Saturday, November 8, 2008

Social Skills and Manners

In most community the girls generally stay at home longer than the boys. Most girls do not leave until seminary, very few leave for high school, which is instead very common with the boys. Some boys leave right after Bar Mitzvah, (we are not talking about children of shluchim that may leave even younger and live with relatives in order to go to a chassidishe school.) others leave a year or two later to go to Yeshiva.

It is important that we teach our boys some social skills before they leave the house. For some boys, these will be natural skills that are part of their personality. They can charm all kind of people effortlessly. Great! But what about other boys for whom social skills do not come as easy?

Do not think your son will get by without them. It does not matter if he intends to spend his life in Kollel, on shlichus, teaching, as a sofer, or even in business. In any situation, social skills are very necessary, especially as a shliach bringing people closer to Yiddishkeit or fundraising for your Chabad House.

An example was brought to my attention recently: A young man was fundraising for an organization and he called a distant relative after Yom Tov. After chatting about Yom Tov etc., the young man said nonchalantly, that the real reason he called was to see if he could get the same donation this year as the realative had given the year before.

The relative got very offended that the reason they got a call was just to fundraise?? Someone who had learned some tact would have called just to chat, and then a few days later he would have called to ask for a donation. He would have known that some people may feel put upon if they just get a call asking for money, when they expect a social call.

In any profession one has to know how to act: a teacher has to know how to deal with parents and other staff. A sofer has to deal with customers or distributors etc. Most importantly, any man needs social skills to be with his future wife. How to be a mench and how to have basic manners (I do not mean opening doors), is also part of preparing our sons for the Chuppa. Just as we will push them to learn, to daven with Kavona, to go on mivtzoim, we must also instill them with enough social skills to be socially adept. As amazing as it may seem to us, shiduchim were ruined simply because the bochur could not eat with his mouth closed. Or he kept interrupting, or he was not respectful to an older person.

We should also teach them to keep a neat appearance. They do not need to be fashion plates, just make sure they are not all rumpled and untidy. Rabbi Dessler used to tell his talmidim to make sure they checked in a mirror before leaving the house that they looked presentable. They should not do it for themselves but for the Kovod of the Torah they represent and learn.