Etiquette | INFJ Forum

Etiquette

Asa

Resident palindrome
Staff member
Administrator
Aug 21, 2015
9,446
89,065
2,590
MBTI
INFJ
Enneagram
5w4
I'm not expecting this to be a popular thread, but it is a thread I've wanted to author for years because Fe is two things: Empathy for others and a desire to "go along with."

Etiquette is not about using the right fork. Miss Manners claims that people use the fork as an example of how etiquette is a deliberate booby trap set up by the snobbish to catch the unsuspecting. This causes people to ridicule the entire topic of etiquette and claim it is arbitrary. Emily Post has several quotes about how forks are irrelevant, and etiquette is truly about ethics and awareness of others. This is why I believe etiquette is a topic that should interest INFJs, Fe users, and anyone who cares about other people. ...That said, forks are not complicated. Work out to in.

To some extent, etiquette is also local. While the big rules may be consistent, smaller rules may change for different groups or situations.

As a person who doesn't necessarily read superficial social cues well, I appreciate having clear foundation rules to follow. Recently, I learned that being direct is proper etiquette, too, and that indirect communication (such as hinting and passive-aggression) is rude. Lying is poor etiquette, too. It is also proper etiquette to speak up in defense of others. It is proper etiquette to stand up to bullies. The issue is how to do this without being a jerk or causing a scene, and how to do it without pointing out someone else's poor etiquette (a huge no-no because etiquette puts caring about others first.)

So, I thought we could start a thread about etiquette for anyone wondering how to handle life's socially sticky situations, and also any cultural etiquette questions or advice that may crop up in our lives.

In other words, hello and welcome to my cricket farm.
 
This is actually one of the most INFJ threads ever and idk why it didn't exist yet.

I think there is a constant pull for INFJs between aligning with and breaking etiquette.
Super fascinating topic for myself as well, as I was raised to thoroughly understand and navigate high stress situations involving "proper" etiquette.
I tend to enjoy following the rules when it makes the situation advantageous for everyone, and break them when it's harmful/sabotaging for some person or group.
 
This is actually one of the most INFJ threads ever and idk why it didn't exist yet.


This is why I've wanted to make this thread for years. :)


I think there is a constant pull for INFJs between aligning with and breaking etiquette.

I agree.
Super fascinating topic for myself as well, as I was raised to thoroughly understand and navigate high stress situations involving "proper" etiquette.
I tend to enjoy following the rules when it makes the situation advantageous for everyone, and break them when it's harmful/sabotaging for some person or group.

I was as well, but my cultural etiquette is terrible, despite my upbringing. My interpersonal etiquette is usually good.

I'm not sure it is poor etiquette to change a rule if that rule is harmful to others. The whole point is that we are supposed to think of others.
 
Last edited:
I'm not sure it is poor etiquette to change a rule if that rule is harmful to others. The whole point is that we are supposed to think of others.

Which is why I put "proper" in quotes.
As you said, etiquette is often used as a trap.
 
I've often thought that there is a paradox about etiquette, because on the one hand it helps to oil our social wheels - it gives us a highway code for how we behave with each other in a civilised way. But there is no one etiquette - there are all sorts of them, for instance depending on culture, or on fairly self-contained groupings focused on something in particular. You only have to see how the law or medical professions have their own etiquette systems. Maybe the most notorious are those that are the badges of social class, because these are designed as part of an armoury of exclusivity. Others grow up out of the necessity for an insecure group to coalesce and they become a part of the group identity - the groups I met in the Antarctic all developed their own identities and their own etiquettes which it took a while for incomers to penetrate. To my mind a socially healthy group helps guests and incomers to adjust and understand a local culture and it's rules - the unhealthy ones may use etiquette as a weapon.
 
As you said, etiquette is often used as a trap.

To my mind a socially healthy group helps guests and incomers to adjust and understand a local culture and it's rules - the unhealthy ones may use etiquette as a weapon.

I agree John, but as @Wyote said, it is sometimes used as a weapon. Ironic, because it is poor etiquette to weaponize etiquette. Acting superior or calling people out for their faux pas is also poor etiquette.
 
I have a tense relationship with etiquette. As @John K noted, the expectations seem to vary from group to group and even person to person. I have never experienced it as a way to make people feel comfortable, rather as a measure of in the group or out of it. It is often not defined or spoken, and others are just expected to know it or figure it out.

I much prefer environments where there is a hefty degree of acceptance for how people show up most comfortably according to their own individual needs and if there are certain important expectations for how people behave, I appreciate a clear communication of those specific most important things. Did I mention clear?

I don't think I understand etiquette as it is intended, just how I have experienced it.

I do not have a positive frame for it.

Clear communication, though? Love it.
 
One of the most interesting, but mostly hidden facts about "ettiquette" is its very deep connection to Victorian era england and their upper class colonization of their own poor people, as well as colonization of the rest of the world where they met people and cultures with their own way of doing things, so they developed a superiority complex over how the British did things in order to impose their "superiority". The actual origins of ettiquette were not what the British imposed on their colonies. Theirs was a mixture of their disdain for local customs, as well as a desire to convince themselves that their ways were superior - hence the snobbery attached to its imposition. It's not something that was assimilated by the cultures they visited, but rather was forced upon them through ridicule and straight up creation of oppressive institutions.

This is another reason why in the modern day when its colonial and classist connections have been *mostly* severed, people that are a part of the middle and lower classes have such an aversion to imposition of "manners" and "ettiquette". Deep in our minds we are aware of an ancestral lineage of being oppressed through either colonization (for non white cultures), or classism (for poorer europeans/particularly those connected to the Brits) and even if we're no longer consciously aware of why we dislike it, we know there's something very wrong with this culture.
 
INTJ take. There's something about ritual, custom, etiquette, ceremony, etc, which rubs me the wrong way, because it is essentially non adaptive, which means it can be inefficient. The thought of sitting through a Japanese tea ceremony, just to drink a cup of tea seems like an exasperating prospect.

HOWEVER, in regards to values, sentiments, virtues, ideals, morals, etc, rituals and customs make sense. For INTJs vales and sentiments are intensely personal, and it can be very difficult to communicate them without diminishing or betraying them. (By communication, I mean both the sense of expressing and the sense of imparting to others). Communication of values can very easily be reduced to attention seeking, public image manipulation (virtue signalling), condemning of others, hypocrisy, etc. It's so fraught with danger to values, that it's all but impossible for INTJs to express values in any way except either impersonal clinical terms, or in extreme spontaneous delight or disgust.

Etiquette, ceremony, ritual, etc bypasses the danger of values self-sabotage by making their expression symbolic, regular, and somewhat obligatory. For example, giving one's parents a brief description of one's plans and a farewell kiss, or shoulder pat before leaving the house expresses affection, respect, mutual interest, and empathy... all without having to muster up an awkward cringeworthy speech reeking of insincerity.

Likewise, dressing up, learning, and observing high table manners expresses without boasting a commitment to occasionally respect people's need for gentle, equal respect in social situations, removed from the pecking order determined by charisma, agression, and gregariousness. In other situations, total disregard to niceness in clothes and manners is respectful to people's need (usually males) for insensitive fun.

Ultimately etiquette, custom, ritual, ceremony, etc is a commitment to reliably express love. It's religious expression in Christianity explicitly ties the notion of an eternal testament/agreement/contract with the ritual of Christ's body and blood called the eucharist. "Take this all of you and drink, this is the cup of my blood, a new and eternal testament, the mystery of faith, which for you and for many will be poured out for the remission of sins. Whenever you do this, do it in memory of me."
 
I agree John, but as @Wyote said, it is sometimes used as a weapon. Ironic, because it is poor etiquette to weaponize etiquette. Acting superior or calling people out for their faux pas is also poor etiquette.
Definitely! I hope that came across in what I wrote too, because it's very easy to put people down through exclusive social rules. I very much agree that this is poor etiquette - maybe not by their own rules, but definitely by those of common humanity.

Actually there's an interesting issue of forum etiquette here, because I was building my own thoughts on the posts you and Wyote had made. My reply was in close proximity to them in both time and position in the thread, so I didn't quote them or refer to either of you in my response, assuming that it would be clear from context. I am sometimes concerned about over-emphasising my reply by tagging folks when it amounts to tapping them on their shoulder in forum terms when that appears to be unnecessary. But I'm not a virtuoso at this sort of thing, and my E5/4 split often trips me up over it :sweatsmile:.

The forum is an interesting example of a specialised social group which can develop it's own local rules of etiquette.
 
Last edited:
What are some examples of standards of etiquette that are actually traps--or that at least have greater potential to be used as traps?

I think there may be intentional uses of etiquette as a social trap/manipulation in a power dynamic.

From my experience, I think it is often far more innocent and more a result of being trapped ourselves in our own cultural boxes. For example, people who have been acculturated into a certain social expectation encountering someone acculturated into a different social framework and making assumptions involving ignorance on the part of the other and unquestioning superiority of the person's own culture. I could appreciate etiquette as a framework attempting to bridge that difference and bring people into the same framework. However, I think social power dynamics determine whose framework gets defined as "proper".

I once was invited to the home of a refugee from Ethiopia for coffee and a meal. She was laughing heartily at me while I tried to eat because I couldn't get eating with my hands right. Who was struggling with proper etiquette? Western society might say her because nevermind the "right" fork, there were no forks in sight. I would say I chose to honor her etiquette framework and had some work to do.
 
The forum is an interesting example of a specialised social group which can develop it's own local rules of etiquette.


I thought of this example as well. It took some getting used to when I arrived. It took me aback that the forum wasn't more centered on deep topics and MBTI. I gradually figured out that some forum topics can be so heavy that we need lighter threads for balance.


What are some examples of standards of etiquette that are actually traps--or that at least have greater potential to be used as traps?

The fork issue –– using the wrong utensil at a formal dinner.

Wearing the wrong attire for an occasion. People judge others hard for this. The reason invitations explain the expected attire (ex: black tie, white tie, cocktail, beach wear, business casual) is to give instructions so guests feel at ease about dressing appropriately, not so other guests can exclude those who dress outside expectations. We're supposed to be polite and include everyone regardless.

Being off-trend with anything from slang, clothes, make-up, or interests. Teenagers and younger adults are more likely to do this.

Calling people out for not following a social rule or due to an expectation that they should follow a rule. Acting more important than other people.

I once was invited to the home of a refugee from Ethiopia for coffee and a meal. She was laughing heartily at me while I tried to eat because I couldn't get eating with my hands right. Who was struggling with proper etiquette? Western society might say her because nevermind the "right" fork, there were no forks in sight. I would say I chose to honor her etiquette framework and had some work to do.

Was she trying to laugh with you to bond, or was she mocking you? If she was mocking you, she was definitely the rude one. This reminds me of how thankful I am for people who are gentle and teach their traditions without judgment.
 
The fork issue –– using the wrong utensil at a formal dinner.
I was once called out for this by the host of a formal dinner. I was 16 years of age at the time.

I replied, “If you would be willing to forgive my ignorance, I would be willing to forgive your faux pas. Given the courses and utensils provided, your napkin placement, while artful, is incorrect.”

I was asked to leave.

I could not drive, so while my friend finished her meal, I wandered their grounds, found a gazebo by a pond, and spent my time listening to my walkman and nursing my proto pipe until I was beyond stoned.

Whatever,
Ian
 
This belongs here I think 🤣


It's a lot more subtle than a bunch of yobs racing about on skateboards and swearing loudly in a shopping mall on a Saturday morning, but it's the same sort of tweaking the nose of convention.

Playing with some thoughts ....

Manners maketh the person ,,,,, are you one of us, or not one of us? If your slip-ups show that you are not 'one of us' you may be reduced to the lower levels of the social pecking order in that particular group, and may well be excluded. I suspect that in some ways this is a vestige of the way social animals behave in the wild where group inclusion means survival and to be outcast and alone is a death sentence. It's important for the creatures in the group to behave cohesively for this reason, and bad behaviour is suppressed and expelled - humans have ritualised it well beyond the raw survival needs.

It seems to me that there's a close relationship between etiquette and good manners. At it's best it's a way of letting us know some useful social rules about how to be sensitive of others and how to treat them well. The rules change though and it takes some time and effort to keep up, particularly as we get older and what we learnt as a child no longer holds. For example I was taught to treat women with courtesy - open a door for them, give up my seat for them on a crowded train or bus, etc. But that was tangled up in the idea that women are weaker and less capable then men, and a lot of water has flowed under the bridges since then. If men aren't careful these days, such courtesy if applied without thinking can be interpreted as sexist by some women. It's not as simple as just not doing it though, because that can easily become discourteous and uncaring. It's necessary now to do it without such gender bias. Etiquette can be complicated.
 
Fe is two things: Empathy for others and a desire to "go along with."

I like where you're going with this, but I think a minor tweak on this definition is important. Fe isn't exactly a desire to go along with as much as a need for values consensus. Often, the easiest way to achieve this is by going along with. At other times, Fe will seek to create and enforce values consensus. Using etiquette can be a great way to achieve that. As much as Fe is concerned with avoiding upsetting people, it is concerned with making sure people aren't upset. Some people lean more on the enforcing values side while others lean on the going along with.
 
What are you doing here @VH 🤣 welcome back
 
I have a tense relationship with etiquette. As @John K noted, the expectations seem to vary from group to group and even person to person. I have never experienced it as a way to make people feel comfortable, rather as a measure of in the group or out of it. It is often not defined or spoken, and others are just expected to know it or figure it out.

This is precisely why I like etiquette. I want to know the expectations without ambiguity. Social behaviors are murky, and etiquette is clear. The only issue is learning the different etiquette for each group.
I've often been criticized for my life in the punk subculture because people will point out that it has a lot of rules for a "rebellious" culture. A combination of clear rules and wider acceptance of different types of people appealed to me.

I much prefer environments where there is a hefty degree of acceptance for how people show up most comfortably according to their own individual needs and if there are certain important expectations for how people behave, I appreciate a clear communication of those specific most important things. Did I mention clear?

Me, too. I prefer accepting groups and clear communication. I struggle with hints, subtly, and passive aggression. It was a delight to clear that clear communication is proper etiquette.

I don't think I understand etiquette as it is intended, just how I have experienced it.

Oh, I know what you mean, because people use etiquette like a reindeer game, which is misuse, and the biggest reason people dislike it.

Clear communication, though? Love it.

Yes <3

One of the most interesting, but mostly hidden facts about "ettiquette" is its very deep connection to Victorian era england and their upper class colonization of their own poor people, as well as colonization of the rest of the world where they met people and cultures with their own way of doing things, so they developed a superiority complex over how the British did things in order to impose their "superiority". The actual origins of ettiquette were not what the British imposed on their colonies. Theirs was a mixture of their disdain for local customs, as well as a desire to convince themselves that their ways were superior - hence the snobbery attached to its imposition. It's not something that was assimilated by the cultures they visited, but rather was forced upon them through ridicule and straight up creation of oppressive institutions.

While this is true of this specific group of people, etiquette exists in all groups of people, in every country, and in every class. It also changes with time and with the mix of cultures.

This is another reason why in the modern day when its colonial and classist connections have been *mostly* severed, people that are a part of the middle and lower classes have such an aversion to imposition of "manners" and "ettiquette". Deep in our minds we are aware of an ancestral lineage of being oppressed through either colonization (for non white cultures), or classism (for poorer europeans/particularly those connected to the Brits) and even if we're no longer consciously aware of why we dislike it, we know there's something very wrong with this culture.

There are codes of etiquette in the working class and poor, too. Any code of norms members are supposed to know how to follow to fit in is etiquette. Etiquette is local.

INTJ take. There's something about ritual, custom, etiquette, ceremony, etc, which rubs me the wrong way, because it is essentially non adaptive, which means it can be inefficient. The thought of sitting through a Japanese tea ceremony, just to drink a cup of tea seems like an exasperating prospect.

I see your point, but I also enjoyed the ritual in the dojo of my Japanese-based martial art. I felt like was properly honoring my sensei, who took the time to teach us, by partaking in rituals like bowing and our silent moment of meditation before class. He also didn't allow us to call him sensei, which was an etiquette rule specifically for our dojo that went along with the mindset that we are all always learning, including the teacher (who was a 10th degree blackbelt.) We called him by his first name.

Militaries have strong etiquette, too, and one that the story of my sensei reminded me of is the rule about not saluting officers on the battlefield because it would make them easier targets. This is common sense, of course, but it is also etiquette.

HOWEVER, in regards to values, sentiments, virtues, ideals, morals, etc, rituals and customs make sense. For INTJs vales and sentiments are intensely personal, and it can be very difficult to communicate them without diminishing or betraying them. (By communication, I mean both the sense of expressing and the sense of imparting to others). Communication of values can very easily be reduced to attention seeking, public image manipulation (virtue signalling), condemning of others, hypocrisy, etc. It's so fraught with danger to values, that it's all but impossible for INTJs to express values in any way except either impersonal clinical terms, or in extreme spontaneous delight or disgust.

This is an interesting paradox between the frivolous and useful.

I was once called out for this by the host of a formal dinner. I was 16 years of age at the time.

I replied, “If you would be willing to forgive my ignorance, I would be willing to forgive your faux pas. Given the courses and utensils provided, your napkin placement, while artful, is incorrect.”

I was asked to leave.

I could not drive, so while my friend finished her meal, I wandered their grounds, found a gazebo by a pond, and spent my time listening to my walkman and nursing my proto pipe until I was beyond stoned.

Whatever,
Ian


I love this. Hahahaha. What a perfect rebellious 16-yr-old story.

For example I was taught to treat women with courtesy - open a door for them, give up my seat for them on a crowded train or bus, etc. But that was tangled up in the idea that women are weaker and less capable then men, and a lot of water has flowed under the bridges since then. If men aren't careful these days, such courtesy if applied without thinking can be interpreted as sexist by some women. It's not as simple as just not doing it though, because that can easily become discourteous and uncaring. It's necessary now to do it without such gender bias.

The solution here is that we should be holding doors for everyone within a certain distance from us and we should give up a seat to anyone who needs it more than we do.
 
Last edited: