Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What if you forget someone's name?

Why is April McLean wearing a birthday cake on her head? Keep reading…

It’s happened to you before, hasn’t it? You recognize the face, move to say hello, and…the person’s name just falls right out of your head. Forgetting an acquaintance’s name can be embarrassing, but we’ve all done it—and sometimes we manage to have a pleasant interaction without having to admit it (only later to remember, “Oh yes, THAT’S her name…”).

But what if you’re about to introduce someone and you forget someone’s name? The horror!

You might think you can get away with smiling brightly at Mystery Name and glossing over her name entirely: “Oh, hello! I wanted you to meet my friend, John Smith.” (And then you fervently hope that Mystery Name will solve the problem by introducing herself.)

And truthfully, maybe you can get away with it—it’s unlikely either friend would call you out on your foggy memory, after all. But in order to introduce someone properly, you should know and say aloud both names.

If you forget someone’s name, make eye contact, smile, and say, “Please tell me your name.” Making eye contact and smiling is of utmost importance: the key to surviving this awkward situation is to focus on the person, not yourself and your faulty memory. Don’t dwell on your forgetfulness, but immediately launch into the introduction: “Ms. Jane Smith, I would like to introduce to you Mr. John Smith.”

Another birthday hat—this time, on the head of one of Debra Lassiter's students…

Yes, you say, “I would like to introduce to you Ms. Jane Smith.” If you have trouble saying “to you” (not “you to”), look at the photos above, and remember that you sing, “Happy birthday to you.” This is an effective memory aid for all ages. April McLean (in the top photo) uses the hat to train adults who become certified children’s etiquette consultants through our company, The Etiquette & Leadership Institute. Debra Lassiter (standing next to students in the second photo) uses the same trick when teaching young people in our etiquette school, Perfectly Polished .

Now: what if you are the one whose name has been forgotten? Try to catch that natural pause in the conversation and simply say, “Hello, my name is Jane Smith. I’m so glad to see you again, John.”

The most important thing to remember is to focus on the introduction and the person to whom you are speaking. Saying, “I forgot your name,” or “I’m sorry,” puts the focus on you, not the person on which it belongs, and merely prolongs the embarrassment.

Don’t be too hard on yourself—even the most socially savvy person has forgotten someone’s name before!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

An unexpected salute at the airport

Every once in a while, something totally random happens to reinforce that honor and patriotism are very much part of our American lives. I was waiting at the Houston Hobby airport to catch the next Atlanta-bound plane when an agent announced that a highly decorated, World War II veteran would arrive at Gate 22; serendipitously, I was waiting at Gate 23. The announcement was simply that he would arrive and that a Houston Hobby welcome was in order.

So, I waited, wondering if I could be some help….I’m thinking ribbons, platforms, seating order, the mayor, and more. Minutes go by and the plane arrives and people disembark. I keep waiting for the dignitaries, the balloons, the hoopla. Then, all of a sudden, there is a big crowd, gathered from up and down the concourse. He is 94, and dressed in a red jacket which is almost totally covered by medals, awards, and ribbons. On his head is his Veteran of Foreign Wars cap, covered with even more medals, awards, and ribbons. At least one or more of the medals was given to him as one of the liberators of the Dachau concentration camp. In his scooter, he made a path through the crowd. Everyone was clapping and shouting, “Thank you,” and “Bless you,” and service men in fatigues were saluting him! He was amazed. His response: “Thank you!” with a slight bow of the head.

The impromptu ceremony was not only amazing because of the WWII veteran, but also because people stopped and added their respects to those who have made freedom possible for us and so many others. Sometimes waiting for your plane can be very exciting.

—Cindy Haygood

A very short video of the veteran:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Make the pickup line easy

Is this a familiar scene? It might be, if your child’s school has a dropoff/pickup line for drivers. One mother we know adores hers—she sits in the luxury of her driver’s seat while her son’s teacher escorts him to the car and even straps him into his booster seat.

However, a quick Google search reveals that the dropoff/pickup line can be the bane of some parents’ existence—if it’s plagued by other drivers who are “unclear on the concept” of how it works (as one blogger writes.)

It’s tempting just to complain about other clueless parents, but the truth is that we’ve all made (sometimes embarrassingly) simple mistakes. You can do your part to keep the dropoff/pickup line running safely and smoothly:

Follow the rules.
Your school likely issued the rules of the line, told you exactly where to stop to leave and fetch your kids, and possibly even provided a map of the layout. Keep this information in your car. If you spontaneously forget all of this information, drive slowly, note what other drivers are doing, and follow the road signs and lane markers.

You are in a car. If you were driving down the road, you probably would not stop suddenly, open your door, and step outside to wave down your child or chat with another parent. Likewise, you probably would not weave in and out of different lanes (we hope!). And you certainly would not be speeding, right? The rules of the road apply to the dropoff/pickup lane, too.

Put down the phone. It makes sense just for safety’s sake—this is a child-filled environment, after all. And besides, getting into an involved conversation is not conducive to paying attention to the road, when it’s your turn to move, and whether your child is standing a few yards away from your car, wondering what’s taking so long.

Minimize other distractions.
That novel you can’t put down, the magazine you just got in the mail, the new CD you sing along with at top volume when your children aren’t looking—all of these absorbing things can lead to you holding up the line.

Stay awake. This might sound strange, but we’ve heard of drivers falling asleep in the line!

Be patient. Someone in front too poky? This is not the ideal place to honk. If you find yourself irritated with the behavior of another driver, remember that it might be a grandparent or another substitute driver who may not be familiar with the rules. However, if you see a “repeat offender” behaving poorly, take your concern to a schoolteacher or administrator (and try to stay positive as you describe the incident).

Take some deep breaths.
Maybe you’ve had a rotten day; maybe you’re stressed out. But you can turn things around starting now, when you welcome your child to the car with a smile.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Wearing white after Labor Day: what do you say?

Hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend!

One of the big etiquette traditions ingrained in our minds is the decree not to wear white after Labor Day. A quick look at the Fall 2010 runway styles (we did some Googling!) proves that fashion doesn’t follow this rule anymore, and most news articles on wearing white after Labor Day usually contain the phrase, “A rule that’s meant to be broken…”

We train etiquette experts from all over the world, so some of our blog readers might find this rule puzzling, since it seems to be unique to the U.S. Perhaps avoiding the color white in cold months has a practical reason—after all, it reflects, not absorbs, heat.

Another reason has to do with the U.S. nouveau riche culture in the 1950s. What had been an unofficial, seasonal wardrobe change became code for the elite and social climbers: wearing white after Labor Day meant you didn’t know the “rules.”

But, as Time Magazine said when exploring the white-after-Labor-Day issue, “more people than ever are breaking the rule.”

Why would people be breaking this rule? Well, beyond fashion trends, let’s be practical. Here in our hometown of Athens, Georgia, this week’s temperatures are still in the 90s, and it often remains quite warm even by the first day of Fall, which is Sept. 23. Depending on where you live, white might be the most comfortable option for you.

A happy medium is exploring softer shades of white, and in small doses (like accessories). White comes in a variety of hues, from beige to ivory, eggshell to seashell, magnolia to vanilla. Did you know that astronomers came up with the name “Cosmic Latte” to describe the color of the universe? (It's true.) Anyway, there’s a lot of different kinds of white out there, and no one should give you a hard time about wearing them before the first crocus blooms.

Which brings us to our next point: if you see a friend wearing white from head-to-toe well into the winter months, what should you do? Our advice is to say nothing at all. Etiquette exists for many reasons, and one of them is to make life feel a little bit kinder. Instead of reacting to an outfit that might be in the “wrong” color, smile and be happy to be in your friend’s company.

If we see you wearing white after Labor Day, we won’t say a word.

Debra, Cindy, and April are not breaking the rule - this photo was taken before Labor Day!