. Compare the boorish salesperson with the smarmy human resources recruiter: neither is genuine, both full of false flattery, neither all that caring or attentive. Or note the ineffectual introducer who can’t seem to put important people together in the same room in spite of his credentials and sterling recommendations. Consider all the hustlers, all the writers of queries to persons they’ve never met and are trying to use, all the promotions, and all the lack of looking and listening and inquiring. In contrast with all of these figures, a well-mannered person has developed a knack for ‘saying the right thing and only the right thing’ (that’s Rochefoucald from his Maxims) and for doing what’s needful and appropriate. He has some spring in his step, some eye for things, some quick-moving hand he offers to others.
Indeed, in an time when many types of organizations are being brought into question, when many workplaces are struggling, and when a larger and larger number of workers are opting for going it alone, the importance of speaking with natural eloquence and of acting with delicacy, discernment, and fitness cannot be overstated. In my experience, which has to do mostly with establishing a viable philosophy practice, I’ve had to come to grips with the fact that I’ll be conversing frequently with people I’ve never met before, with asking questions that will appear to the addresses acutely unfamiliar and perplexing, and with introducing ideas that may come to many as a surprise. All of these things require cultivating the right tone of voice, the right pacing, and good timing, if they are not to strike the other as painful or awkward or both. One has to get the hang–if one wants to get on with ease during this unsettled time–of greeting, of introducing, of inviting, of gracefully declining, and, not the least, of bidding one’s hosts and friends grateful farewells.
Unfortunately, what I generally see in freelancers and consultants around me are gross errors in judgment, instance upon instance of hustlers and hustling, daily illustrations of crudeness and vice, and an overall want of attention given to the words they use or to the simple pleasure (not to say, the vital importance) of putting one’s fellows at ease. Here are people running roughshod (or shall we say: pell-mell?) over each other. There are people who succeed but only by injuring those with whom they regularly come into contact. Most evident, no doubt, are all the freelancers who don’t feel as if they can act capably, who have tended to call themselves ‘introverts,’ and who feel uncomfortable, ‘put out,’ ‘too forward,’ or overly clumsy–like clutzes or tratchles–most of the time. The freelancers I come across most often are the apologetic, guilt-ridden well-wishers who nonetheless need something from another and need it urgently, who have to craft a request, but who believe, hidebound at that, that they must begin and end every sentence with an apology and, later on, for an apology for apologizing overly much. If freelancing doesn’t feel like an ongoing act of cruelty, then it seems as if it would have to be a form of servility. One either hustles or one apologizes. In Chapter 1, I shall call this The Freelancer’s Dilemma.
Thankfully, learning good manners entails no longer feeling the urge to apologize–or, more importantly, the compunction to hustle. During the collapse of the economy, it’s become a difficult to secure work in a way that is noble, dignified, and elegant; that is shoulder- and head-raising both; that is effortless and freeing at the same time. It is difficult, yes, but not impossible. In order to remedy what seems to me sorely lacking when everyone has become a closet or overt Hobbesian (that is, a participant in the War of All Against All) and in order to make more explicit the relevance of this gentler art of speech and conduct, I’ve elected to gather together various thoughts, notes, and reflections from the past three odd years, tie them all together, and make them into a useful tutorial. Thus: Manners and Mores: A Tutorial for Freelancers Tired of Hustling and Prone to Apologizing.
The tutorial can be read in one of two ways, both of which should prove beneficial for the freelancer with a conscience. (Those without need not enter in.) The first way would be to use it as a reference guide on occasions, say, when you aren’t clear how to get in touch with someone, which is the most appropriate way to proceed, or what kinds of gifts would be best to bring to your hosts. The other way is to read the book from cover to cover. Doing so should give you a more general idea about the significance of being well-attuned to contexts, changing conditions, and subtle circumstances. What someone says is often less important than how he says it and with what reason. Acting with compassion, though necessary in some cases, may not convey compassion unless the agent performs the action with the right kind of touch or says certain words with the right kind of lightness. A lover may say, ‘I love you’ in a variety of ways, but only the most beautiful way will make the crucial difference. Such is also true of most cases in our work lives, the sorts of cases that carry great significance for the success of our projects and that make the greatest difference for making our lives matter.
Table of Contents
1. The Freelancer’s Dilemma
2. A Few Choice Words About Style
3. Unregrettable Words About the Art of Invitations
4. Lovely Notes of Introduction
5. Pindarian Notes of Praise
6. Giving Beautiful Thanks
7. In Praise of the Open-Ended Conversations
8. On Hosting and Being Hosted
9. On Saying Your Graceful Goodbyes