Ask Ms. Corporate Manners (almost) anything

Ms. Corporate Manners was established in 2012 to provide consultation services and seminars for people and organizations who want to improve professional soft skills. 

Understanding of your own and other people’s hidden rules and fundamental etiquette and communication skills give people the confidence to deal with situations that may be out of their comfort zone, enhance their self-image, garner self-respect, gain a renewed appreciation of others, and minimize discourteous behavior. 

These seminars are geared toward people in transition. We all go through numerous transitions in our lives, some by choice and others that are unwillingly imposed upon us. Today we are experiencing a life-changing transition due to COVID-19.

Whatever the circumstances, sometimes soft skills help ease the pain, navigate life transitions and teach us to respond in new ways.  The more prepared people are before a planned (or unexpected) major transition, the more successful that transition will be. 

Eye contact is everything – especially during a pandemic

I miss being able to read other people’s body language, almost impossible to do in an age of social distancing and face masks.

How I ache for a hug, a kiss on the cheek, the dinnertime toast and close conversations — behaviors now on hold to keep us safe. We can’t shake hands anymore — a gesture of goodwill that has been around since 5th-century BC in Greece. A fist or an elbow bump is impossible to execute while staying six feet apart.

These days, except for the times I lean in for a hug out of habit, I greet others by clasping my hands together and placing them over my heart or putting them behind my backs and nodding.

However you choose to greet people during COVID-19, it’s important to know and understand the signals you send with your eyes and equally important to be aware of the eye signals of others. This is easy to do while wearing a face mask.

Before COVID, researchers from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center found that most people made eye contact with the lower part of the face – the nose, lips and cheeks – even though true feelings are expressed primarily with the upper part of the face, through the eyes, brows and forehead.

Direct eye contact should be made 40 to 60 percent of the time. Any less may make you appear shy, lacking in self-confidence or – horror of horrors – downright rude. Too much eye contact can be intimidating and make the listener feel put on the spot and under a microscope.

Focusing your eyes correctly helps you concentrate on the other person. When you are doing the talking, watch the other person’s eyes to make sure you are holding his or her attention.

If your eyes say, “I’m listening, and what you’re saying is important,” it helps you be a better listener and lets the other person know he or she is valued. When you don’t look people in the eye, they are less likely to look at you. Then THEY start thinking about something else, and when that happens, they stop concentrating on what you are saying.

Looking into the eyes of others is an important skill that will serve you well at all times in all areas of your life.

Etiquette during a pandemic: Proper wearing of gloves

When I was young, my mom would purchase new Easter dresses, sometimes even hats, accompanied by patent leather shoes and white gloves for my sisters and me. She admonished us to never wear jewelry over our gloves (tacky) and to always remove them before dinner was served. (Very Tacky.) Mostly obedient, my Mickey Mouse watch stayed home during Easter festivities.

This holiday, there’s no need for new Easter outfits, and hand sanitizer and protective latex gloves have become more valuable than golden eggs.

Medical professionals wear protective gloves to prevent the spread of germs to themselves or their patients. We mere mortals have begun wearing gloves to the grocery store, pushing the cart, squeezing tomatoes, scrolling on our phones, assuming our gloves are protecting us against coronavirus germs. With them on, we dig through our purse or wallet to find cash or credit cards. When we get into the car, gloves are discarded into the grocery basket or tossed in the parking lot. What poor manners!

Whatever we touch with our glove is transferred in the same way it would be if we touched it with our bare hands. Our gloves have become a type of second skin for us.

According to the Center for Disease Control, wearing gloves improperly may create a false sense of safety that offers us and others little or no protection. Ironically, gloves can make things worse.

Coronavirus comes in through our face – our eyes, our mouth, our nose. If you are more comfortable wearing gloves, think about what you touch when wearing them and carefully pull them on and off.

Here’s the PROPER way the CDC is asking us to pull off latex gloves:

  1. Grasp the outside of one glove at the wrist. Do not touch your bare skin.
  2. Peel the glove away from your body, pulling it inside out.
  3. Hold the glove you just removed in your gloved hand.
  4. Peel off the second glove by putting your fingers inside the glove at the top of your wrist.
  5. Turn the second glove inside out while pulling it away from your body, leaving the first glove inside the second.
  6. Dispose of the gloves safely. (Please don’t leave them in the grocery basket or parking lot.) Do not reuse contaminated gloves.
  7. Clean your hands immediately after removing gloves.

With our without gloves, if you pick up a product in the grocery store, please don’t put it back. Buy it, carry it home, and wash it before putting it away.

Be mindful about placing your groceries in the trunk of your car instead of on the seat. Sanitize your car door handle, trunk latch, keys, groceries and anything else you’ve touched. Make a quick beeline to the bathroom as soon as you get home to wash your hands FOR AT LEAST 20 SECONDS. Make sure to scrub those fingernails while you’re at it.

Be nice, be clean, and if you choose gloves, behave properly in them.

Sincerely,

Ms. Corporate Manners

COVID-19 etiquette: When is being kind… well… kind of stupid?

Fear around coronavirus can bring out the worst in people, but it also inspires AMAZING random acts of kindness.

Every day we witness innovation in how people thank frontline healthcare workers and help their neighbors in quarantine feel less alone.

Countless organizations and individuals are sewing or donating masks and other supplies. Grocery stores are setting up seniors-only hours. Local restaurants and liquor stores have turned into delivery services, and newspapers are publishing paid content for free.

A group of activists around town are setting alarms on their smart phones to remind them to join a prayer chain from 8:00 to 8:02 p.m. every evening, reminiscent of Winston Churchill’s Silent Minute of Prayer during World War II.

All amazing stuff. People are singing from windows and porches, applauding healthcare workers, creating signs of appreciation and hope, placing teddy bears in yards for children, sending handwritten notes and food deliveries to the elderly and discovering wonderful ways to lift others and themselves up.

But while sitting safely in our own homes with more spare time than we’ve ever experienced, reading endless news stories, scrolling social media posts, do some of us feel an accompanying sense of guilt? We tear up as we watch acts of kindness on television. With our mortality staring us down and an itty bitty virus lying in wait, we yearn to be our best selves.

But some acts of kindness can be dangerous. Here are some examples:

  • After college-aged kids arrive home from being exposed to who-knows-what, their mom offers to bring them over to visit.
  • A new business owner is frightened about loosing her investment. But when a friend offers to purchase something from her store, she generously offers to give it away instead.
  • A hard worker attempts to clean her client’s house. She has a new grandchild, and he’s in the high-risk category. He would have paid her regardless of whether she did the work or not but he doesn’t know how to say that.
  • Two young friends offer to purchase groceries for an elderly woman (me,) and they both have underlying health conditions.
  • Charities are overrun with people volunteering to come in and help feed, nurse, clean, do SOMETHING. But many of those volunteers are older and at risk themselves.

Good deeds restore our faith in humanity. Good etiquette means using common sense when you do so.

Be kind, but be smart too!

Ms. Corporate Manners

COVID-19: Do’s and don’ts during a pandemic

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2020.

From holding in that uncomfortable cough to avoiding hugs and handshakes, uncertain times lead to a range of uncertain behaviors. From a generational divide over social distancing to hoarding diapers and toilet paper, the world is upside down, and old rules of etiquette are in question.

It’s important to behave during a pandemic – remaining six feet apart, buying only what we need, thinking of others, calling home, staying put, banning outdoor shoes in the house, washing hands, washing hands, washing hands – and for goodness sake, not touching our faces or picking our noses.

Rules for shopping at the grocery store include buying only what we need without hoarding, refraining from touching products and that we have no intention of purchasing, and socially distancing in the aisles and at checkout lines.

And there’s the question of whether wearing gloves is good for your own protection but possibly bad for everyone else.

Some of us are lucky enough to be working from home. Does job insecurity bring out a competitive streak among coworkers? How do we prove our worth to bosses who can’t see us working? Do Zoom or Office Teams show who works the hardest and who is the smartest, or just showcase who is the most vocal? Can we set boundaries between work and home life while simultaneously home-schooling our children? 

While a pandemic renders the handshake obsolete, washing our hands before dinner and not touching our faces during meals were rules that were included in Emily Post’s first book in 1922.

The cornerstone of etiquette also remains the same. It’s integrity. Speaking your truth with kindness and respect will never go out of style.

Stay safe and kind,
Ms. Not-So-Corporate Manners 

Where do I put my name tag and lapel pin?

conference-organizers-suck-at-name-tags

Dear Ms. Corporate Manners,
I wear a lapel pin and then put a name tag on at networking events. I never know which side to wear them. Any advice?
Signed,
Don’t Have a Clue

Ms.Manners

Dear Clueless,
Place your name tag above the pocket on the right side of your shirt, blouse or blazer. That way people can make direct eye contact with you and your name will be in their direct line of sight when you shake hands. The theory is the eye travels up the right arm and focuses on the name tag attached to the right shoulder. Wear your lapel pin on the left side of your jacket. According to the United States Flag Code, an American flag pin represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, it is worn near the heart. Happy mingling!
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

Be tweet

LogoDear readers,
What if your company is hosting a corporate event in one of your nicest conference rooms? All your customers are there and even people who heard about it and are there for liquor or free food. Everyone wants to network. Instead of going around the room having great conversations to build your business, you stand in a corner, avoid looking anyone in the eye, ignore everyone’s presence, and just start talking to yourself – about yourself.

Who would act like that in real life? Don’t be that way with social media either. Be tweet, remember basic etiquette. Social media is not about talking about yourself all the time. It’s about connecting with potential and real customers as well as other friends. And, like in real life, you need to listen twice as much as you talk. As my mother used to say, that’s why we are born with two ears but only one mouth!

Happy tweets,
Ms. Corporate Manners

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2018.

Seven secrets for a great handshake

Ms.MannersDear Ms Corporate Manners,
Is it proper for a woman to have a terribly strong handshake? I recently met someone and we shook hands. Boy, did I regret that as soon as it happened. She squeezed my hand so hard that it still hurt even after she left. A few other women in my area met her as well and experienced the same thing. Should I have addressed my concern with the “new friend” or just let it go?
Thanks,
Ouch! Nice to meet you

Dear Ouch,
Some women have weak handshakes, and maybe she accidentally over-compensated, so I would “let it go.” I teach an entire class on how to shake hands because people judge us by our handshakes, and we unconsciously judge others by their handshakes.

Here are seven things to remember when you shake hands:

  1. The person who extends a hand first has the advantage of taking the initiative and establishing control.
  2.  Since you need to leave your right hand free for the shake, in a social situation, it’s a good idea to hold your beverage in your left hand to avoid shaking with a cold right hand.
  3. Stand up straight, smile, and make friendly, direct eye contact.
  4.  Extend your hand with the thumb up and fingers out. Meet the person’s grip web-to-web.
  5. Shake from the elbow, not the wrist or shoulder.
  6. Shake hands crisply, firmly, with two smooth pumps before releasing the hand.
  7. Remember to make sure every meeting, business or social, begins and ends with a handshake.

Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2018.

The “poop” on texting on the toilet

Ms.MannersDear Ms. Corp. Manners,
It seems that every time I go into the bathroom now, someone in the other stall is texting on a cell phone (or on occasion TALKING!) I find this disturbing and unsanitary, to say the least. Aren’t bathrooms considered part of the workplace environment where cell phones are not allowed?
Signed,
Potty in Peace 

Dear Potty,
A recent study says that 75 percent of Americans admit to using their smartphones while on the toilet. In a survey of of 1,000 people, the marketing agency 11mark found toilet texting, shopping or surfing the Web is particularly popular among 28 to 35-years-old, with a reported 91 percent of that age group admitting to the habit. Among those 65 and older, however, only 47 percent admitted to using their mobile devices on the toilet.

Yes, toilet texters are incredibly annoying. (Can you imagine being on the other end of THOSE calls?) But we can’t control other people’s behavior, only our own. Mind your own (toilet) manners. Think kind thoughts as you go about your own (toilet) business. And remember, earplugs cover a multitude of sins.
Sincerely,
Ms. Corporate Manners

© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2018.

 

Do political discussions give you “foot-in-mouth disease?”

Ms.MannersI am both fascinated and appalled by today’s politics. Like watching a train wreck, I am glued to news shows that upset me and political subjects I’ve formerly considered taboo. “Never discuss politics or religion” is great advice, but with today’s upcoming election, that suggestion has gone by the wayside. Talk politics, but keep it polite.

You do want to avoid expressing personal opinions on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. According to a recent Intel Mobile Etiquette study on mobile etiquette and digital sharing, 90 percent of U.S. adults think others share too much information online and 39 percent say they choose not to associate with people with whom they disagree on political opinions.

A polite political discussion is in a respectful, two-way conversation. Let the other person state his or her opinion without interrupting. Ask questions, listen to learn and understand, and you may find yourself actually enjoying another perspective. If the conversation starts to get heated, don’t resort to name calling or shaming. Maintain control by keeping your own voice low and your tone nonthreatening. If all else fails, smile and say, “Well, I enjoy your perspective, but we obviously don’t agree and are not going to change each others’ minds, so let’s change the subject instead.” 

Sincerely,
Ms. Politically Incorrect Corporate Manners

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