Entering and leaving rooms

Elise T. Chisolm

April 16, 1991|By Elise T. Chisolm

DO YOU KNOW how to get in and out of a room?

If you don't, you should learn.

Laugh if you like, but I consider this an important criteria in today's hectic world. Whether you are a salesman, a reporter, doctor or repairman, entering a room and knowing when and how to leave it is important.

At least, that's what my mother used to tell me. She used that phrase as a sort of litmus test for unsuspecting people with whom she came in contact. But worse, back then it was used on boys and men I dated.

After a date, and in that unsubtle way parents have, she would say, "I like him. He's a handsome boy, and he knew how to get in and out of a room."

Which meant he had some know-how. He didn't burp, scratch or cuss in her presence, and he helped me on with my coat.

Or it would happen when I started falling in love and she would throw in her wet rag: "Well, he was nice" -- "nice" being a downer word -- "but he certainly didn't know how to come in and out of a room."

Which basically meant that he didn't get up when she came in the room, said things like "OK," or "nope" every time she asked him a question, or he popped his bubble gum as she made small talk while I was upstairs changing into three different outfits before descending in my spike heels.

I hadn't thought about mother's phrase for a long time, but it's come back to haunt me. There is some truth in it. I have noticed that there are a lot of well-educated people who don't seem to know how to enter the meeting room and get out of it gracefully with the feeling that there's a sense of well-being.

I've noticed some business boomers who are awkward with this tactical maneuver.

They lack what the French call savoir faire.

But you don't have to be Miss Manners, you just have to be suave enough to put people at ease.

I used to notice this phenomenon when I interviewed show biz people; most of them know how to get in and out of a room because they are trained in entrances and exits.

Danny Kaye once walked down the aisle at a press conference at the Lyric Theater. The reporters were rather hushed and quiet, and suddenly he jumped up on the table where he was supposed to sit and hold forth. Wow, but it immediately put everyone at ease.

I'm not the only one concerned with this social grace.

So Mom, you were right. It is important to know how to enter and leave. That's why, due to your early admonitions, I enter or leave a room with someone else. I'm scared to do it alone.

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