Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Chances are, many of you are ringing in the New Year with a Bowl Game. But - horrors - what if, heaven forbid, you are watching the game with fans of the opposing team?

Most of us can laugh off good-natured ribbing, but hardcore fans might have a hard time watching their beloved team bad-mouthed by the person sitting next to them on the couch.

What to do?

Millie Chastain - owner of the Protocol School of Alabama, certified and trained by the Protocol School of Washington, and a colleague of ours here at The Etiquette & Leadership Institute - was interviewed by College Sports Matchup on this very subject. You can read the article here.

We love her words of wisdom. She mentions how easy it is to brag when your team is winning, but that it's important "to know that sportsmanship should always win out.”

In other words, if you are sitting around in a room full of people watching a game, pause a moment. Look around you. Remember why you are hanging out: you're friends. Friends with diverse opinions on all sorts of things - politics, food, movies, music, and yes, even sports. Then look at the TV screen and marvel at the displays of athleticism. Isn't that cool? Celebrate the spectacle, the snacks on the coffee table, the fun and laughter surrounding you. Sometimes it's not about who wins or loses - it's about hanging out and having fun, two important things worth celebrating.

Here's to a happy and healthy 2011!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Guest blogger: Jay Remer on New Year's etiquette

Today’s post comes from Jay H. Remer, Jr., International Protocol and Corporate Etiquette Consultant. Known as “The Etiquette Guy” in the blogosphere, Remer is trained and certified by the Protocol School of Washington, and is a frequent columnist for the Telegraph Journal and National Post in Canada.

Thank you, Jay!

Etiquette for the New Year
By Jay Remer

The time has come once again to begin to set our sights on the fast approaching New Year. It’s Christmas after all, and a time for most of us when our families get together to celebrate this joyous holiday. We can look back over the past year and contemplate the many blessings we have received. For me, the year was one for new endings and new beginnings. As I often do, near the start of a new year, I make a list of all of the projects I would like to start or finish during the coming year, dividing them into business, personal, and spiritual. This helps me to set goals and to monitor my progress throughout the year, making necessary adjustments along the way. It’s interesting to compare the lists from year to year and in so doing, catch a glimpse of how I am changing both within myself and in my relationship to others. This is a very grounding activity, one which allows reflection as well as an opportunity to be grateful.

The world is facing some very tough challenges in the coming year. Across the globe many societies are in dire need of help. The planet is experiencing the effects of global warming and we are waking up to the idea that we must act responsibly as stewards in order to avert almost certain disaster. The economy is forcing many of us to endure struggles we had never hoped for. And, in many ways, we are coming together as humans to work to solve these problems more cohesively than ever before.

Those of you who have followed this column may have noticed that I have emphasized the need for compassion in our every day lives. What we do every day and how we do it is in fact the etiquette by which we choose to live our lives. The choices we make affect those around us continually. Being aware of how much of an impact we have on others helps us in making our choices. Therefore the more aware we are of what we are doing, the more careful we will be in how we choose to do it. Although this principle is widely accepted, it comes with no manual, no set of instructions, on how to make the best choices we can.

During this coming year, I hope people will feel more comfortable putting others first, even if only a little bit more than they do now. I hope we can all learn to give ourselves and each other a break, even if only a little more frequently than we do now. And I hope we can protect our children from making uninformed and potentially harmful choices, even if we reach out to only one child more than we already do. If we all made a conscious effort in the coming year to be a little bit less self absorbed, a little bit more patient, and a little bit more compassionate, especially toward ourselves, we will wake up one day to a happier and more peaceful world.

The golden rules of etiquette will never go out of style and how we choose to use them will define who we really are to the world. Be kind always. Be truthful in all communications. Be grateful for everything. Respect all creatures equally. Have a wonderful New Year filled with joy, good health, and many magical moments!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Those two little words

In a month marked by gift-giving, many parents are watching their children open presents…and cringing, wondering what’s going to come out of their kids’ mouths.

Hopefully, older children will have learned already the art of graciously thanking the giver, no matter what’s in the box. But younger children, especially toddlers, have yet to develop that filter. They are completely honest and blurt out what’s on their minds, whether that’s “But I wanted a toy!”, “That’s yuckers,” or even “I don’t like this” (cue sobbing).

Other parents shouldn’t give you too much grief about this—chances are, they’ve witnessed their own little angels creating quite the spectacle from time to time. But there’s no denying that a child’s outburst can easily hurt an adult’s feelings (or devastate another child who has given the gift). And as adults, our role is to guide children to appropriate behavior.

You can help your child by prepping them ahead of time.

Role play. Have a pretend gift exchange with your child. Bonus points for finding toys and other around-the-house objects and “wrapping” them in a blanket, shirt, etc. Even more bonus parts for making it silly (wrap an old shoe in a pair of shorts? Why not!). Practice appropriate reactions when unwrapping these pretend gifts, and remember the most important part, saying…

Two words: Thank you. That’s it. That’s all they have to say. Whether they hate the present, whether they already have it, all they should say is, “Thank you!” and move on. No other words necessary. Making eye contact and smiling is a plus. And don't forget to...

Write a note. It’s never too early to encourage children to write thank-you notes. Homemade cards that feature illegible scribbling or the painstaking efforts of a child’s early autograph can be a keepsake.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 6, 2010

At least Santa has help

Let’s just admit that holiday shopping can be rough. There are insane crowds, relentless piped-in holiday music, elusive parking spaces, traffic jams, and the extreme likelihood of running into another shopper who is intensely grumpy and not afraid to share it.

As annoying as all that can be for shoppers, think of the store employees!

How about making life easier for everyone?

• Put your cell phone away, especially while making a purchase. Try smiling and talking directly to the sales associate. And refer back to our earlier post on using cell phones in public places. (And please, please put the cell phone down while cruising parking lots and busy streets.)

• Consider self-help, literally. Many stores have computer terminals for customer use, and using them to search for items in the building may save you time.

• Think of the children! Seriously, shopping can be extremely frustrating and tedious to children (at least when they complain or cry, they have the excuse of exhibiting completely developmentally appropriate behavior). Bring a toy, snack or book to occupy them. Even if your children are perfect angels, the store employees will be quite busy enough without babysitting them. Most of all, remember your top responsibility is attending to your children’s needs — even if that means leaving early and having to shop again another day.

• Exercise patience. You are one of many shoppers, and the store employee may be juggling a lot of different demands. If an employee is helping another shopper, refrain from yelling out a question or request for help.

• Be flexible. Sometimes, you won’t be able to find exactly what you want. While you naturally may be disappointed, loudly proclaiming that someone’s Christmas will now be ruined will not change anything. Also, this is a good time to step back and reevaluate what you want Christmas to mean to you and your family.

• Remember to thank those who help you.

Finally, if you or your friends are especially hard hit by the economy, take these tips on how to “mind your money manners.”