Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tips for the imperfect (or normal) Thanksgiving gathering

If you have never looked this happy at the dinner table, don't worry. You are not alone.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to gather cherished friends and family, eat delicious food, and bask in collective gratitude for all the precious things in our lives.

Of course, no one is perfect. Some Thanksgiving dinners are less like a soft-focus greeting card and more like a semi-polite line of scrimmage. Some guests might not get along. Someone may not like the food. Before you know it, the once-tranquil atmosphere around the table has gotten tense.

What should you do?

We say: prepare now! Here our some quick tips to ensure a happier gathering of any sort:

1. Don’t discuss politics, religion, or money. There are a lot of other things to talk about, trust us.

2. Do keep your phone off the table and out of sight! Unless you are expecting an emergency, calls and texts (and Facebook-checking) can wait until after the meal.

3. Do take the stress off yourself, host or hostess, by having the table set before your guests arrive and letting family members serve themselves (to keep the flow going, pass dishes to the right, unless someone to your immediate left requests what you have in your hands).

4. Do take things outside. If children are getting rambunctious, adults are falling into tryptophan-induced sleepiness, or an argument is getting heated, suggest a walk around the block or some playtime in the yard. (Inclement weather? Hand them umbrellas and boots and get to it.)

5. Do try to see your guests as who they are: loved ones. Maybe quirky or argumentative or sensitive or sarcastic, but all people who matter in your life. Try to embrace it. Cherish those memories! Someday, you might even be able to laugh about some of them.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Show manners for the club/bar scene

Look what we found.

This is just one panel - see the whole comic strip here!

Athens artist Missy Kulik recently made this comic strip that made us realize something important.

When we talk about etiquette at shows, we so often mean sit-down, quiet affairs - like a play or ballet, the opera or symphony. But plenty of people enjoy going out to shows at night-rock, country, indie, whatever. And that means a lot of people in a small space with loud, flashy stimuli.

Which means that good or bad manners can make or break your evening.

Kulik recounted her recent unfortunate evening captured in her comic strip, noting that crowd manners in general "have changed" in the many years she's been attending shows.

Years ago, "people were there for the music and up front" near the stage, says Kulik. Now, "music shows are more of a place to be seen rather than to see," she says. "So many folks checking their smart phones, or checking in on Facebook. I don't mind [that happening] between acts, but when people are down in front and whip out an iPad to check Facebook, something is wrong - yes, we have witnessed that!"

We talked to several friends who are musicians and/or enthusiastic show attendees and gathered some great tips.

• Respect other people's personal space.

"At the Of Montreal show last week, this girl behind me started pogo-ing and grabbing my shoulders," one friend told us. When our friend confronted her, she got this response: "It's Of Montreal, deal with it!"

Another friend has had her hair set on fire by someone not paying attention to their lighter and cigarette. Another got a black eye from the flailing limbs of an overenthusiastic dancer. Crowd surfers, take note: you will inevitably kick someone in the head, or get kicked in the head.

If you want to dance, dance-just keep it appropriate to the show (no mosh pit-style thrashing during a heartfelt ballad, for instance). And keep your hands and feet to yourself.

• Let other people see the show.

If you are a tall person, try not to park yourself in front of the shortest person in the room. And listen up: "You have a good view anywhere, and no one wants to have their face pressed into a sweaty back all night," says one of our friends, a self-professed "shortish" person.

Regardless of your height, don't arrive to the show late and then shove your way to the front row.

Try to keep a check on distracting behavior. You might be so thrilled to be at the show that you want to share it with the world, but flash photography (if you aren't a sanctioned press photographer) or recording the show with your cell phone can obstruct others' views of the show.

• Let other people hear the show.

Everyone around you paid money to hear their favorite band play their music live-not to listen to you loudly chat with your buddies or loudly broadcast a personal phone call.

• Keep private behavior out of the public eye.

Having a thrilling date? Realizing you have found the love of your life and you absolutely must express this joyous epiphany this very moment? Congratulations! We only ask that you refrain from, shall we say, intimate dancing (or more) in the middle of the club. If you want to smooch, take that business to the back of the room (or save it until later when you don't have a captive and unwilling audience).

On a similar note, a very common complaint among young women is that men will bump into them, say "excuse me," and then use that opportunity to unnecessarily touch or even grope the women, trying to pass it off as either an accident or conciliatory gesture. "I'm not sure how unwelcome touching is supposed to make it up to me if you invaded my personal space the first time," says one of our friends.

This is simply unacceptable. Don't do it.

• Respect the venue.

A friend of ours who works security at a club is routinely tasked with picking up beer bottles and cups from the ground (usually mere feet away from a trashcan), or sorting out plumbing issues in the bathroom because of trash. Folks, someone has to clean up that mess, and it's a human being. Remember that.

• Watch your alcohol consumption.

For some people, having a good time at a show involves a drink or two (or three or more). Do everyone a favor and drink it at the bar-you know you are going to spill your drink all over yourself (or a complete stranger) the moment you bring it into a jostling crowd. In romantic comedies, that's sometimes classified as "meeting cute." In real life, it's "being uncomfortably wet and smelling gross the rest of the night."

And remember, it's an unfortunate fact that getting drunk, while possibly fun at the time, can also contribute to you acting like a jerk to other people. Surround yourself with good friends who can gently redirect you when needed.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Get "Poised for Success!"

We love reading good books and sharing reviews...This book review comes from Cindy!

Jacqueline Whitmore’s new book, “Poised For Success: Mastering the Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals,” premiers as the perfect model of the new type of 21st century etiquette book.

Her content is wrapped around the tenet that the way we treat other people is all about everyday behaviors. The book completely covers the topics of preparing yourself for business and social endeavors and all of those in between. Every reader will find nuggets of wisdom—from the high school student wishing to establish great opportunities to the CFO wanting to re-imagine herself.

Written in an easy-to-read and comfortable style, the book is just like the advice Jacqueline is offering: if we are confident in our social and business actions, then our company is pleasant, easy to be around, and pleasurable.

I judge a book by the number of times I reach for my highlighter to underscore a passage that resonates with me. I now have a beautifully highlighted copy of the book. “Poised for Success” is a necessary addition to every etiquette consultant’s library, but it’s the perfect gift for any reader. I hope you’ll get a copy because I know you will enjoy her advice and wisdom.

“Poised for Success” is on bookshelves today! Order your copy now!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Training next week!

Debra, April and Cindy are excited!

Our next round of etiquette training certification starts next week , and we can't wait!

This time, we have future etiquette consultants traveling to our training from Virginia, Illinois, Georgia, Texas and Canada. Like our last training week in June - or the one before that, last November - we anticipate a lot of fun. And why not? We get to share what we love to do: shaping the next generation of leaders by arming them with good manners, spreading the importance of treating others with kindness, preserving and promoting civility...and dancing!

We also get to share some of the people who make our job the best in the world: the children we teach both in Athens and at the Ron Clark Academy. Teaching around 4,000 children and teenagers a year in 12 area counties makes us really be able to say that we both talk the talk AND walk the walk.

Hope to see you at our next training week!