Faux Pas Credits

Mike McGough
July 2019

Have you ever noticed that some people seem to enjoy very resilient social and interpersonal relationships? They make mistakes, they get into embarrassing situations, and they’re responsible for social blunders, but for some reason, their social and interpersonal relationships don’t seem to suffer. People don't get angry with them nearly as easily as they do others. In fact, they are often perceived as being unique individuals. They have little or no trouble making and maintaining relationships, and if there is a problem, they can clean it up quickly and effectively. They seem to have significant faux pas credits.

It is difficult to logically explain why people react to such folks as they do, because the reasons why they have extended social and interpersonal space for error are anything but logical. Instead, they are rooted in how such people interact with those with whom they share relationships. Let me explain why their interpersonal blunders and mistakes, known as a faux pas, are less damaging to relationships than are the faux pas of others.

The relationships you enjoy with different people are obviously different. This is good because it would be a boring world if all human relationships were exactly the same. Relationships start, develop, and maintained in any number of different ways. When they are neglected, hit snags, or simple drift apart in time or space, they often decline, grow weak, and simply end.

One of the most critical attributes of social and interpersonal relationships that are mutually supportive and enduring, is the faux pas credit line within those relationships. That credit line, simply defined, is the toleration, understanding, patience, care, concern, forgiveness, and in many cases the love those in the relationship are willing to extend to each other when mistakes, blunders, and faux pas occur. A simple line of credit may be extended by a wife who tolerates worms in the refrigerator, because her husband wants to go fishing after work. An example of a more serious credit line would be that which exists between an understanding employer and an employee who is struggling to overcome a substance abuse problem. In either case, there is credit; someone is granting space and showing toleration, where there is no logical reason to do so.

Everyone needs a little credit, and similarly everyone is undoubtedly called on to grant a little credit from time to time. If this is something everyone does, why do some folks seem to enjoy a better credit rating than others?

The folks who seem to enjoy resilient relationships and thus generally have fewer relationship problems, do so for some specific, although not necessarily logical reasons. For one thing they have established their credit, and when they need it, they can call on it. Okay, you say, how can I build up a little of this human credit. No guarantees, but here are some simple suggestions.

1. If you are going to ask for some toleration and space from time to time, be just as willing to give it. People who enjoy pleasant, supportive, and successful human relations are generally tolerant folks. They are willing to overlook, get past, forget and forgive. They don't wear their emotions on their sleeves, so they are less likely to be affected adversely by every interpersonal breeze that blows their way.

2. If mistakes or blunders were original, they would be copyrighted or patented. Those who enjoy extended social credit, understand and appreciate that most relationships will from time to time hit a snag. They accept blunders, mistakes, and other interpersonal faux pas as all but inevitable in interpersonal relationships. Understanding this simple truth, makes reacting to them much easier and far less personal in both nature and intent.

3. Relationships, regardless of how significant or casual they may be, need care and attention, if they are to endure and flourish. They are not made, forgotten, and done. To build up some faux pas credit, work at your relationships and be guided by your desire to make your relationships mutually beneficial. There is a great deal more credit in a shared relationship than is found in a lopsided relationship that favors one person over another.

4. Respect and trust are cornerstones of human relationships, and must be in place if any credit granting is to be done. When you assume ownership, strive to rectify mistakes, and trust in the strength and worth of your relationships, faux pas become forgivable incidents rather relationship-destroying attacks.

Some folks do indeed have extended lines of faux pas credit. If you too would like to enjoy some additional latitude in your relationships, consider the four points above. Most importantly remember that those who tend to offer credit, tend to find credit more easily when they need it.