Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Etiquette behind Sunglasses


By Brad and Debra Schepp

Sometimes it seems our culture has evolved to the point where nearly anything goes. Wearing jeans and a t-shirt to church? Yes, that’s something we’ve all seen. Eating in an upscale restaurant when the party at the next table arrives in shorts and flip-flops? That’s also a universal American experience. Baseball cap still on in the elevator? Yep, that one is pretty common, too. But when and where do you think it’s inappropriate to keep your sunglasses solidly covering your eyes? Can you get away with wearing them to a funeral? How do you feel when the person you’re talking to neglects to let you see behind their shades?

If it’s true that the eyes are the windows to the soul, then wearing sunglasses allows you to pull down the shades. Certainly, there are times when this is a real blessing. One of those times can be when you know you are not feeling quite up to interacting with fellow humans. On the morning after a poor night’s sleep, not only will your sunglasses protect your squinting eyes from the assault of the sun’s rays, but admit it, hiding those nasty looking bags is almost equally important. The same is true for the days you still have to run your life in spite of a bad headache. You’ll gain both comfort and peace from not letting the light and the whole world into your space.
But, let’s share an idea here among those of us who love shades; wearing sunglasses creates a barrier between you and the world every time you put them on. Because you know that by putting them on you are creating that barrier, it’s important to consider the effects the boundary may have beyond your own immediate needs. Certainly, if you don’t feel well, anyone would likely excuse your sunglasses, but wearing them inside may just send a message you hadn’t intended to send.

For example, any time you are entering into an interaction where trust and connection between humans matters, you need to let the other guy see your eyes. That’s true of the big things, like making settlement on your house or negotiating for a new car, but it also applies to the basic and routine interactions. As mundane a task as cashing a check or making a purchase is an opportunity to look your fellow human in the eye. Doing so implies that you are trustworthy, and you value the effort the other person is making to help you conduct your transaction. So, if you enter as a customer into a customer-service transaction, pop up those shades and look the other guy in the eye.

Perhaps the most poignant use of sunglasses comes when you see the mourners at a funeral hiding their tired and sore eyes from the world. No one finds these grieving relatives guilty of rude behavior when they use their shades to create a little distance for themselves while they suffer and cope with their loss. Philip Jenks, Media Relations Specialist for the National Council of Churches USA noted that, although his own mother had a strong opinion about wearing sunglasses at funerals, he didn’t believe this had yet become an issue for his organization, or the 35 member organizations that make up his council. Likewise, the website noted that the only rules against wearing sunglasses at a military funeral were reserved for those in uniform. “To our knowledge,” a spokesperson said, “and our understanding of military regulations, the only authorized use of sunglasses while in uniform is if they are in fact, prescription and are issued by the medical department.” As for the family, the spokesperson said that there are no rules governing civilians or military personal who are not currently in uniform or on active duty.

Sometimes wearing sunglasses actually makes you seem more polite. For example, while relaxing at the beach or the lake, you are much less likely to be caught blatantly engaged in people watching, if you hide behind your shades. This is especially important if you’re trying to get away with your little hobby while still making it seem that you are paying complete and undivided attention to your spouse! Just remember, you may not quite get away with it, depending on how well your partner knows you. We’ve all seen the images of celebrities hiding behind big shades, either trying to dart around the paparazzi or sneak in an errand incognito. It doesn’t work for them. They just get their pictures captured including the sunglasses. Don’t be surprised if it doesn’t entirely work for you either. Once your spouse catches you checking out the other sun worshippers, you may still want to keep those sunglasses on to soften the embarrassment of receiving a good tongue lashing on a public beach!

Debra and Brad Schepp ( are the authors of 19 books, including How to Make Money with YouTube. They both often wear sunglasses, however, they took them off when they wrote this article.

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