Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Finding thanks (or something else)

Tomorrow’s the day. Many Americans are gathering with family and friends to celebrate their collective thanks over a gigantic meal. For some people, that prospect is not so easy, whether that’s due to strained family relationships, clashing personalities, or simply shyness.

You’ve probably read all the tips: avoid talking about religion, politics, or money. Have topics of conversation filed away that you can grab at awkward pauses. Keep people busy with activities. Don’t drink to excess.

But here’s another idea. This year, try compassion. Try empathy. Try love. If your Aunt Hilda drives you nuts, remember that she has problems, too.

If all else fails, listen to John and Yoko.

In 1979, John Lennon and Yoko Ono wrote an open letter published in the New York Times. “When somebody is angry with us, we draw a halo around his or her head in our minds,” they wrote. “Does the person stop being angry then? Well, we don't know! We know, though, that when we draw a halo around a person, suddenly the person starts to look like an angel to us. This helps us feel warm towards the person, reminds us that everyone has goodness inside, and that all people who come to us are angels in disguise, carrying messages and gifts to us from the Universe.”

Too hippyish for you? Maybe, but it’s a lot better than hiding in the hallway every time a certain relative rounds the corner.

There’s another part of that letter that could have been written today: “We are thankful every day for the plentifulness of our life. This is not a euphemism. We understand that we, the city, the country, the earth are facing very hard times, and there is panic in the air. Still the sun is shining and we are here together, and there is love between us, our city, the country, the earth.”

Here’s another little nugget from another musical icon: “What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love and understanding?”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Set a place for children

It's the season for dinner parties. In the U.S., Thanksgiving is right around the corner, itself an occasion for families to gather and dine together. But then starts a whirlwind of yet more holiday dinner parties - requiring weeks of planning menus, deciding who to put where at the table, and bringing out the fine china (or, in some perfectly respectable cases, plates that match).

As children's etiquette consultants, we believe in including children in everyday demonstrations of good manners. This is the perfect opportunity to talk about place settings at the table.

Several years ago, The Washington Post offered very helpful diagrams of both informal and formal table settings.

But let's bring this to a useful level for children. Simplify the table setting to the plates and flatware your child will actually use (in our example below, we include a bread plate; you may choose to take that out). Older children can make this a fun craft project to brighten up the holiday table. With our guide, your child can draw his or her own placemat, which then can be laminated. Extra crafty types can whip up a cloth placemat, onto which children can draw with fabric markers. Ours was made with construction paper, markers, and crayon.

Happy eating!


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Training week!

What is going on in this picture? And can you spot Spider-Man?

Last week reminded us that we are so lucky.

For one thing, we got to spend a lot of quality time with Northeast Georgia’s best and brightest children and teenagers. When we opened Perfectly Polished: The Etiquette School in 1985, we had 20 students, ages 10-13 years old. Now, with the help of high school and college staff members, we teach around 4,000 students a year in 12 area counties. They range in age from elementary to high school, and we have a blast together as we learn about etiquette and social dance.

Besides that, held training last week, meaning we got to certify other people how to do the exact same thing in their own hometowns as children’s etiquette consultants.

Angela Jordan traveled from Chattanooga, TN

Dawn Jumper visited from Lookout Mountain, TN

We established The Etiquette & Leadership Institute in 2005, when we acquired the Children’s Training Division of the Protocol School of Washington. We have since trained and certified 350 children’s etiquette consultants from all over the U.S. and 17 other countries. This session, we had a consultant from California who was trained by PSOW and is seeking re-certification, plus soon-to-be consultants from Georgia, Tennessee, and Spain.

Kari Reeves from Watkinsville, GA, and Angela Jordan

So, what did we do last week? In addition to our regular sessions, we took our trainees to the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta to observe and help teach. We talked about conveying the importance of wearing professional attire to college students. We discovered the power of using props and activities when teaching children. And there’s so, so much more. Every time consultants leave our training, they are ready to teach etiquette and social dance. We even give them a business plan and teaching materials. They can hit the ground running, so to speak.

Carla Tyson came from Pleasanton, CA

Lizette Donnai came from Spain

A wonderful side benefit to training is the friendships we make and sustain long after training is over. Our next one is in April 2011. Interested? Let us know!