Monday, November 7, 2016

Manners Monday - Voting Day Etiquette on the Eve of the Election

Tuesday, November 8, 2016, will be remembered as Election Day for one of the most contentious Presidential races in American history. While the FBI's decision to close the case on Clinton's email controversy has provided her with a last minute boost and a Survey Monkey six-point lead, tomorrow is guaranteed to be a nail-biter nonetheless. Polls placing Clinton and Trump virtually neck-in-neck in some regions will have the citizens of this country clinging to their seats with anticipation until the official outcome arrives.  

Whether you love him or hate him, The Donald’s larger-than-life persona is largely responsible for the increase in voter registration and, has frankly, fueled new interest in the modern election process. The entertainment factor alone has garnered more viewership of the debates and round-the-clock commentary on every news network and Twitter feed known to man. Don't get me wrong, both campaigns have contributed an extraordinary amount of work to raising voter awareness which has resulted in the historic turnout of Latino and Asian-American voters and more people to the polls in general. 

But the tenor of our country has taken a turn for the worse.  From the beginning, the narrative of this election has been one of choosing the candidate you hate the least! Both are heavily flawed with critical issues of character coming into question, and when asked about the tone of the Presidential race, a recent survey revealed that eight in ten Americans were either disgusted or repulsed.

While you may not feel particularly jazzed about either Clinton or Trump, your vote matters more than ever. Exercise your right and make your voice heard. Forty-two million Americans voted early with record numbers in Florida, North Carolina, and Nevada, but the crucial states of New Hampshire and Ohio are still up for grabs.  If you've already cast your vote in California via absentee ballot like my husband and me, congratulations, you will avoid the craziness at the polls. However, if you prefer the tradition of heading to a local polling booth on Tuesday, we've compiled a list of voting day etiquette do’s and don’ts to ensure the process is smooth and drama-free. Lord knows, after more than eighteen months of this grueling campaign, we don't need no more stinking drama! Good luck everyone, may the best (wo)man win!!  

  • Go Early.  While most polls are open all day until 7:00pm, it's best to head to polling booths bright and early before going to work or beginning your day.  
  • Bring ID. To prevent voter fraud, new laws may require an original birth certificate in addition to a driver’s license, school identification or another ID card.
  • Honor Privacy.  With this race particularly heated, people are preferring to keep their personal choice mum.  Allow friends and family their vote without pressuring them to divulge whom they supporting.  
  • Respect Volunteers. Polling place volunteers are regular people just like you and me. They have dedicated their valuable time, they are not getting paid, and are doing their best.  Be patient, kind, and polite.
  • Take Reading Aids. This is not the day to forget your glasses. Reading the ballots is difficult, the type is very small.  It would be a shame to wait on a long line only to discover you couldn't decipher the ballot.
  • Electioneer.  A new amendment now prohibits people from wearing political buttons, hats, pins or T-shirts near polling places which are considered a campaign free zone. If you do so, you will be asked to remove the items or turn your tee shirt inside out. No campaign material that could influence other voters is allowed.
  • Talk Politics. Don’t verbalize your thoughts about each candidate or whom you are voting for while waiting in line. It's nobody's business.
  • Be Alarmed.  There may be police presence at polling booths. Officials expect emotions to be on high this Tuesday so they are taking precautionary measures by stationing law enforcement armed with guns to ensure the safety of all.
  • Dawdle. Prepare ahead of time by familiarizing yourself with the ballot choices beforehand so you may be more efficient in the polling booth. Some places will let you take a pre-marked sample ballot into the booth so that you may simply copy your marks onto the official ballot saving oodles of time.
  • Take a Selfie. Assume photos are a no-no, unless you receive express permission. Justin Timberlake learned this the hard way when the singer voted last month in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee where voting selfies are considered illegal.
As if you need more incentive, there are a multitude of Election Day freebies to take advantage of and inspire you to get to the polls extra early.  Don't forget to proudly display your "I Voted" sticker. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday Feeling - A Halloween for Twenty-Sixteen

This week's episode of "Modern Family" was littered with political undertones.  Cam, who takes his Halloween quite seriously, is furious with a child offender who year after year grabs a handful of candy rather than taking the allotted single piece.  He passionately explains at Halloween, "There is a social contract. You say trick or treat, you get one piece of candy. That breaks down and we’re just a hop, skip, and a jump away to a lawless wasteland where we use bees and teeth for money."  This small act of defiance by his 'Halloween nemesis' drives Cam cuckoo. He is 'crazy for justice,' a feeling many of us understand all too well as we approach the final days of one of the most contentious elections in American history.  

Our society is sprinkled with social contracts, those unwritten rules that govern our communities, our schools, our businesses, and basically every facet of our existence. In a climate when we are witnessing both Presidential candidates dodging these decrees and not necessarily being held accountable for their most questionable actions, it makes it increasingly difficult to instill these skills in our youngest citizens. How to behave on Halloween is just one of the ways kids can begin to exhibit appropriate codes of conduct and learn to respect systems and policies that will certainly play a part in their adult lives.  Below is a Smörgåsbord of guidelines to keep even the most ghastly goblin and ghoul in line.

Teal is the New Orange.  NOTE FOR KIDS WITH NUT ALLERGIES: The Teal Pumpkin Project is a new organization designed to raise awareness for kids with peanuts and tree nuts food allergies. If you see a teal pumpkin, it is a signal that a home is handing out non-food treats. Whether a non-food or candy treat, teach children to be patient and polite and limit themselves to one piece unless more is offered. Remind them to say please and thank you and try not to crowd or stampede the doorways. 

If You're Old Enough to Drive...Trick or treating is a tradition reserved for younger children who look forward each year to dressing up in their favorite costumes and going door-to-door to receive unlimited amounts of sugary treats. Most teenagers typically loose their interest, but if you're sixteen and still stomping around in your scary costume, it's time to turn in your pumpkin bucket.

Treatin' In N Out of the Hood. It is perfectly acceptable to travel outside one's own neighborhood, particularly, for children who live in a canyon without sidewalks or who live in a neighborhood that is less than child-friendly. However, if you do decide to leave your hood, the next best thing is to trick-or-treat with a friend in their area or find an alternate place that feels comfortable and familiar. Whereever you choose, be respectful of lawns and gardens and use the sidewalks or pathways leading up to the front door. If a house is dark and all the lights are turned off, this is a signal that the family is not participating in the ritual or may not be at home.

Ditch the Clown Costume. As far as costumes for children, the general rule is that they be age appropriate and kid-friendly. This year due to the panic surrounding those menacing clowns, these costumes are being banned from schools and parties. Political outfits are more popular than ever with Hilary and Trump filling the shelves, but politically incorrect outfits or extremely scary horror costumes are never acceptable. Ask yourself one simple question, "Is my costume disrespectful or would it offend or scare another person at the party?" If the answer is yes, then find an alternative choice. 

Hosting & Ghosting Halloween Parties. Anyone with a birthday in October knows how much fun it can be to have a Halloween party. If you are hosting, be gracious and provide ample treats and entertainment for your guests. Encourage everyone to come dressed in costume to help set the tone for the party. A little spooky music adds to the fun. Make sure to be a good guest as well. Don't ghost your host by not responding to an invitation and never show up empty-handed. Bring a birthday gift or host gift for the party-giver as a thank you for including you in the festivities.

Safety First on the Night of Fright. Begin trick-or-treating at dusk while there is still some light for safety. Sidewalks and lawns lined with electrical cords can be dangerous. Come prepared with flashlights to make sure you do not trip or fall. Have supplies on hand for emergencies. Keep a couple of Band-Aids and Neosporin in your pocket should minor accidents occur. Make sure to look both ways before crossing the streets. Although there are more pedestrians out than usual, it is still dark and drivers may not see clearly. Adults and children should stick together at all times. There is nothing more treacherous than trying to track down a small child in the pitch black of night.

Tricks within Reason. Halloween is meant to be fun, but not at the expense of others. Contrary to what we might see on television or in the movies, it is not an opportunity to toilet paper a neighbor's front yard or throw eggs at their front door. It also does not give one free reign to steal or damage pumpkins or other decorations. It is wise to stay away from anything that could potentially cause property damage as these types of pranks are not only dangerous but illegal. If pranks and tricks are a must, try creating an imaginative fun house or haunted house for your friends and other guests to experience.

General Halloween Etiquette Tips. Halloween is a perfect "training" time to teach children how to mind their "P's" & "Q's." After just a few house visits, your two-year-old will be an expert! At least one parent should accompany all children up to the age of twelve. Trick-or-treating should generally end around 9pm as most families with children and older adults are preparing for bed by that time. Parents should check the treats of the younger children before they eat them. Children should never eat anything that is handmade, unwrapped or specially prepared unless they personally know the family.

Happy haunting!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Manners Monday - 5 Ways Millennials are Missing Out on Manners

Last weekend, I sat by the pool perusing the September issue of Departures magazine and was pleasantly surprised to read the editor's note declaring that the current state of affairs can basically be summed up in three little words, “I dare you.”  It seems everywhere we turn - from politics to business to culture - buttons are being pushed and boundaries are being broken. Society is practically begging us to go against the grain and rewarding those who do so with the biggest bang. If you've been following the Trump headlines, you know exactly what I mean. 

I have been touting my tagline "Dare to be polite" for years and the mantra has been gaining traction. I coined the term, not as an invitation to shock or seek attention but rather to provoke, particularly the younger set, to act with grace, thoughtfulness, and good intention.  

With Millennials growing up in one of the most challenging economic environments to date, now more than ever, it's time to incorporate these skills. A quick Google search reveals how they are missing out on a multitude of areas from everyday courtesies to meaningful connections. If the nation's largest living generation cares to significantly increase their chances of success, they must give more prominence to their manners.  Come on, I dare you! 

1. Common Courtesies. Named the "Me Me Me Generation" by Time Magazine, Millennials are great at the larger notion of being a good citizen, but when it comes to smaller courtesies, they are sorely lacking. What they fail to realize is that it's the little things that matter.  Simple acts of kindness such as smiling, opening doors, offering a seat, politely asking for something, and using the Magic Words are a gracious way to endear themselves to others.  

2. Committed Relationships. Millennials are terrific at collaborating and cooperating on a public scale, especially with brands, but they are the poster children for keeping things casual when it comes to committed relationships. They wrongly assume a meaningful exchange can be conducted on a tiny smartphone. On the contrary, taking the time to pick up the phone rather than texting to arrange a date, greeting a companion at the door, and pulling out a chair at dinner is not only a sign of respect, it sends a clear message you are present and interested.  

3. Dining Skills. When Millennials dine out, they tend to seek the exotic and experiential. However, to save money at home, they have shunned the napkin in favor of a more economic paper towel. Profiled as the "cheapest generation" by the Atlantic, this swap has resulted in an overall deficit of napkin etiquette. A napkin has a multitude of practical uses.  When laid on our laps it protects our clothing from getting soiled. It makes a terrific blast shield to capture a cough or sneeze. And, of course, it keeps our mouths and hands clean. Millennials may not be aware that a napkin also gives us hints as to what is happening at the table. When placed on the seat of the chair, we know someone is excusing themselves during the meal and when laid on the left side of the place setting, we receive a silent signal that the meal has ended.  

4. Professional Dress.  Millennials are famous for their relaxed attitude when it comes to suiting up.  What they fail to realize is that proper attire may be the key to clinching that coveted side hustle. Whether seeking an extra gig as a yoga teacher, life coach or freelance writer, there will be an initial interview that will set the tone going forward. Dressing appropriately along with standing, sitting and walking with good posture not only makes clothing fit better, but it provides an instant air of confidence and extra edge to those entering our highly competitive job market. 

5. Face-to-Face Conversation: Millennials are super at socializing, mostly on social media, but it's no secret they are suffering a loss when it comes to interpersonal exchanges. Because the majority of their communication is electronic, they neglect to notice certain non-verbal cues from eye contact and facial expressions to body language and personal space.  And this is only half of the equation.  Their verbal communication could use a bit of polish too. Practicing how to actively listen or learning when to self-censor is a good thing. Not everyone is the star of their own reality show and these skills are essential to making them more likable, maybe even charming.  

Know a Millennial who could use a little smoothing around the edges?  I'll be shooting a manners segment with Awkwafina, star of #TAWK with Awkwafina, this Friday. Stay tuned... 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Manners Monday - Old Adage of No White after Labor Day No Longer Holds Water

The old adage of 'no white after Labor Day' no longer holds water.  Fashionistas and trendsetters in the know don't fall prey to such archaic beliefs.  They beat to their own drum turning a cheek to the majority and shunning convention.  Coco Chanel, one of the greatest fashion icons of all time, balked at the notion of banning white after Labor Day and made it a permanent staple in her wardrobe. 

Historically, white garments were associated with a look of leisure reserved mainly for the privileged.  They were a status symbol for the fortunate souls who were able to change their clothing with the season.  Many of the well-to-do adorned themselves in white linen pant suits, light cotton shirts, and white Panama hats as they escaped their sweltering city dwellings for more appealing climates.  When they returned from their vacations, they would deposit their summer duds and circulate a wardrobe that consisted of darker, heavier material.

Nowadays, we hold a different perspective.  Rather than scramble through the closet searching for white dresses, white pant suits, white flowing tops, any significant white piece of clothing to get our hands on as a last ditch effort to make sure it is worn before the clock strikes midnight, we may regard the cleansing of our white clothing almost as a symbolic ritual.  It is a purging of sorts that helps transition both mentally and physically from the light and carefree days of summer into the more industrious and diligent days that make up the fall season. 

But white is, in fact, embraced and acceptable any time of the year.  You'd be hard pressed to find a closest that doesn't contain a white button down men's dress shirt or a woman's white button down blouse.  These are one of the few essentials of every wardrobe paired beautifully with a pair of dark denim jeans and a blazer for a more casual look or worn with a tailored pant or skirt suit for a formal business meeting. It is one of the top items female executives will wear for their press photo presenting a no-nonsense look with a sense of approachability. White sneakers are also all the rage making their debut years ago by famous entertainers and athletes and still a mainstay in fashion, particularly the white leather variety which may be worn in summer or winter.  And, let's not forget winter white with its slightly creamier shade of white and heavier fabric which is very much on-trend in the winter months.  The fashion magazines sing its praises and dedicate pages of styles after Labor Day to the cozy look.  

So while we pay tribute to the laborers who toiled away in the trenches and stood on the picket lines fighting for their rights, step out this Labor Day with confidence wearing your white. Confidence is, after all, the number one accessory that is appreciated any time of the year.  

And for all you wine and champagne lovers like myself, I raise my glass to you! Just a couple more whites that are savored and welcome all year long.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Manners Monday - Make Fireworks, Not Friction at the Beach & BBQ's this Independence Day

The fourth of July ushers in the official start of summer.  Visions of frolicking at a sandy beach and dining on backyard barbeque fills our heads. This is one of the least stressful holidays of the year.  The sun is shining, there's no pressure or guilt to entertain crazy family members you haven't seen in years, and you can literally hang in your leisure wear all day.  The mantra is to sleep in late and wake up with a smile.  The last thing anyone wants is to be bothered by trivial annoyances that can eat away at our good attitude. To ensure you are not a bum at the beach or an out-to-lunch host, here are our top etiquette tips on how to make fireworks, not friction this Independence Day.

Beach Etiquette 
  • Dress Appropriately for the Occasion. Topless and nude sunbathing are frowned upon here in America, and in some cases is considered against the law. Unless you’re on a private yacht in the south of France or vacationing in Brazil, kindly keep your bathing suit PG-rated. Private parts should be sufficiently covered. The beach is for families and they are especially in tow on a big summer holiday.
  • Come Ready with Your Own Supplies. Everyone has their “must have” list of necessities for the beach. Most importantly, the list is to help you be prepared so that you do not have to constantly bother others with your requests for items you forgot at home. The bare minimum: sunscreen, hat, bottled water and towel. Kicking it up a notch: beach chair, umbrella, tunes, books or magazines (old school style), games, a cooler fully stocked with an incredible feast. Recommended for parents: full day supply of diapers and wipes, a Pack N’ Play or tent for shade, sand toys (BTW, don’t forget to write your name on them so you leave the beach with the same toys you came with), ample sunscreen, snacks, and beverages.
  • The Early Bird Gets the Worm. If you are one of those people who perpetually arrives fashionably late, don’t expect to have first dibs on prime real estate at the beach. There is plenty of space and no one is entitled to a reserved spot. To ensure you do not encroach on another person’s space, maintain a 15-foot distance between you and your neighbor. When selecting your spot, don’t forget to take into consideration high tide. Look for a high water mark, consult a tide chart or ask a lifeguard before settling down for the day.
  • Setting up Shop. If possible, organize your items so that you only have to take one trip on the sand to your spot on the beach. Walking back and forth is exhausting and will tucker you out before your day even begins. Before laying your towels down and inserting your umbrella, check to see which way the wind is blowing so that you don’t blow sand into your neighbor’s direction or block their view. Make every effort to consolidate your items into a small area that will not take valuable beach front away from others.
  • Keep it Down & Watch Your Language. We are well aware that the beach is outside, but that does not give you carte blanche to blast your latest iTunes mix on your giant speakers or shout profanities to your buddies. On the flip side, parents should monitor children and make sure little Mikey and Susie aren’t running amok hurling sand toys and fighting over the last Cheeto while adults are trying to enjoy a little peace and quiet or read the latest best-seller. Being outside entitles everyone to use their outside voice and have fun, just be mindful of how loud and crazy you get and keep it all in check.
  • Fun in the Sun. Game playing is great but keep it away from others. First of all, it is obnoxious to play ball over others heads while they are trying to relax and secondly, it can be dangerous, especially if there are little ones around. This extends to water playing as well. Look out for others in the water before you engage in spirited splashing, dunking, and other horseplay. Maintain control of boogie boards and other water toys so that everyone has a safe day in the sun. A special note to parents: keep an eye on the children. Organize plenty of activities like building sand castles, playing Frisbee or searching for the most unusual seashell to keep them busy so that they do not wander off or, more importantly, wander into the water without your supervision.
  • Clean Up After Yourself. If only there was a Smoky the Bear symbol to protect our beautiful beaches. I recently recall swimming at a beach just north of Santa Monica and seeing plastic bags, soda cans, and straw wrappers in the ocean. It was disgusting! Please take a garbage bag or paper bag with you to the beach and have the decency to collect all of your trash (that includes food wrappers, diapers, newspapers and whatever else you bring) and then deposit it into one of the large trash receptacles located everywhere!
  • Don't Bring the Beach Home with You. Carefully shake all items and sufficiently clean off anything with sticky sand before leaving the beach. Watch your neighbors to make sure you are not blowing sand dust in their wind. There is nothing worse than dust particles of sand found in the car, on the floor or in your bags when you return home. Shake off towels, clean dirty feet, wash out bathing suits and dump all bags before settling into your car or entering the house.
  • Give it One Last Look. Before making your final exit, patrol the area one all around your beach party scene one last time for any lost items, leftover food or litter.

BBQ Etiquette
  • Be Prepared. There is nothing worse than being invited to a barbecue and arriving when your host is wiping away the cobwebs from the grill or has to run out to the market to purchase the food. If you are hosting a barbecue, plan your menu and purchase your food items a day or two before your event. Clean your barbecue well in advance of your guest's arrival and make sure your barbecue tools are handy and in good working condition. You don't want to be flipping burgers with your fingers!
  • The Hotter the Better. Preheat the grill and allow plenty of time for it to reach the appropriate temperature so that cooking time is efficient. Generally, guests come hungry and they will not be very patient waiting for an extra half hour for the grill to heat up.
  • No One Wants to Be Eaten Alive. Everyone knows that outdoor barbecuing means you have to put up with an assortment of bugs invading your space, especially pesky flies, and bees. Arm your backyard with insect repellents such as citronella candles and an electric bug zapper. Purchasing food domes will also not only keep food warm but will dissuade bugs from hanging around the table.
  • The Grill Master is King. Every household has their designated grill master who is king of their domain and not does want to be told what to do. He or she is confident they can grill anything to perfection. Show them respect by letting them do their job and be supportive by helping in any way you can. No backseat grilling, please!
  • Finger Lickin' Good. The best tasting foods at a barbecue are the ones that happen to be super messy or difficult to eat. Think ribs smothered in sauce, buttery corn on the cob or watermelon juice running down the chin. Not only do these foods require a ton of napkins, but they also tempt us to want to suck the sauce off of our fingers at any given time. Provide cleansing wipes for sticky foods and toothpicks to remove kernels of corn from teeth. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Manners Monday - National Business Etiquette Week 2016

Yesterday marked the beginning of a week-long period devoted to national business etiquette.  At a time in history where an inordinate amount of chaos and turmoil continues, the demand for business etiquette courses has steadily risen. This is no surprise to us.  

The casual way employees engage, the loss of articulate writing, the inability to read subtle social cues has caused concern among many business owners. Couple this with the mass appeal of social media and a pandora's box of ways in which executives and employees can go awry, it's no wonder the corporate tide is leaning towards a return to a more conventional style of conducting business.

National Business Etiquette Week 2016 may be just seven days, but its purpose is to raise our awareness in the workplace and uphold the standards of civility and courtesy all year long. Restoring these simple acts of kindness and respect to their primary position is the only way to earn trust and gain credibility both nationally and within the global arena.

Whether paying attention to a co-workers personal space or learning how to give a world-class handshake, business manners do matter and this particular skill-set has become an increasingly valuable commodity for new hires as well as job retention. To test your etiquette quotient, we have compiled a list of 20 questions and answers that should give you a jump start on good business this summer. Good luck!

1. Preparing for a night out of networking? Be equal parts interesting and interested. Listen more than you talk. Think before you speak. End the conversation as graciously as you initiated it.
2. Attending the weekly marketing meeting and expecting an urgent call?  Notify your colleagues beforehand. Put your phone on vibration mode, place it on your lap or in your pocket and give your co-workers your undivided attention. When the call comes, excuse yourself and handle it quickly.
3. Courting a prospective client with an invitation to lunch?  Arrive early to set the stage and hand your credit card to the host so that they may process payment and avoid presenting the check at the end of the meal.
4. Should you accept your boss’ invitation to ‘Friend’ you on Facebook?  Yes, however, do so with care and create a separate group for work and tag it with the name of your company then filter only professionally related content.
5. Wondering whom should shake first in the workplace? In a professional setting, the host or the higher ranking person should initiate the handshake regardless of gender. The first to thrust their hand out is always perceived to be the most confident.
6. When hosting an important business meal, where should you seat your honored guest? The honored guest is always seated on your immediate right.
7. Want to avoid miscommunication when sending a text or email?  Since you are unable to see the person face-to-face, avoid firing off a flippant answer. Read your messages and responses for tone and send complete, clear communications.
8. Important interview for your dream job? Scour your social media for any red flags. Anything that defames your image should be wiped clean.  
9. Having trouble remembering names? Remembering names is an excellent skill to cultivate. Commit a name to memory by repeating it at least three times. Once during the introduction, a second time when making conversation, and finally, when saying goodbye.  
10. Want to outclass your competition? Become best friends with your stationery and write thank you notes. Whether you are following up on an introduction, interview or meeting, nothing conveys your appreciation better.
11. Should a male work colleague offer to seat a female co-worker at a business lunch? It is a thoughtful gesture, but not necessary as men and women are considered equals in the workplace.
12. Can I make casual Friday’s an everyday occurrence? Whatever your work, you want to be taken seriously. It’s always best to dress for the job you aspire to possess. Take pride in what you wear, especially in formal professional situations.
13. Where should you wear your nametag? Your nametag is always placed on the right side of your chest to make shaking hands and reading someone’s nametag one smooth action.
14. Working from home?  Get out of your PJ’s! Don’t let comfort get the best of you. Dress to create an atmosphere of professionalism, it will upgrade your phone voice and you’ll be ready to head out the door for a breakfast meeting in a moment’s notice.
15. Want to present your business card to a work colleague Before handing your card, ask for his or hers first, then present the card with your right hand and with the type facing toward the recipient.
16. Wondering how to approach your co-worker in their cubicle? Knock verbally when walking into their open office, especially if they are focused on their work. Step into their line of vision so they don’t have to scan the entire room to find you.
17. Tempted to respond to your boss’ weekend email? Don't be available 24/7. It’s perfectly okay to establish boundaries and respond the next day. It will set a precedent and your boss will respect you for it.
18. Making an important business introduction? Show respect by standing for all introductions. Adhere to the rules of the established hierarchy from top to bottom. Remember, the client always comes first.
19. Want to convey confidence and authority in all business transactions? Don’t withhold when it comes to handshaking – the ultimate greeting. For a world class handshake, extend the right hand with the thumb facing up and fingers extended out. Shake with two pumps and then release.
20. Conducting business with individuals from other countries? Err on the side of formality. Address them by their titles and full names. Familiarize yourself with a few key facts about their culture and customs, and educate yourself on their cuisine and dietary restrictions.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Manners Monday - Graduation Etiquette: Say Goodbye with Grace & Seize an Attitude of Gratitude

Graduation is upon our family in a huge way.  The next two weeks my daughters will be moving on from Elementary School and Middle School respectively and we will be saying goodbye to their private school education and welcoming in a new era of public school. The occasion is going to be bittersweet. We have met some incredible families whom we love and will be sad to leave, but we are also looking forward to having our girls attend school in a slightly less competitive environment that is located close to home and with a bit more diverse makeup that is more representative of the real world.  Don't get me wrong, they are still going to school in one of the best zip codes in the world - Beverly Hills 90210 - however contrary to mass perception, not everyone owns a private jet and shops on Rodeo Drive. Old apartment buildings line the city and many families can rent for a fraction of the cost of owning a home and still send their kids to the schools. It's not as if we're leaving the state, but it will be different. There is still a stigma associated with public school. Years ago, it was the other way around and only the problem children were sent to private. Now private is for the privileged and public is the ugly stepsister.  But, the tide is slowly turning and more families are warming up to the idea, especially those who meticulously follow the matriculation rates and realize that if their kids are not in the top 1% at private, they may actually have a better chance of getting into an Ivy League from a public education.  But I digress...

Graduating from school is a big deal at any age. With tuitions hitting record highs and academic standards reaching new plateaus, the pressure cooker to stay in school and get good grades can be debilitating. It demands a student’s fierce dedication and a family’s unwavering commitment. As a show appreciation and sign of respect to everyone who has helped you to prepare for this day, here are 7 ways for the graduate to say goodbye with grace and seize an attitude of gratitude.  

1. Cordially Invite.  Eschew the electronic invite in favor of customized printed invitations to distribute to family members and close friends two months in advance.  While you want to make everyone feel special, tickets are typically limited to attend the ceremony. Circumvent hurt feelings by making sure all guests receive an invitation to the celebration afterward.  

2. Dress To Impress.  Although you may be covered from head to toe in cap and gown, graduates should dress to impress in appropriate commencement attire. Ladies should wear a dress, slacks or skirt with a nice blouse. Flats or low heeled shoes for comfort and safe walking.  Limit accessories to only those that are necessary. Gentlemen should wear dress pants or khakis with pressed button-down shirts and a belt.  Tied shoes or loafers for footwear.  If applicable, caps are worn flat on the head with the tassels on the right side unless otherwise instructed for photos, etc. Caps are removed by gentlemen only as a sign of respect during the National Anthem.

3. Glean Jewels from Commencement Speeches.  This is not the time to take a snooze. Put down your phone, sit up straight, perk up your ears, and lean in.  After years of schooling, you must now apply what you’ve learned in the real world and that is no simple task. The commencement speech delivers the goods on exactly what it will take to not only survive, but thrive.  Legendary commencement speakers offer priceless pearls of wisdom that still resonates.  Listen with intent, take the advice to heart and aspire to live up to the standard your education has provided you.  

4. Receive the Diploma in a Dignified Manner.  You will rehearse countless times how to approach the stage to receive your diploma, but here are a few extra pointers to be mindful of. Posture, posture, posture! Stand tall, shoulders down and back and walk with dignity being careful not to trip on your gown. Make good eye contact, administer a solid handshake with your right hand using two pumps, and use your left hand to accept the diploma. If applicable, move the tassel on your cap if directed by the photographer and be sure to smile with your eyes, as well as your teeth.  Continue offstage confidently and return to your seat. 

5. Split Time Sensibly between Guests & Grads.  Guests have come far and wide to witness the occasion and they deserve a little quality time and undivided attention before running off to party with your friends. If your family is hosting a celebratory luncheon or dinner on your behalf, make it your mission to be charming, gracious, interesting, interested and grateful.  Connect with each guest and personally thank them for coming.

6. Allocate Announcements.  If you have extended family and friends whom you’d like to share in your joyous occasion, limit announcements to those who actually know you are graduating.  “No gifts please” should be added so recipients understand this is purely a gesture to include them in your achievement.

7. Handwrite Appreciation.  Hopefully, you own personalized stationery or a have a box of thank you notes stashed in your drawer as you are going to need it. Thank you notes should be written within a one to two-week period.  Monetary gifts may include a sentence on how the money will be used such as towards future savings or special purchase. Being the gracious graduate you are, an expression of gratitude will also be mailed to those who came to support you but did not bring a gift.