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.
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?
Don’t Have a Clue
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!
Ms. Corporate Manners
Dear 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?
Ouch! Nice to meet you
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:
- The person who extends a hand first has the advantage of taking the initiative and establishing control.
- 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.
- Stand up straight, smile, and make friendly, direct eye contact.
- Extend your hand with the thumb up and fingers out. Meet the person’s grip web-to-web.
- Shake from the elbow, not the wrist or shoulder.
- Shake hands crisply, firmly, with two smooth pumps before releasing the hand.
- Remember to make sure every meeting, business or social, begins and ends with a handshake.
Ms. Corporate Manners
© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2018.
Dear 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?
Potty in Peace
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.
Ms. Corporate Manners
© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2018.
I 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.”
Ms. Politically Incorrect Corporate Manners
Good things are rarely accomplished alone. Tonight Barrie Wurzburg kicked off the 2016 Modern Day Woman’s Conference at Joseph this evening. The conference was orchestrated by the Women’s Foundation of Memphis and will continue tomorrow at Baptist Memphis Education Center, Garrett Auditorium. Barrie is a third-generation entrepreneur of a family-owned business that sells designer shoes, handbags and jewelry, and just one of the many women from diverse professional sectors that will share their wisdom on topics ranging from women’s health and wellness to career development and leadership. More importantly, other women like Barrie will share real-world experience with younger women, and hopefully, mentor-mentoee relationships will form. This is just one of many great things going on in Memphis.
True confession. My voice carries, and I often become so caught up in work, I forget to tone it down. I’m just hoping you aren’t MY co-worker! But that won’t stop me from offering advice anyway.
There’s nothing wrong with reminding someone like me to be quiet or retreating to the conference room for a private meeting or conversation. You’ll be less frustrated and find it easier to concentrate.
Speaking of concentrating, the best employees get into a flow at work, becoming productive and engaged. Challenge yourself to tune out distractions and have a razor focus on your work.
Nix the speakerphone and don’t forget, because there isn’t a door to close, to ask if it’s a convenient time before you walk into someone’s cubicle unannounced or talk over the wall. Also, in an open office, it’s easy to eavesdrop unintentionally on conversations, but if you learn to tune them out, you’ll be a more popular co-worker.
Ms. Corporate (and somewhat loud) Manners
We Memphians are known for our hospitality. If you happen to meet someone from the Royal Family, please respect his or her privacy so our royal guests can relax and enjoy the South. Just be relaxed and comfortable – not like you’re putting on airs or trying to imitate your guests. Be yourself – with a few minor changes.
Greeting a member of the Royal Family:
When meeting anyone from the Royal Family, Americans aren’t expected to curtsy or bow, but a slight nod is a nice sign of respect. Do not initiate a handshake until the member of the Royal Family has extended his or her hand. If/when that happens, many people become excited and shake too hard. Be gentle.
According to Robert Hickey, deputy director of The Protocol School of Washington, when speaking to a male member of the Royal Family, refer to him as “Your Royal Highness” on first reference and “sir” on all following references. When addressing a female member of the Royal Family, on first reference, refer to her as “Your Royal Highness” and as “Ma’am” on all following references. Hickey says it’s considered rude to refer to Prince Charles, Prince Philip, or Princess Anne; instead, you should opt for The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Edinburgh, and The Princess Royal. “His Royal Highness” or “Her Royal Highness” may also be used, though be sure to qualify whom exactly you are referring to.
In the South, we are “huggers.” In Royal Protocol, do not touch or invade upon the family member’s space without a clear invitation. As mentioned, no gripping or pumping handshakes. Do not hug, kiss on the cheek or touch the shoulder. Even in photographs, keep a little space between and your hands to your sides unless the Royals indicate otherwise. In England, you would never turn your back on the Queen or even take her elbow to direct her.
Let the member of the royal family start the conversation. Don’t try to change the subject, and ask only the politest of questions. For instance, you may ask, “How are you enjoying Memphis?” not “How is the baby doing?”
Each member of the royal family travels with his or her own “household,” so If you are unsure about something, a member of the royal household is of great help and will answer any questions. Be thoughtful and considerate when approaching one of the royal households: try to have your questions ready in advance.
© Penny Aviotti and Ms.Corporate Manners 2003 – 2014.