Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Off to college!

For many college freshmen, the education extends far beyond the classroom as they experience so many firsts: living away from family, meal-planning, budgeting, paying bills, doing laundry...

What about manners?

If they’re lucky, they’ve gotten a foundation in etiquette at home, but that’s not always the case. But even students (including those we’ve taught at Perfectly Polished) who are well-versed in etiquette have a few surprises.

“It’s really important to remember that everyone comes from a different culture,” said one college freshmen, who is going to a large state college after attending a small private school. “Even if everybody is from Georgia, we have all come from a unique culture.”

That might mean that cussing up a storm might offend your new roommate—or, alternately, holding a door for fellow classmates may prompt them to “look at you like you are from Mars because no one has ever held the door for them,” says our friend.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t hold doors open for friends—it’s not outdated to be nice to people, especially if you’re trying to make friends. And it’s important to remember the basics: “If someone bumps into you, look them in the eye, smile and say sorry.”

Other advice for the college freshman from the college freshman, gathered from former Perfectly Polished students:

• Oversleeping doesn’t mean you should wear your pajamas to class! Take a few extra minutes to get properly dressed before you step outside.

• If you are talking to someone, take your earbuds out of your ears, even if you think you can hear the other person.

• Similarly, if you are talking to someone, don’t text at the same time! Give your full attention to the person in front of you.

• Don’t overextend yourself. We heard a story where a freshman applied to a student organization, was accepted but then, feeling overwhelmed, skipped the first meeting. After that, she was not chosen for leadership positions in other campus organizations.

• “Be where your feet are,” says a friend. Live in the present! Don’t miss out on things happening around you—classes, meals, activities, friends—because you’re stuck in the past of dreaming about the future.

• Got a roommate? Have a chat about noise and cleanliness.

• Try talking. Be the one to start a conversation in the elevator, make afternoon plans with friends, or ask questions in class.

• You don’t have to be from the South to call professors (or any university employee) “ma’am” and “sir.”

• If you see someone having trouble—lost on campus, confused in the student bookstore, looking lonely outside of the dorm—ask if you can help.

• If someone gives you help, accept it graciously and say thank you!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

To tip or not to tip: the hair salon owner

Tipping has a storied history. Though there is some controversy to this particular tale, it is widely believed that once upon a time, tips were given before a service was rendered — “To Insure Promptness,” get it? Tip beforehand and get better service, people thought.

How the times change! As we’ve mentioned before, it’s customary to tip your hairdresser at least 15-20 percent. But what if your hairdresser is also the salon owner?

You might be wondering why that would make a difference. Conventional etiquette wisdom has long held that you do not tip your hairdresser if he or she is also the salon owner.

But when we talked to several friends who are certified etiquette experts, we were reminded again how etiquette changes with the times.

Several of the experts tip their hairdressers (who are also the salon owners) every time, saying the gesture is thoughtful and shows appreciation for their services. One said she would tip a hairdresser/owner only if the service was exceptional.

One expert said that after going to the same hairdresser for years, the hairdresser opened her own salon. Our friend still tips her for her quality services. The owner shouldn’t be penalized for taking a business risk and probably needs the tips more now than ever, she said.

If you are going to a new hairdresser, there’s no need to ask whether he or she is the owner to determine whether to tip—err on the side of caution and tip anyway! If the hairdresser makes it known that he or she is the owner, then you have a decision to make.

To tip or not to tip a salon owner? If you feel strongly compelled to tip, then do so—just know that it is not required.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Manners at school

Can you believe school is right around the corner? In fact, some schools in our area have already started. If you haven’t already, it’s time to celebrate the end of summer vacation in grand fashion—one last trip to the pool, beach, lake, or lawn sprinkler may be in order—and get ready for school.

And of course, it’s an excellent time to remind the children in your life of good manners.

“As parents and students prepare for the start of another school year, teaching children everyday etiquette can be the greatest gift that we can give kids,” says Hilary Brennan, an ELI-trained and certified etiquette consultant in Morristown, NJ. “A nervous buzz of excitement and apprehension can be felt in the hallways those first weeks of school as children venture off in September.”

(Or, if you live here, August!)

Here are our tips for making a smooth transition from summer to school with good manners:

Model good behavior. Parents, if you are accompanying your children to an open house of the first day of school, remember to lead by your example. Children are like thermometers—if you are nervous, they will be too. And if you are confident and friendly, they’ll mirror that.

Watch the clock. If you want to make a good impression, be on time. This holds true for everyone, so why not start encouraging this behavior with children? Teachers appreciate it, the day runs smoother, and it makes those rare days when you are inescapably late less offensive.

Start the welcome wagon. What if your child is a seasoned, well-behaved student who knows the ropes? Encourage him or her to welcome new students with a solid introduction (don’t forget to smile and make eye contact) and an offer to help in any way. This kind of life skill translates to future success: Today’s friendly student leader is tomorrow’s company vice president.

Be kind. Adults know that it’s the little things that can turn a day around for the better, and children can start this approach now by opening doors for others (especially if they are loaded down with piles of books or otherwise having trouble), helping others pick up dropped items...and not joining in on teasing, name-calling, or other forms of bullying.

“From the moment they step onto their bus, well before learning begins, students will need essential skills to help navigate through their day—making eye contact, using a confident leadership voice, and maintaining good posture,” says Brennan. “In daily life, social skills affect everything you do and makes navigating everyday life easier. These skills need to be practiced, take time to develop and need to be cultivated. The transition to the classroom, field or stage can be smoother when kids are prepared, aware and confident in any circumstance.”