Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Knowledge is Power, Character is More

In his commencement address to Suffolk University, journalist Ted Koppel challenged the audience to consider the aspect of common courtesy.

“I realize how quaint, even archaic it must seem to some of you to place emphasis on good manners and civility in times as difficult and troubled as our own. Nor do I mean to offer myself up as a positive example. … But the absence of good manners and civility in our daily communion with one another is evidence of a great deal that is wrong with our society. We are undergoing something of a national nervous breakdown. We seek to intimidate rather than communicate.”

“The law is what we turn to when civility breaks down. When we ignore good taste, when we start being rude to one another, when we keep stretching the envelope of acceptable behavior, then ultimately we are obliged to turn to litigation, to the hired enforcers of the law to resolve our differences. …”

“As general civility diminishes in our culture, we become more dependent on the law. … We need a simpler code, something that will get us through the normal days and nights of our existence. We need good manners.”

“It seems archaic when a member of Congress asks whether the gentle lady from Maryland will yield the floor, and yet it is more than a quaint custom. It is a courtesy, which is in itself an acknowledgment of legitimacy. We should treat one another with courtesy and respect, regardless of race or gender, creed or economic standing, not because the law or even the self-appointed enforcers of political correctness demand it, but because it is illogical and even self-destructive to do otherwise.”

“Unless and until we perceive civility to be in our common interest, our national pendulum will swing wildly between anarchy and authoritarianism. … I know we can't dispense with our intricate fabric of laws. But think how many of those laws would become irrelevant if we merely treated one another with common courtesy. What I find so appealing about that notion, and the reason that I offer it to you on this important occasion in your lives, is that it lies within the capacity of each of one us to implement it.” (bold emphasis added)

On the same day I read Mr. Koppel’s speech I received a Twitter message directing me to a story on Chris Brogan’s blog. I will let you read the story for its richness. I’ll only say relationships matter.

Title Credit: Credo of Royal Dutch Navy Academy

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Are You Too Connected?

Jennifer Elliott, a graduate assistant at the University of Virginia, shows us what an “always-on” connected world of cell phone users looks like without the element of civility.

Parts of her story will more than likely resonate with you.

To view the video go to Ms. Elliott's website and click on the image located under the words "Digital Story." Then share with us how you balance the immediacy of the cell phone ring with the here-and-now moment.

UPDATE Two days after publishing this post White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs seized a reporter's cell phone after it wouldn't stop ringing during a briefing. Watch the humorous yet poignant video.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

The Best Business Etiquette Tip

A business school student recently asked for my opinion on the single best business etiquette tip. I knew my answer immediately yet took a short pause and then gave my reply.

If I were to choose the single best business etiquette tip it would be to always do your best to save a person’s face - client or colleague. It comes from the premise to show benevolent regard for others.

My friend Dr. P.M. Forni, a professor and co-founder of the Johns Hopkins Civility Project once said, "To a large extent the quality of our lives depend on the quality of our relationships…the quality of our relationships depend on the quality of our relational skills."

In business when many are focused on achieving, I suggest to take the time to slow down and be kind. Trusted relationships are usually built on positive encounters.

What is your best business etiquette tip?

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Business Etiquette: Managers Writing Thank You Notes

Business Week recently spoke with Chester Elton, co-author of the book Carrot Principle about the power of recognition. One of my favorite comments from Mr. Elton was, “Great managers make the time to write thank you notes.” Wow!

After hearing Mr. Elton’s comment I wondered if managers actually wrote thank you notes. Then I came across an article in the New York Times that answered my question.

In an interview with Richard Anderson, chief executive of Delta Air Lines, Mr Anderson said, “You’ve got to be thankful to the people who get the work done, and you’ve got to be thankful to your customers. So, I find myself, more and more, writing hand-written notes to people. I must write a half a dozen a day.”

So if you are looking to thank a person for a thoughtful act or courtesy, take out the paper and pen write a short note. The receiver will more than likely appreciate the kind words.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

First Impressions: Three Tips To Enhance the Sound of Your Voice

When I consult with people on creating a positive first impression I always include a section on voice communication. Why? Because if the quality of your voice is not consistent with your visual impression, most people will tend to believe the sound of your voice over your visual impression.
“The moment you open your mouth you either confirm or deny an initial impression. If you sound strong and confident, chances are you will be thought of that way.” – Janet G. Elsea, Ph.D.
As webinars and video become more popular forms of communication in business, below are three tips to enhance your voice impression.

  1. Monitor the Tone of your Voice –Use a recorder to listen to the sound of your voice. Does it have a high pitch? Does it sound flat? A high-pitch or melody sounding voice may be viewed as less credible or immature. A flat voice, or one that does not have a pitch, will likely come across as monotonous. Also take note of your pitch in declarative sentences. A sentence ending with an upward inflection usually forms a judgment of tentativeness or powerlessness.

  2. Sharpen the Articulation of Words – Pay attention to how individual sounds in your words are vocalized. For example of “yea” vs. “yes.” Avoid substituting one sound for another. Also avoid leaving a sound out of a word, for example “probbly” instead of “probably.” Lastly avoid adding syllables to words, for instance “ster-ong” instead of “strong.”

  3. Time How Fast you Talk – The average rate of speech is 130 to 160 words per minute. Use a stop watch to estimate your rate of speech. Do you talk too fast? Too slow? If words are running together, the rate of speech may be too fast. If the rate of speech is the same throughout the presentation, add pauses to stress important points. Varying the rate of speech (as appropriate) is a great way to add interest and variety.
What are your tips for voice communication? Leave a comment below telling us about them.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Twitter Etiquette Tips for Job Seekers

Twitter is a wealth of information. Today, Pete Cashmore, CEO of Mashable, (also known as @mashable on Twitter) sent a tweet with a link to a blog post containing 50 Terrific Twitter Tips for Job Seekers.

I am sharing the blog post as the content is valuable and relevant for any person looking for a job on Twitter. The tips are divided into five categories: Branding, Networking, Etiquette, Tools, and People to Follow. Of course my eyes went directly to the etiquette section. I agree with all the etiquette tips and will add one additional etiquette suggestion.

Stay away from criticizing an organization or person(s) in tweets. I see this on occasion and sometimes the person gets the positive result they desire. On the flip side, it also leaves a lasting impression on your potential communication skills in an organization.

So, enjoy the 50 Terrific Twitter Tips for Job Seekers and good luck job hunting!

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Gem Lies Beneath Hidden Assumptions

I usually don’t watch American Idol until the final few contestants remain or unless my sister mentions a singer in our almost daily telephone conversations. So when I saw the headline on CNN, Singer Wows ‘Idol’ Judge Cowell, I thought I better view the video to keep up with the latest ‘Idol’ news.

I won’t spoil the sensation that unfolds in the video. I’ll only say that when we set aside our assumptions and acknowledge others, we can find hidden gems.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Protocol Origin for "No Touching" the Queen

Time in partnership with CNN recently answered the question: So where does the rule about not touching the Queen come from?
The sovereigns of England and France at some point in their nations' long histories claimed a divine right to rule, a right often amplified by titles bestowed by the Pope in Rome. (The Queen, in fact, still has the title Defender of the Faith, an honor given to Henry VIII before he broke with the Catholic Church and established the Church of England.) That touch of holiness once gave the occupant of the throne the supposed ability to cure certain diseases — most famously, scrofula, a terrible skin ailment that was called "the king's evil." Thus, the miraculous contact had to be conserved. And so, whether a touch or a nod or a gaze, royal favor, like that of God, is not a subject's on demand; it is dispensed by kingly prerogative.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Royal Etiquette for Her Majesty

As most of you know I find protocol to be fascinating. Protocol captures the rich traditions and customs of a country for meeting diplomats and heads of state.

Today as President and Mrs. Obama met Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, abcNews posted an article on Royal Etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts When Meeting Her Majesty. Below are a few of the protocols mentioned in the article relayed by Rachel Kelly, a public relations executive at VisitBritain, the United Kingdom’s official tourism office.
  • Wait for the queen to extend her hand first for a handshake. Then gently and briefly shake hands. There is a “no-touch” rule so, there are no hugs, no kiss on the cheek, or no touching on the shoulder.

  • There will be no need for President and Mrs. Obama to bow or curtsy in the presence of the queen. That’s because she’s not the head of state of America. For British citizens though, men commonly bow their head and women do a small curtsy when meeting the queen. In today’s meeting, President Obama did opt for a slight bow from the waist when meeting the queen.

  • When addressing the queen refer to her as “Your Majesty” on first reference and then “ma’am” subsequently. Do not use “Her Royal Highness” as this title is reserved for a royal princess.

  • During tea with the queen, raise only the teacup to drink, not the cup and saucer, and return the cup to the saucer after each sip. Also pace yourself when eating the small snacks served with tea as guests stop eating after the queen takes her last bite.

  • Lastly, avoid turning one’s back on the queen. Instead face her directly and turn your back to the cameras. Face the media when it is time to take pictures.

Photo Credit: AP/John Stillwell

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Vintage Butter Pat Meets Modern Etiquette

Yesterday I started gathering inspiration for my Easter tablescape by shopping several thrift stores. I was looking to find a sheer metallic or sequin fabric to drape over a solid, pastel green cotton tablecloth. Well, I didn’t find my fabric but I found another treasure.

I was in the housewares section looking at the glassware when I noticed a small - maybe three inches wide by two inches tall - round glass dish with a matching dome lid that fit perfectly on this miniature plate. It reminded me of the cut-glass covered butter dish from the Depression era but much smaller. I began to wonder, could these be individual butter dishes? Then I saw not one, but two, three, four, five, six of them! The color would match perfectly with my grandmother’s china, so I couldn’t resist. I bought all of them!

Being excited with my new found treasure, I decided to search the Internet for more information. Sure enough, they are individual butter dishes. They are vintage replicas of Depression glass fashioned into miniature butter dishes

So what is the etiquette for handling the individual butter dish? After bread is served on your main plate (note: there won’t be a bread-and-butter plate in this place setting) simply remove and hold the dome from the butter dish. With your other hand, use your knife to secure a butter pat and place it on either side of your main plate. Then, place the dome back on the butter dish.

As the saying goes, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

In Tough Times, Should the Business Lunch Be Cut?

“It would be penny wise and pound foolish” to trim back on business lunches, said Laura Heimert, vice-president and editorial director of Basic Books. “You can’t put a price on the books and the ideas that emerge from the lunch, either at that moment or in the future.”

In a time when companies are looking to cut costs, The National recently wrote a story on the value of the publisher’s lunch.

Lunches function as a relaxing, social way for editors and agents to learn enough about each other to potentially do business in the future. … Many in the New York publishing business feel that lunches are integral to helping agents and editors build relationships. Relationships which are important because, as editors love to point out, selling books is not like selling widgets. ... ‘The idea of the lunch is that you’re looking for the place where your passions overlap,' said literary agent Larry Weissman.
Mel Flashman, a literary agent at Trident Media Group summed up his recent experience at a business lunch. “Yesterday I had a first lunch with a relatively young editor at Viking. We talked about mutual friends and Sonic Youth. We rarely talked about books but I now have a sense of the books that I would send him.”

But, as The National points out, there is a skill to make the lunch effective.

Editors use the phrase ‘he does a good lunch’ to refer to people who are pleasant to talk to, can transition smoothly from subject to subject and can insert business tactfully into the conversation. ... Skilled lunchers make the lunches seem natural.
Altogether, it appears strong relational skills are the key to saving the business lunch in the New York publishing world. What about your industry? Do you do a good lunch?

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Monday, March 16, 2009

First Impressions and Super Powers

Seth Godin recently wrote a blog post, “What’s your Super Power?” Now you may be thinking, what does etiquette and super powers have in common? Well, let me first say that Seth’s titles are like a mystery that can only be solved by reading the story, or in this case, the blog post.

So, to not disappoint the story for you, I leave you with a bit of advice; Weave your super power into your next chance encounter.

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Monday, March 9, 2009

Tackling Tipping for Take-Out

Picture this scenario: After a long day at the office you decide to stop at one of your favorite restaurants and instead of dining in the restaurant, you decide to order from the take-out menu. Do you leave a tip when the cashier hands you the credit card receipt for your signature or do you just pay for the food?

Before answering this question, let me first say there is a lot of debate on this subject. Some say the cashier is earning minimum wage so no tip is necessary. Others say service is still involved in gathering and packaging the order so a small tip of a dollar or two is appropriate. Still others are much stronger in their opinion and say not leaving a tip is simply rude.

My viewpoint is, if a person provides a service for me that makes my day easier, I gladly leave a tip. What is your opinion?

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Twitter Etiquette in the Presence of the President

This week there has been a flutter of discussion on Twitter, blogs, and news shows about the etiquette of twittering while in the President’s presence. For those of you new to the story, this week during President Obama’s address to the nation some members of Congress sent Twitter messages while the President delivered his speech. For one Representative, it was a sum total of 19 tweets.

So, with the rapidly expanding phenomenon of Twitter’s micro-blogging, what is the etiquette of twittering when the President is talking in front of you?

My opinion is to give the President respectful attention and save the twittering for after the speech.

Certainly the technology is tantalizing and it’s fun to be the first to break the news. I use Twitter too. On the flip side, it takes time to look at others, to be aware of them, to acknowledge them, to show regard for them. In this case, I’ll take altruism over self-interest.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Please Do Eat the Daisy recently published a Periodic Table of Cupcakes featuring 46 creatively decorated cupcakes. When first looking at them I thought they were too pretty to eat. But then, alas, I succumbed to the realization that if one of the cupcakes was placed before me I would eat it with delight!

Let’s look at a few of the cupcakes and discover how we will partake in these tasty delights.

The Peach Melba looks oh so scrumptious topped with peach slices and whipped cream drizzled with raspberry sauce. This one definitely needs a fork to capture each savory bite. To add an extra touch to display the Peach Melba work of art, I suggest serving the cupcake without the cupcake liner and swirl more raspberry sauce on the plate. Yes, lovely.

The Rose Petal cupcake is the true eat-with-your-hands cupcake. And did you know those are real rose petals for the decoration? Some flowers are edible so go ahead and take a taste if you choose.

Now the Daisies and Bees cupcake shows a baker’s love of the craft. Just look at the gumdrop flowers and the M&M bees. Do you dare eat the daisy? Certainly you can! Simply remove the sweets from the cupcake with your fingers and either take a candy bite now or after the delight of the luscious cupcake. Have fun and enjoy!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Untangling the Plight of Business Writing

I recently found a blog that offers valuable business writing tips from Mary Cullen, President of Instructional Solutions. Her Business Writing Info blog caught my attention because the posts reflect the perplexing questions that professional faces on a daily basis. Below are a few links to her blog posts that address writing e-mails, business writing etiquette, and some very helpful tips for writing a thank you letter after a job interview. Enjoy!

Business E-mail Correspondence
Business Letter and Business Email Salutations
Use Time Sensitive Salutations Carefully
Business Email Salutations to a Group

Hmm, What Should I Do?
Correcting an Incorrect Email
Blackberry Device: Is Plural Blackberrys or Blackberries?

Post Interview Thank You Letter
Thanks and No Thanks: A Business Thank You Letter to Win or Lose the Job

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Etiquette Answers Twitter Style

In a prior post I mentioned using Twitter to answer your etiquette questions. Below is a snapshot of some of the questions I answered last week, of course in 140 characters or less. Keep them coming!
  1. Is it proper etiquette to look away when someone is typing a password on their computer/phone/etc? There is always that awkward moment.
    I look away when someone is typing a password. I give the other person some privacy and it removes the awkward feeling for both of us.

  2. If your friend's parents are taking you out to dinner and they and your friend are vegetarians, can you order meat?
    If others might be offended with meat at the table ask them to recommend a dish for you to order.

  3. If someone forgets an attachment, do you reply right away or give them 10 minutes to realize their mistake.
    I wait a few minutes and usually a 2nd email comes with the attachment. My rule of thumb is to always try to save face.

  4. Can you recommend a book on etiquette and protocol to keep in mind when dealing with prominent officials and dignitaries?
    Protocol,The Complete Handbook of Diplomatic, Official and Social Usage

  5. Can I correct a person if they say (or type) my name wrong?
    It's okay to politely correct a person if they say your name wrong. "I thought you might like to know my name is Christina not Christine."

  6. Is politeness, etiquette at work, a part of business ethics?
    Etiquette and ethics share the same linguistic roots. Without both or bond they share, there is no community at all.

  7. I just saw a seeing eye dog walking through the lobby. Can I pet the dog?
    Ask the person to pet the seeing eye dog first. See etiquette article: Guide Dog Manners Matter

  8. Is it okay to ask a stranger at Starbucks to use his/her laptop to check-in for a flight the next day?
    I would pass on asking a stranger at Starbucks to borrow their laptop. Similar to a cell phone, it's personal attire.

  9. I'm printing a new business card. Is it necessary to put all of my social sites on it?
    I use my business card to list preferred and best methods for clients to contact me.
What etiquette questions do you have? Send your etiquette questions to me on Twitter or by e-mail.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Who Pays the Power Lunch Check During a Recession

Today The New York Times published an article on the dilemmas of who pays the tab for business meals during a recession. With money being tighter for all parties, new ideas are emerging.

Some are scaling back by opting for meetings at diners verses the upscale restaurant. A sandwich and beverage replaces the meat-and-potatoes lunch. Others are having breakfast meetings verses lunch meetings which can reduce the expense by up to 40 percent. And still others like the chief communications officer at Verizon Communications forgoes the meal and suggests a cup of coffee when meeting with reporters.

Whichever venue fits your financial taste, remember the person who does the inviting pays for the business meal. And if you want to avoid the discussion altogether on “who pays the bill,” don’t let the check come to the table. Simply notify the waiter (before the guest arrives) that you will excuse yourself from the table - near the end of the meal - and pay the bill.

What are your business meal ideas?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Doggie Bag, An Interruption, A Slice of Garlic Bread

What does a doggie bag, an interruption, and a slice of garlic bread have in common? Give up? They are the subject of three etiquette questions I have received lately.

After a business lunch meeting, is it okay to ask for a doggie bag?
My recommendation in this scenario is to pass on the doggie bag. The reason being, the focus of the lunch meeting is on business and the food is really secondary. Instead of a take-out container, consider ordering a smaller portion of food via the a la carte menu. Or possibly order several appetizers for everyone to share.

What do I say when I need to step away from the table?
“Excuse me” is all that needs to be said. You don’t need to tell the people at the table where you are going. After saying excuse me, place your napkin on the chair and push the chair under the table. When you return to the table, simply join the conversation.

If garlic bread is served by the slice, can I take bite from the slice?
Well, that’s tempting…My suggestion is to tear (and eat) one bite-size piece at a time from the garlic bread just like a bread roll. Otherwise teeth marks may show on the bread which may look a bit tacky.

If you’re looking for more etiquette tips, etiquette trivia, and interesting etiquette news, follow me on Twitter at Send me an etiquette question and the answer may appear on Twitter or this blog!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's Back To Basics for 2009

This week I have been following the blog posts by Rob Shore as he shares his discussions with key leaders on the outlook for 2009. What I find most compelling in his observations and subsequent suggestions is, the underlying theme of building respectful relationships, being aware of people’s needs, and responding to people with an ethical character. All of which comprise the essence of etiquette.

As an employer or employee, Shore’s three business tips are a great way to approach 2009.
  1. Build Transparent Relationships: Be honest and open in all your communications. Stay away from being vague or acting as though you are trying to hide something. Keep in mind, people do business with people they respect and trust.

  2. Increase Responsiveness: Respond to people’s inquiries in a timely manner. With uncertainty and anxiety probably higher than in the past, give people answers quickly so they know the issue or concern or problem is complete and can move on to the next task.

  3. Listen: People want to be acknowledged; they want to know they are being heard. Resist the temptation to interrupt and focus on the message and messenger.