Tag Archives: behaviour

Of unconscious behaviour: at the gym

14 Jul

I’m very aware that once the day’s wardrobe is replaced with mostly non-descript gym clothes, identities are lost and we have trouble sorting each other out because the visual cues that tell us about people’s occupations, social standing, etc. are missing. I find gyms really interesting for this reason.

Gyms also interest me as I observe the behaviour of the people there. At my gym, I’m mixed into the 95% male gym users because I weight train. This gives me an advantageous insight into the world of men.

Sometimes it seems, guys at the gym forget they’re in a public place and behave as though they were in the men’s room, engaging in behaviour that should mostly be kept private. Images of bad public behaviour burn in people’s brains and can leave a haunting, lingering picture that you may not be able to recover from.

This is the second post I’ve written on unconscious behaviour, that is, actions done without thinking, especially without thinking about how our actions will affect other people. This is also the second post about my observations about behaviour in gyms. I’m melding these two concepts together this week to draw your attention to gym behaviour, how acting badly can affect the way people think of us, and tips on how to behave like a gent at the gym.

The following examples are real experiences I have observed at my gym. See what you make of them.

Use machines for their intended purpose and hurry up about it

During my routine on the machines one day, I noticed a guy with his heel resting on the forearm platform of the calf machine, stretching his hamstrings. I assumed he was just getting a kink out would exit momentarily.

He didn’t.

I would be using the calf machine but to be polite and give the fellow the benefit of the doubt, I worked around him and did reps on three different machines, saving the calf machine for last.

And he was still there.

I had given him 5 minutes to stretch and decided that he may not realize that someone else might be waiting for the calf machine to work on their calves, so I walked over and asked him if I could please use the machine.

“I’m stretching,” he said.

“Yes, but this machine is for calf raises, not stretching,” I replied.

“Five minutes,” he said.

“You know there are rooms for you to stretch in, instead of using a weight machine,” I said.

Unrelenting, he repeated himself and turned away from me.

What could I do? I walked away and shook my head. I guess this fellow didn’t realize that when using a machine for an extended period of time AND using it for purposes other than what the machine was built for, he’s definitely not casting a good light on himself AND annoying others. I for one, will not be able to disassociate this experience from this guy when I see him.

*Gentleman’s tip: Assume that other people are waiting to use the machine you’re on, do your set, get off. Easy. No one could possibly label you as a fill in the blank for being efficient with the weight machines.

How about the people that sit texting and relaxing on a machine that you want to use? The same principle applies here: be aware that other people may be waiting for the machine you’re languishing on. I’m not sure why anyone would bring their phone into the working gym to begin with unless they were waiting for very important news maybe, because last time I checked, gyms are for people to exercise in.

Just because you can’t see it

Sometimes people don’t realize that other people can see what they’re doing. Gyms are large, open spaces with mirrors that shoot your reflection all over the room, so people can see whatever you’re doing even if you’re not aware of it.

While on the treadmill recently, I watched a guy about 10′ in front of me sitting on a quad machine with his finger stuck up his nose. I had to look away when he pulled something out. When I looked again to see how he was going to dispose of this treasure, I saw no tissue and and didn’t wait to see where he wiped.

Now, come on, man! This is disgusting. Please think before you pick in a public space – public transit included.

*Gentleman’s tip: Keep your fingers out of all orifices while you’re in public.

From my treadmill perch, I see other amazing things. The treadmill faces a cluster of weight machines in front of a full-mirrored wall, giving a good, wide view of almost half of the gym. Sometimes I’ll see guys stand in front of the mirror and they’ll do one of three things:

1. pose and admire themselves,

2. check and re-style their hair, or

3. squeeze pimples or razor burn bumps.

I watched a guy last week spend a few minutes in front of the mirror squeezing things on his face. I was really amazed that after popping a pimple that hit the mirror, he wiped it off with a bare finger and then walked over to the machines and started pumping. After a couple of reps, he came back to the mirror and the process started again.

I know that nasty things go on in the locker rooms (though I will say that the brotherhood is pretty tight-lipped about what really goes on behind the men’s room door), but once a guy is out of the can, the public persona should really be taken on – the one that keeps a guy in check and exercises respect to other people.  This pimple-popper was not extending consideration to others in any way, shape, or form, and worse, spread the insides of his body around. I will recognize him as the pimple-popper from now on and I never forget a face.

Again, a public space is not the men’s room and any Jackass tactics should be kept private.

*Gentleman’s tip: Be hygenic and go wash your hands when you touch bodily products beyond sweat.

Steam room

Though I don’t know what happens in the gents’ steam room first-hand, a very good source has confessed that he’s watched men behaving very badly in steam rooms at his gym. He’s seen guys sloughing off dead skin from their feet and spitting on the floor in the communal steam room, much to the total gross-out of everyone else in the room.

*Gentleman’s tip: If you steam, just sit there and steam instead of spreading your DNA samples.

The potentially scary idea behind acting with disregard at the gym is that because the visual wardrobe cues have been removed, we don’t know who is who. What do you think would happen if the next person you network or interview with goes to the same gym and saw you squeezing blackheads in the gym mirror? What would they make of you? How do you think women would react to you? Is this the impression you want to make on other people?

If you think of your life as a chess game, know that  your every move will affect you and the rest of the players on the board now and in the future. One wrong move can cost you the whole game.

The power of table manners

20 Jan

The way we behave is a large part of the image that we project. Our actions have all sorts of repercussions, good and bad, and knowing how to conduct oneself in different situations can definitely work to your benefit.

The point of etiquette is to be considerate of others and make them comfortable by doing the right thing, a polite thing, something that makes people want to be around us. One of those nice things is the ability to work a dining table with grace and mindfulness of our company.

Bad table manners won’t get you another date

a) For last week’s blog, I looked at social and clothing changes since the the 1980s and took my influence from Love Connection, a dating show from that era. Even the big-haired people of that time recognized that some things never go out of style and manners are something that most people appreciate.

On the show, several people mentioned manners being important to them but unfortunately, the dates didn’t always come through: Del talked about her date with Donald and explained what it was like to go out to eat with him: “What was embarrassing was at dinner when Donald licked his knife… then he put his lobster shells on the bread tray, then he reached over to my plate and ate my food, so he enjoyed his and mine.”

Surprise! Donald didn’t get a second date.

b) A friend of mine had a date with a woman who was a friend of a friend and from this association, he assumed that she’d be alright. Things may have turned out differently if she hadn’t arrived at their dinner date drunk and then ate from his plate.

c) I started seeing a fellow several years ago who I liked but because of his ill-mannered ways, I fled and I did not look back. On our third and final date, we met for breakfast on a Saturday morning. I remember ordering eggs Florentine that came with some sort of potato on the side. He ordered salad and fried eggs over easy.

When the food came and we began eating, I had to politely look away because watching him shovel egg mixed with iceberg lettuce from a fork dripping with egg yolk into his mouth that he didn’t close while chewing was a disgusting sight. I was literally put off of my food. I laid my napkin over my plate and what was left of my breakfast.

“Are you going to eat that?” he asked. (See point a and b.)

(Aside) I should have seen this coming – the second time we saw each other, he came over to cook dinner with me. Like most good vegetarians, I keep dried beans, rice, grains, nuts and seeds in jars on a shelf in my kitchen. I had my back turned to him as we chatted and I cooked on the stove. I turned around at the very moment he was about to toss a handful of sunflower seeds he had poured out of one of the jars (without asking) into his mouth.

Good table manners might

On a first date breakfast with a different fellow, he caught some food in his throat and started coughing. I beckoned the waitress to bring some water for my friend who cleared the block with a sip of water and appreciated my gesture.

I got a second date and I felt classy.

Bad manners can cast a bad light on your person

I had a meeting with a client in a food court last month and behind him was a very large man who I couldn’t help notice as he stuffed mounds of processed food into his hole, then stuck a fat, oily index finger into his greasy mouth to dislodge the food from the inside of his cheeks.

What can I tell you? It was sickening to watch but I found myself unable to tear my eyes away, like I was looking at a car wreck. The state of this man, what he chose to feed himself with and how he administered it made me wonder what he could possibly do for a living and without meaning to, made me question his intelligence and his sense of self-worth.

Good manners make us glow

Polite people always leave a good impression; we tend to like people with good manners because they are considerate of us and that makes us feel good, and it seems to me that good etiquette breeds trust in other people.

THINK: How do you feel towards the person ahead of you who let the door slam in your face? The woman on the streetcar who offers her seat to an elderly lady?  The man who allowed you in front of him in the grocery store line up because you had fewer items?

Bad table etiquette can be employment suicide

I spoke to Catherine Bell, one of Canada’s premier etiquette specialists at Prime Impressions about this week’s blog, and she offered a tale of employment woe that is a direct result of poor table etiquette:

Poor dining skills are the result of either one’s upbringing (where proper dining etiquette was not a priority), or the rejection of what are perceived as empty rules of behaviour that no longer matter.

I know of a student who won an award for his marketing skills at college. At the awards banquet, someone from the marketing company who was giving this young man the award, later leaned over to the professor in charge of the class and said that they would not be hiring him. The professor was mystified and when he asked why, the marketing executive said, “It is because he brings his face down to the food, not the food up to his face.” The position entailed entertaining clients over meals.

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Exercising good manners is a choice. Some people shrug and scoff at etiquette and say “that’s just the way I am” or “if you don’t like me, you can fill in the blank“. Fair enough. But if you decide to reject the etiquette, think about what you’re doing and what you could be losing out on, not to mention the lasting impression you’re leaving on other people.

The way I see it, if a person decides not to exercise polite manners, that individual is waving off consideration for others which ultimately reflects how other people see the mannerless person. It also seems an indication of how that person regards himself, like the man in the food court. It’s about respect for others and for oneself – if we don’t respect ourselves, how can we expect anyone else to?

Remember, we only get one chance to make a first impression and if we blow it the first time, we may not get another go at it.

Of unconscious behaviour

21 Oct

I attended a small business forum this week and sat in on talks about social networking, growing a sustainable business, and cash flow. Event seminars were broken into rooms – a cash room, growth strategies, sales and marketing, and a social media space.

The first social media seminar of the day was packed but I managed to find a seat fairly near to the front that happened to be between two men. It wasn’t long after sitting down that I regretted choosing that empty chair. (Today I wonder why that particular seat was empty, seeing as though the room was full.)

The fellow to my right was nicely dressed in a grey suit and a red and white striped dress shirt with a red tie. His choice in wardrobe made him look nice and it made him look competent. This made me think that he was probably a nice person.

The man on my left took up more space and looked somewhat unkempt. He dressed casually and wore a thick leather coat and commented on my notebook. Friendly.

Once I got settled, I began to notice my surroundings and was absolutely overcome by a syrupy sweet cologne that was sickening to me. (If you read the Scent post from September, you’ll recall that I have rather a sensitive nose.) I nonchalantly turned my head to see what side it was coming from.

Both Lefty and Stripes wore cologne. A lot of cologne. More cologne than would ever be necessary.  Lefty smelled of Angel Men, the thickest, strongest, and sweetest men’s fragrance I have ever encountered.  My nostrils may have been in shock, but Stripes smelled to have the same smell about him, and the scarf I wore was literally pulled over my nose. This took my concentration away from the seminar.

It would have been alright if Lefty had sat still during the presentation, but instead of taking notes, Lefty photographed everything. Every time he moved his right arm to take a picture, the movement released another wave of cologne. Not only this, but his elbow came to my eye level which to me was a looming threat and this made me feel uncomfortable.

Further to my distraction was the space issue. Now, I’m a small person and I don’t take up much room, but if you’re beside me, this is no reason to open your knees 2.5′ apart. (I made a point of eyeballing the distance between Stripe’s legs as I sat there.) Lefty rested at a 2′ expanse which left me with a scant 1′ legroom. In his large coat, Lefty took up even more space around him, and cheeked his way over to the edge of my chair, reducing my  cramped space further.

Unfortunately for me and the young presenter, I missed most of his presentation because I was sandwiched between these two heavily-scented men with their knees wedged into mine, moving my focus from this probably fascinating talk to the stink in my nose and the threat of being whacked upside the head.

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A large part of exercising a good image is to behave well and treat other people with respect. It is also about being conscious of yourself. The fellas I sat between seemed completely oblivious to themselves and to everyone else. In the end, I had to leave the seminar because I couldn’t take the cologne any longer and I was just too uncomfortable.

What exactly did this unconsciously-driven behaviour of the men who flanked me do for them? Their choices or lack of mindfulness completely foiled any attempt to make a good impression. Bad behaviour is good at ruining your well-dressed image and your friendly demeanor.

Moral of today’s story: Be aware of yourself – acting without thinking can destroy an impeccable image.