We were at our local Italian pizzeria last week for a date night. Truthfully, we really would have preferred to stay home as it was cold and windy, and we had a beautiful fire burning. But alas, our son had a few friends over for pre-concert drinks, and they were playing beer pong.

So, there we were minding our business, when we overheard from the adjacent table the following: “Can you stop talking about yourself for a while and talk about me instead?”

The comment came from a young couple, in their early twenties, presumably on a date. Clearly, the young woman was not impressed with her date’s chattiness. We held our breath, wondering if they would survive this massive slapdown.

Apparently, his ego was not as needy as his stomach, for he persisted, and the conversation resumed. Our meal arrived and was delicious, as always, and there was no more drama from the neighbours.

As we headed home, still wondering how this couple’s date would play out, we caught the end of the pre-concert gathering.

Three young women from the Oz-tag team were still there with our son, who was very responsibly washing up. Francine took the opportunity to engage the women in conversation by sharing what we had overheard.

The horror! All of them immediately identified the rudeness and self-obsession of the young woman. Though on reflection, she was complaining about her date’s selfishness, so it’s not really clear if one or both were at fault.

The conversation was animated as Francine artfully steered it towards a helpful life lesson on social skills that they would hopefully remember the next day.

A Service Mentality

Good social skills teach us to be otherfocussed in our conversation and to be attentive to cues from the other about whether we are engaging their interest. Such interpersonal awareness is an important skill for getting on in life and getting ahead in the world.

It requires a willingness to set aside our own interests and needs while we attend to the needs of others. In a workplace, it’s a highly desirable trait, as such employees are more likely to serve the needs of the organisation ahead of their own.

In terms of romantic relationships, it’s hugely influential in getting through the first date to the second and third, and eventually down the aisle. Most couples marry on the strength of feeling that they are the centre of each other’s world, something our restaurant neighbours seemed to struggle to embrace.

As children, we both learned from our parents about how to treat a guest. We observed the furious tidying up that went on ahead of guests arriving, and the teamwork between our parents, each taking turns to engage the guests in conversation while the other moved briskly to bring dinner to the table or serve the drinks.

The focus was on the guests, ensuring they never felt neglected.

We’ve followed the same pattern, with each of us assuming defined roles, which allows us to efficiently host guests with grace, at least most of the time. And from observing our son, he has also picked up those values around hosting a guest.


Originally published at SmartLoving. Photo by Jep Gambardella.

About the Author: Byron and Francine Pirola

Married for 25 years, with 5 children, Byron & Francine Pirola are the founders and co-authors of the SmartLoving Series – marriage enrichment and marriage preparation courses designed to help build successful and resilient marriages. International speakers and authors of numerous articles on marriage, more than 3000 couples have attended their programs, workshops and conferences in Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain Byron & Francine are Executive Directors of the Marriage Resource Centre from which they run SmartLoving programs and produce digital resources. Francine graduated from Fordham University with a Masters in Religion and Religious Education. Byron is a founding partner of the strategic consulting firm, Port Jackson Partners Limited, and a Director of both listed and unlisted companies. He holds a PhD from the Commonwealth Centre for Gene Technology, Adelaide University.

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