Monday, March 9, 2015

March Madness - A Guide to Gracefully Handling School Acceptances, Rejections & Waitlists

In homes across the nation, March Madness does not refer to the NCAA men's basketball tournament, but rather to the more stressful, high stakes admissions process when students receive notification as to whether they were accepted, rejected or wait listed by their first choice schools.  Who got in and who did not? This roller coaster of emotions is not just for kids.  Parents either feel elated or ashamed.  Some seeking shelter before the event even occurs.  Families vow to stay close to home primed and ready for their email notification to arrive.  Mailboxes are staked out for the requisite letter that will follow in the mail, the results all of which are coveted.  However, one doesn't have to be a mind reader to decipher the answers, you can tell by a simple read of body language as to whom is walking with their head held high or skulking behind a large baseball cap.   

I remember the day vividly.  Notifications were to arrive via email around mid-day and my daughter was given strict instructions by her school to shut down her cell phone.  She was attending a Bar Mitzvah service of a classmate at her temple school and the headmaster did not want anything to detract from the coming-of-age celebration.  Both parents and children were sent emails in advance with explicit directions for how this day should be handled.  No one was allowed to check their phone while on campus during the service and there would be no speaking of said results at the party which followed later in the evening.  Everyone was on pins and needles.  Confined to a sacred place helped for any last minute prayers and pleading with a higher power.  Once off school campus, we turned on our phones and held our breath.  I already knew the answer based on good old-fashioned mom intuition.  My daughter did not get accepted to her first choice school, but did get accepted to her second.  And not because she didn’t write a proper thank you, but more due to the fact that her first choice school was rigorous academically and she was probably better suited to a school with a more nurturing environment. 

Nevertheless, I felt her pain as she struggled to squelch back tears that were streaming down her face. We lived around the corner from her first choice school and this was where she had envisioned herself going since preschool. Needless to say, it was a tough blow, but an important lesson in life’s disappointments she would have to overcome many times in her future.  As I share with the parents who send their children to me for interview coaching and finally learned firsthand, your children wind up at the school that is the best fit for them. There is no voodoo magic that will change that. Now, here’s the proper protocol for what to do with all those acceptances, rejections and wait lists.

Prepare a Family Plan.  Since email communications will be distributed on Saturday, parents make yourself available to be around and present. If your children are engaged in activities, restrict them from checking their phones at a party, sporting event, school function or other public setting. This is a private moment. When the notification arrives, give your children your undivided attention to address their feelings whether they be elation or disappointment.  Allow them space to process the situation before setting anything in stone. They may wish to sleep on it and visit the subject in the morning. Regardless of the result, vow to handle yourself with grace and dignity and make sure your child follow’s suit. Both parents and child should write additional notes of thanks to every school regardless of the outcome. 

Share Freely, But Do Not Brag or Ridicule.  Share your happy news freely with family, but tread carefully with friends unless prompted.  When you do disclose your child’s results, speak from the heart. While you may be very proud, try not to boast or brag.  In the same vein, don’t feel pressed to divulge unhappy news. Frankly, it’s nobody’s business.  And by all means, do not ridicule, put down or disparage your child. Show empathy and comfort them with encouraging words that all will work out as it is supposed to.  Assure them that there is a perfect school for them and that they will be happy.

Be a Friend, Not a Gossip.  Don’t start lobbing calls to everyone you know to find out who got in where.  Do not corner, pester or provoke friends to share with you their results and don’t be a blabbermouth sharing the results of third parties.  Resolve to be a good friend. If a friend tells you information in confidence, keep that private information to yourself.  Offer support and reassurance to those friends who seek it. 

Act Appropriately with Acceptances.  Congratulations, you're in! This is not the time to forget your manners. If your child plans to attend, notify the school immediately and express your enthusiasm with a note of acceptance to the Admissions Director. If they decide to turn down the acceptance, disclose your decision as soon as possible to allow a space to become available for the next person on the wait list. 

Deal Tactfully with Rejections.  Do not let hurt feelings dictate your actions. Realize that this is not a personal attack on you or your child's character or capability.  It is simply a decline.  Rise above the emotional level and write a sincere note of thanks to admissions expressing how grateful you are for having had the experience. You never know if a decline for the moment may transform into an acceptance down the line. 

Make the Most of Wait Lists.  Getting on the wait list is a good thing and often results in a bonafide space becoming available before the start of the school year. Seal your child's spot at the top of the list by sending a thank you note to the Admissions Director restating their wishes to attend.  A school where they were previously wait listed may turn their decision around based on your thoughtful and honest prose. 

Write Extra Notes of Thanks. Express gratitude to those who helped you along the way with an additional notes of thanks or a small token of appreciation to any other friends, family or colleagues who acted kindly on your behalf or wrote a letter of recommendation to help your child get into a school. This acknowledgment will be appreciated and noted for years to come. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Seasoned Host Barely Skips By in His Skivvies – Red Carpet Manners Oscars 2015

A much anticipated hosting gig by Neil Patrick Harris was largely superseded by an emotionally and politically charged plethora of winners with meaningful messages.  The emcee made famous for his star turn as host of the Tony’s and Emmy’s, had a tougher time with Oscar pouring through a steady stream of jokes many of which fell flat. Typically quite confident with a song and dance routine, this show opener was thankfully resuscitated by a much needed Jack Black who added range as well as levity.  NPH’s most memorable moment may have been his most raw stripped down to his skivvies in a nod to Best Picture nom Birdman.  Taking the stage and revealing a very fit physique in nothing but a pair of tighty whities, he begged the biggest question of the evening – was he or was he not packing?  In an interview on Live with Kelly & Michael, it was revealed that an extra pair of undies were sewn into the fabric lest the shining stage lights reveal too much of his anatomy. Great excuse, but we’ll buy it. Much less notable were his awkward riffs in the audience with Steve Carell and the seat fillers. It’s hard to improvise with two million people watching! Known for his magic tricks, we thought the bit with the briefcase would have more punch. Instead, we were left bored and perplexed as he gave detailed instructions to Octavia Spencer on how to properly guard the goods containing his personal Oscar predictions.  When the big reveal arrived at the end of the evening, it was an accordion fold recap of the night’s events. Clever, but more of a poof than a bang. Sadly, this is par for the course in the biz, they build you up only to tear you down. NPH has been the host with the most with an amazing run, but nothing lasts forever. 

Red Carpet Fashion Favorites & Those We’d Forgo.  We’re always so excited to see what will unfold on the red carpet, but this year’s Oscars pulled out more misses than hits, at least on screen.  Too many of the gorgeous beauties did not radiate in their usual manner. Actresses like Reese Witherspoon, Patricia Arquette, Viola Davis and Kerry Washington were sorely lacking in their blah ensembles.  Similarly to the Globes, red made a major appearance on the carpet with dresses adorned by Dakota Johnson, Rosamond Pike and Sophie Hunter.  Red was also showcased by Lady Gaga, Nicole Kidman and Idina Menzel who donned red gloves, a red belt and a red top respectively. Even David Oyelowo got into the action with a Burgundy suit.  Short slicked-back hair was showing chic by the lovely Faith Hill and Scarlett Johansson.  Cut out designs were a favorite with Naomi Watts and Lupita Nyong’o and bold statement necklaces added drama to Viola Davis, Scarlett Johansson and Cate Blanchett’s formal gowns.  Biggest hits in our book were the eternally impeccably dressed J. Lo along with Rosamond Pike, Naomi Watts and Sienna Miller in head turning looks that fit their frames. Oprah pulled out all the stops in a blush number that hugged in all the right places. Two-tone tuxes were all the rage for Michael Strahan, Eddie Redmayne, Kevin Hart and NPH who wore one during his many outfit changes.

Speeches that Left Us Speechless.  It was the night of sobering speeches that began with an earnest J.K. Simmons who won the first award of the evening for Best Supporting Actor in Whiplash. After appropriately thanking his wife and kids, he then pleaded with children everywhere to call their parents in favor of texting or emailing them.  Patricia Arquette accepted her Best Supporting Actress Award for Boyhood and then launched into a political campaign defending women’s equal rights and wages garnering cheers from females in the audience, especially megastars J. Lo and Meryl Streep.  Julianne Moore’s win for Best Actress in Still Alice shed a much needed light on the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease. Graham Moore, Best Adapted Screenplay winner, brought attention to teen suicide inspiring young teens to stop taking their lives in favor of staying weird and hopeful. And, the most eloquent speech of the evening came from a humble Eddie Redmayne who accepted the Best Actor award for The Theory of Everything winning the hearts of the audience for his portrayal as the suffering Stephen Hawking crippled by ALS. Holding on tightly to his Oscar, he pledged to do everything in his power to help fight the debilitating disease.

A Trip to the Stage.  The single biggest fear of most nominees is the worry that they will trip and fall on their way to receiving the big award.  Jennifer Lawrence famously fell ascending the steps to accept her award for Best Actress in Silver Linings Playbook last year and then quickly laughed it off. This year, we noticed a couple of minor tripping incidents both on and off the stage.  J. Lo almost had a major accident exiting the stage after presenting an award and one of the winners for Best Documentary Short nearly lost his footing as he ran excitedly down the aisle to collect his award on stage.

Scruffy is the New Smart.  A lack of manscaping was prevalent at this year’s awards show with many opting for the scruffy less-than-manicured look bearing unshaven necks a la Channing Tatum or full-fledged hairy beards like Matthew McConaughey. The otherwise handsome Mexicans from Birdman made a statement with their wiry, unruly locks of hair going for a sultry suave look.  

Best Blatant Ignore of Exit Music.  Awards etiquette rule 101 is keep your speech short and sweet lest you run the risk of being played off by exit music. This show seemed particularly bias with the music coming on fast and furious for certain winners and failing to appear at all for others.  Best Foreign Film winner, Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski, disregarded the music altogether plowing through his speech well until the full orchestra was sounded.

Chomping at the Bit.  A 'just grateful to be there' Michael Keaton was either feeling the jitters or worried about bad breath as he chomped away on his chewing gum for most of the show. Every time the camera panned the audience with a mention of Birdman, Mr. Keaton was featured chewing like a cow.  Mints are a much better choice next time, my dear. 

Monumental Musical Performances.  One of the most emotional moments of the evening was dedicated to the movie Selma.  Winner for Best Original Song ‘Glory’, Common and John Legend brought the entire Dolby theatre to its feet complete with tears streaming and a rousing standing ovation. Second to ‘Glory’ was an astonishing rendition of ‘The Sound of Music’ by Lady Gaga.  Not an easy song to sing, her tribute to the film’s 50th anniversary culminated with Dame Julie Andrews taking to the stage herself and another standing ovation.

A Hug it Out Moment. What might have turned out as a cute amends resulted in a rather awkward and laughable moment when John Travolta and Idina Menzel shared the stage to present an award.  Attempting to make up for last year’s guffaw when he butchered her name and addressed her accidentally as Adele Dazeem, the actor’s chin grasp, condescending smile and extended hug were a bit much for our taste.  Better to have left water under the bridge. 

Despite the sudden downpour and upper 50 degree temperature, Hollywood's biggest night succeeded as planned. The stars flashed their smiles, the champagne was flowing and all was good in the land of LA. That's all folks!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Manners Monday - #DareToBePolite - The Final Frontier

As we approach the final days of our #daretbepolite campaign, I’d like to leave you with this thought: manners are the final frontier. At a time in history, where so much turmoil, disruption and distraction persists, where are we to turn, but to manners for some semblance of order, direction and calm.  They are, in essence, the last stop.  We are in more need than ever of a framework to capture all of the craziness and restore a sense of stability and substance.  While brushes of good behavior certainly exist, the #daretobepolite mission is more about daring society to ‘boldly go where no man has gone before,’ breaking out of the molds and misperceptions about manners to make them more authentic, accessible and accepting on an ongoing basis.  This is the space I would like to explore further.  One in which we hold ourselves accountable first before we start pointing fingers at everyone else, where we are more mindful of our own words and actions before we so willingly dissect those around us, and where we can still have fun, enjoy life, crack jokes and be witty without causing offense, harm or outrage to others.

As we’ve said time and again, manners touch every facet, every minutia and every molecule of our lives. They exist between the cracks, and like glue, they are the adhesive that hold everything together.  If left unused, the adhesive dries and renders itself ineffective leaving behind only chaos to follow.  It can be something as massive and weighty as the Sony debacle where the public was privy to private email communications that caused shame and embarrassment to top executives in the entertainment industry or as small and silly as the recent ‘manspreading’ epidemic accusing men of taking up too much space in their seats.  It can be something as deadly serious as the Charlie Hebdo massacre where two men launched terror on the Parisian satirical magazine challenging the right and respect for freedom of speech or as insanely ridiculous as the invoice that was sent to a family for their child’s failing to attend a friend’s birthday party.  Manners, or the lack thereof, affect us both at home and in our world and they all boil down to something very simple – RESPECT. 

So whether you’re twisted with agony over how to apologize to your mother-in-law, racked with worry about which fork to use for your fish course or riddled with guilt as to the best way to decline your boss’ advances, manners are your finest friend.  They are there to save you from your worst self, to fall back on in your time of need, and to protect you in the most precarious of situations. They are locked and loaded ready to employ at a moment’s notice. Use them wisely and they will keep you whole.

Step 3/Week 3: Manners: The Final Frontier.  Rather than limit ourselves to just one more week of practice, take the remaining ten days of January to reflect on everything we’ve covered these last few months. Turn up the heat index on your manners and share with us what you observe in yourself and in others. Join us now! Make the final vow to #daretobepolite!  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Red Carpet Manners - Third Time's a Charm for Tina & Amy at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards

A good friend loaned me her copy of Amy Poehler's new book, "Yes Please" on DVD. I had never been one to listen to books on tape and I wasn't much of a reader of them either, especially since having kids. Don't get me wrong, I love reading and I'm great at starting books, I just can't seem to finish them. I inevitably get distracted and then they wind up collecting dust and spider webs. Even reading my own book, Beverly Hills Manners: Golden Rules from the World's Most Glamorous Zip Code, proved an arduous endeavor! Nevertheless, I decided to give it a try. I was growing bored of listening to the same Sirius XM stations and in need of some good laughs anyway. After sweaty minutes of trying to figure out how in the world to insert the discs into my car radio, I was finally geared up and ready to listen. Amy had me laughing out loud, crying and getting teary eyed, totally inspired and uplifted and reflective all at the same time. I'm only through disc two with five more to go and loving it. My husband presented me with Tina Fey's, "Bossypants" as a gift for my 45th birthday.  Did he know I was a Tina Fey fan or was he secretly trying to send a message that I am a bit of a drill sergeant? I keep it on my nightstand and peruse it time and again in search of brilliant Feyisms and other hysterical, meaningful prose. Admittedly, I have not read it cover to cover, but I often thumb through it and come across a line that gives me a hearty laugh before settling to sleep. Bottom line, these two ladies are awesome in my book!!  Not only are they comediennes at the top of their game, they are also writers, producers, authors, entrepreneurs, mothers and Golden Globe hosts taking on the role for the third year in a row and hitting it out of the park!  Let's take a look at the night's biggest red carpet manners hits and misses.

Colors on the Carpet.  As predicted, red was highlighted in all its glory on the red carpet ranging from Pantone's color of the year Marsala to Maraschino Cherry with celebs from Heidi Klum, Kate Mara, Allison Williams, Allison Janney, Helen Mirren, Lena Dunham, Taylor Schilling, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Viola Davis all donning the most powerful color on the spectrum. White, not an easy color to pull off in winter when we tend to look pasty and may be carrying a little extra holiday weight, was equally hot on the red carpet and looked smashing on slender figures from Kate Hudson and Emily Blunt to Rosamond Pike and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Silver metallic was also wildly popular and found its way on the likes of Julianne Moore, Reese Witherspoon, Sienna Miller, Emma Stone, Diane Kruger and Dakota Johnson.  Our least favorite looks were unfortunately worn by two of our favorite actresses, Ruth Wilson who chose an unflattering green Prada sheathe and Kerry Washington who selected a two-toned A-line gown that was less than eye-catching. Other ladies who missed the mark included: Jennifer Aniston, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Lana Del Rey, Zosia Mamet, Laura Prepon and Melissa McCarthy.

Dynamic Duo Does it Again.  The third time was a charm for hosts Tina and Amy who delivered another round of nonstop laughs. As expected, there was the requisite string of jokes aimed at North Korea, but the crowd went wild when comedienne, Margaret Cho, took the stage dressed as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and added her trademark deadpan impressions. Cecil B. DeMille Award winner and eternal good sport, George Clooney, was the recipient of one of the biggest jabs of the night. After reciting a laundry list of achievements his wife Amal had received for her various humanitarian works, the duo joked that tonight 'her husband is getting the lifetime achievement award." We had a hearty laugh-out-loud moment when the girls compared the hours of hairstyling and makeup actor Steve Carell had to endure for his role in "Foxcatcher" with the countless hours they had to endure to prepare just as 'human' women. And, you knew they weren't going to shy away from a good dig at Bill Cosby's rape allegations. With a nod to nominee, "Into the Woods," they mentioned a list of princesses who were rescued by their princes with the exception of Sleeping Beauty who just 'thought she was getting coffee with Bill Cosby."

From the Frontlines: Attending The Weinstein Company/Netflix viewing and after party had us up close and personal with some of the night’s illustrious stars.  After just having watched ‘The Imitation Game’ the night before, I was delighted to find a glowing and pregnant Keira Knightley in the ladies lieu. She was gracious, smiling and chatty while we shared mirror space to re-apply lips and wash hands before departing. As luck would have it, I was heading towards the dance floor only to find heartthrob, Channing Tatum cutting lose with wife Jenna Dewan amongst the happy throngs of spectators who were more than bewitched by his moves. Catching a glimpse of the gorgeous Rosamond Pike saunter through the party in her Vera Wang gown with a trail of handlers had us mesmerized mostly for looking so fabulous just one month after giving birth. Watching Will Arnett ham it up on the couch next to us posing for photographs with his buddy Ricky Gervais kept us amused. On the opposite side, Selma Hayek, was holding court from her couch in a purple gown she had donned especially for the party when Globes winner Maggie Gyllenhaal stopped by to pay her a visit. Upon our departure at almost midnight, we bumped into Robin Wright and her entourage including on again off again beau Ben Foster as they made their way to obtain wristbands to enter.

F-Bomb's and Standing O's. After eight nominations, Kevin Spacey was so overcome with surprise and emotion at his Golden Globe win that he accidentally dropped the F-bomb during the opening line of his acceptance speech for Best Actor in a Television Series. Two standing ovations were awarded. One to HFPA President, Theo Kingma, for his important speech on free expression in response to the Paris attacks and Sony leaks and the other to Prince, well for just being the purple man himself who took to the stage in all his glory - shades and cane included - to announce Best Original Song.

Awkward Moments Abound.  While watching her husband, John Legend, accept the award for Best Original Song, an emotional Chrissy Teigen's unusual facial expression set off a firestorm of hilarious social media responses. During Kevin Spacey's acceptance speech, an unknowing Selma Hayek seemed a little spacey herself as she was caught on camera grooming her locks and staring into oblivion. Jeremy Renner said what everyone was thinking when he referenced J. Lo's overflowing cleavage area referring to them as her own set of 'globes." 

Best Acceptance Speech. Billy Bob Thornton not only won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a TV Series Drama, but he wins the top award in our book for the best brief acceptance speech. Painfully aware of how the media likes to mince words, he rightfully lectured the A-list audience with these thoughts, "You can say anything in the world and get into trouble. I know this for a fact. So I'm just going to say, thank you!" 

Politics on the Table. The evening took a more serious tone than usual as a number of causes were brought to light beginning with Joanne Froggatt's Golden Globe win for Best Actress on "Downton Abbey" and her sensitive portrayal as a victim of rape. Rapper Common's acceptance speech had everyone in tears as he shared that making the politically driven movie Selma about Martin Luther King's campaign to secure equal voting rights, "has awakened his humanity." Jill Soloway's personal project and triumphant win for "Transparent" raised acceptance and awareness for the transgender community, and Jared Leto paid homage to the Charlie Hebdo massacre saying "our thoughts, our prayers, our hearts are with you and wearing the slogan Je suis Charlie along with other celebs from George and Amal Clooney to Diane Kruger and Joshua Jackson. 

A Nod to my Hairdresser: Finally, I have to give a special shout out to my hairdresser, Tanya Abriol, at the Sally Hershberger Salon, who not only keeps my hair extraordinaire, but tames the tresses of many blonde beauties who presented at this year's Globes including Kate Hudson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Katherine Heigl - all gorgeous gals I am more than happy to keep company with.

Want more Red Carpet Manners? Stay tuned for our Oscar's Red Carpet Manners moments coming February 22nd on Live on ABC!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Manners Monday - #DareToBePolite - Never Put Anything in Writing...

Words, so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

The old adage to ‘never put anything in writing you wouldn’t want read by … your mother, your spouse, your boss, your children, your clients, your teacher, your employees, or blasted across the front page has never rung more true.  The written word - whether penned with a feather or typed on a tiny tablet - can come back to haunt you. It is a permanent record of what you thought, felt and believed at a given point and time. Words can be tracked, traced, manipulated, punishing and unforgiving. Particularly, in today's world where nothing escapes scrutiny and everyone is equally responsible. Even those at the tip-top cannot be fully protected. We've witnessed this time and again.  For a recent example, just ask one of the top tier executives at Sony. Of course, the scrutiny is not limited to the entertainment industry, it is epidemic worldwide. The horrific attack on the satirist magazine, Charlie Hebdo, has given everyone pause to perhaps rethink what is printed. While the freedom of speech, which gives us the right to print our opinions and ideas and is protected by the First Amendment must always persist, each incidence against it reminds us that there is no more powerful communication.  Its influence reaches far and wide and its message runs deep and eternal. 

Our global and technologically-connected world has given everyone a voice with no limits. One does not have to work for a high profile entertainment company or French satirical magazine to be heard. Our words may be written on a multitude of platforms that have the ability to reach anyone instantaneously. No longer do we have to go through a chain of command to have them published. Anyone with determination can distribute their innermost thoughts and beliefs with one press of a button and have them available on a massive scale.  This makes this period and time in history both exhilarating and scary as hell.

Step 3/Week 2: Communication: Never Put Anything in Writing...For the next seven days, aspire to be more mindful of what you write.  Double check your emails before sending. Re-read the content and make sure you aren’t offending anyone. Question whether you should hit ‘reply all’ or simply ‘reply’ to the recipient and remember to refrain from using all CAPS.  Use this week to triple check your texts. Better yet, try limiting these communications to mentions of running late or checking in. Texts are not designed for profound communications or professes of love or hate, and certainly not for altercations. Monitor what you say on social media. As boring as it sounds, better to save your witticisms for something nice than something nasty that will only bring turmoil and judgment. Bloggers and writers, notice if you are writing with the sole purpose to receive a reaction or writing with a bigger mission to uplift and inspire. Use this week as an experiment in written self-censorship rather than regurgitating every minuscule thought and feeling that comes to mind. Share with us what you observe in yourself and in others. Join us now! Make the vow to #daretobepolite!  

Monday, January 5, 2015

Manners Monday - #DareToBePolite - Communication: Breakdown or Breakthrough?

January marks the final month of our #DareToBePolite campaign with a close examination on communication. Long gone are the days of face-to-face conversations, having a tête-à-tête on the telephone, or sending one’s heartfelt thoughts in writing on card stock through snail mail. Who would’ve known that in 2015 smartphones would take over our lives and texting would become the premiere mode of engagement? With kids basically spearheading the movement, adults have closely followed suit and practically everyone is tapping away at lightning speed everything from making a plan and hashing out an altercation to posting a photograph or saying thank you. And we wonder why are lives are littered with communication breakdowns?  It is virtually impossible to convey your feelings, philosophies and tirades on a tiny tablet. We need more space and we need more personal interaction.  While one could argue that technology has enhanced our ability to connect, it has simultaneously drawn us more apart than ever.  As a nation and as a world, we are suffering from lack of contact.

For the next several weeks we will be studying communication and surveying where we fall short to determine what needs improvement and which skills to hone. The purpose of this 21-day practice is to become more mindful in all forms of communication, to halt further breakdowns and promote a few breakthroughs. If nothing else, this should increase awareness and responsibility for what you say whether in the written or spoken form. If you need validation from the outside, just look at the recent Sony debacle as an example of what not to do. Never put anything in writing, in jest or otherwise, that could potentially come back to haunt you. This example is one excellent reason for going old school and conversing in person. At least this way your words are not permanently on record. Unless, of course, you are someone with a high profile like Donald Sterling and your mistress has you on wiretap.  It is well obvious that no conversation is truly private anymore. You have to be highly cautious of who you speak to and ultra-selective with your choice of words.  You might even do yourself a favor and watch an episode of “Downton Abbey” as an excellent exercise in restraint. Their words are few, but potent and always eloquently conveyed even if bitterly cunning.   

Step 3/Week 1: Communication: Have a face to face.  For the next seven days we encourage you to ditch your phone in favor of getting in front of people.  Make a plan to meet for a meal. Schedule an outing for a walk in the park. Arrange a visit with someone you’ve lost touch with. When you’re in their presence, be fully present, not multi-tasking.  Study their features, notice their mannerisms, listen to their tone of voice, check out their body language.  These are all subtle cues and clues that will help you with your interpersonal interaction. At the same time, explore your own.  What are you saying with your body? Are your facial expressions revealing a greater story than the words coming out of your mouth?  Are you brusque and habitually say the wrong thing or do you process each thought before saying it? Do you keep yourself guarded or do you willingly disclose personal details? Share with us what you observe in yourself and in others. Join us now! Make the vow to #daretobepolite!  

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Best & Worst Manners Moments of 2014

The past twelve months have absolutely flown by. Talk to anyone young or old and they share the same sentiment. I’m certain it’s a symptom of the fast-paced world we live in, one that has us incessantly running at warp speed from the moment we open our eyes till the second our head hits the pillow. Our busy lives have not only made time pass more quickly they have opened the floodgates for bad behavior. We’re simply too exhausted to self-regulate, desperately trying to gain attention, or frantically trying to cover up a misstep. We live under a microscope of scrutiny where our every move is monitored with little margin for error.  Those that shine are the lucky individuals who have their heads on straight, keep their manners intact, and their eyes on the prize (whatever it may be). Let’s take a look at this year’s best and worst manners moments as we bid adieu to 2014 and usher in twenty-fifteen.

In Entertainment
Best: King of Late Night, Jimmy Fallon and ABC World News Tonight anchor, David Miur. Both gentlemen took the helm in their respective fields this past year adding a touch of grace and class to late night and the evening news. They are not only uber-talented, they are good-natured, possess an incredible work ethic, inspire millions and exude a passion for what they do.
Worst: Sony Pictures exec Amy Pascal whose character came into question after a massive Cyber Attack exposed less than flattering, racially toned email communications she shared with film producer Scott Rudin about President Obama and a host of Hollywood stars. Although she made her best attempts to apologize, the revealing comments sent a larger message throughout the industry and provided a wakeup call for how business will be conducted in the future. Justin Bieber made our list again for more outrageous behavior including egging a neighbor’s home. And, Dennis Rodman who befriended the North Korea dictator, Kim Jong-un - coincidentally the subject of the controversial film, “The Interview” which sparked the Sony hacking fiasco - checked into an alcohol-rehabilitation center after facing embarrassment and backlash for his visit to North Korea.

In Comedy
Best: We lost two legendary comic geniuses this past year, Joan Rivers and Robin Williams. While their brands of comedy were vastly different - Rivers a brash girl from Brooklyn known for her acerbic, self-deprecating wit and Williams an improvisational wizard and stand-up extraordinaire living in San Francisco - both were considered national treasures, true professionals, loving parents, and kind souls who treated everyone with great affection and respect.
Worst: Beloved Bill Cosby did not end the year on a high note.  The groundbreaking comedian known as a trusted figure pitching such wholesome brands as Jell-O and promoting education and good values through his “Fat Albert” series faced a litany of allegations accusing him of sexual misconduct and rape.  His mishandling of the charges and inaction has resulted in the shattering of his squeaky clean reputation and has halted both his current and future projects.

In Politics
Best: Their Royal Highnesses, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have topped our list once again with the news of a second child expected in April. They took the U.S. by storm in December charming and disarming everyone with a series of engagements on behalf of the Royal Foundation and other charities with which they are closely associated.
Worst: The news conference held for Governor Chris Christie as an attempt to apologize for the alleged closing of traffic lanes on the heavily traveled George Washington Bridge.  ‘Bridgegate’ as it was later dubbed, was apparently a retaliation to Fort Lee Mayor, Mark Sokolich, for not endorsing Christie’s re-election bid.  

In Sports
Best: Derek Jeter who wrapped up a twenty year career in Major League Baseball for the New York Yankees.  He was one of the greatest players of his generation winning five World Series championships and the admiration of millions. While maintaining a very high profile career, he successfully avoided major controversy or scandal and instead was known for his consummate professionalism and strong work ethic.  
Worst: Real estate mogul and former Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, for his thoughtless, racist remarks which were taped and subsequently released to the public resulting in the forced sale of his NBA team, a hefty fine of $2.5 million dollars and a banishment from the NBA for life.  Top of our list also goes to the embattled, National Football League, who is in desperate need of an image boost after suffering a plethora of domestic violence incidents among its players and for mismanagement of its leadership at the top. 

In Fashion
Best: Oscar de la Renta who embodied elegance in every sense of the word endearing himself to throngs of fans spanning the globe from first ladies and celebrities to socialites and fashionistas. He was the quintessential gentleman, both dapper and debonair who created a fashion empire that exemplified his zest for life as well as his eye for quality and impeccable taste.  Flawlessly dressed for any occasion, his sophistication and style went unrivaled.  
Worst: Founder and former CEO of the popular T-shirt company, American Apparel, Dov Charney was fired by his board of directors for ongoing allegations relating to sexual harassment and misuse of company funds.  

In Music
Best: Pharrell Williamssong "Happy" was voted Billboard Magazine's #1 single for 2014 for its uplifting missive. He’s a permanent entry on the “Best Dressed” lists, a perpetually nice guy and provider building a $35 million after school center for his hometown of Virginia Beach. The singer, Meghan Trianor, tops our list with “All About that Bass,” an anthem song for the thongs of women who struggle with body issues. While it has become a huge dance hit, it is the song’s positive message encouraging girls to love their bodies regardless of their shape that is resonating across the country. 
Worst: Nicki Minaj wasn’t the only one contributing to 2014’s unofficial proclamation as the ‘Year of the Rear,’ but she was the worst offender with her racy video for the song “Anaconda” which featured a chorus of women shaking their behinds in the jungle sending the wrong message to young women about the power of their sexuality.

And there you have it, another year passes with a sprinkling of good, the ridiculously bad, and the downright ugly.  Let's hope this next twelve months shows increasing signs of hope for a brighter future for our nation, one where we tip the scales of good and say so long to the bad and the ugly.