Sunday, December 27, 2009

Best & Worst Manners List 2009

In a year where there was many a battle of class vs. crass, we decided to weigh in on some of the year’s best and worst moments in manners. In 2009, celebrities, politicians and athletes all made the list and so did a few unknowns desperate for their five minutes of fame. From Captain Sully to Kayne West, we’ve compiled our take on the most civil and uncivil behavior that inspired us or made us cringe.

Best Manners List 2009

1. Taylor Swift. Rather than let the ridiculously rude Kayne West steal her big moment, the teenage beauty acted with grace and poise when Kayne jumped the stage, grabbed her mike and interrupted her acceptance speech.
2. Beyoncé. For graciously giving Taylor Swift back her moment by inviting her up on stage to complete her acceptance speech later that evening.
3. The Queen of England. For always maintaining dignity, elegance and charm with everyone from the President and the First Lady to Lady GaGa.
4. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger. For being a hero and remaining calm during complete chaos. The US Airways pilot miraculously managed to land the distressed plane flat on the water in the Hudson River and avoid nearby Manhattan. He saved the lives of over 150 people making him a hero to all.
5. Hugh Jackman. For having patience and stopping a Broadway performance midway to take on an audience member's ringing cell phone.
6. Daniel Craig. For supporting his friend and co-actor Hugh Jackman and refusing to continue the performance until the patron answered their phone.
7. George Clooney. For his take on manners. He states, “To my mind, there is a golden rule in society, which is quite simple and makes everything in the world go round. It is this, treat other people the way you would like to be treated yourself." Words to live by indeed.
8. Electronics Company LG. - For getting teens to think twice before they text. The electronics company created a marketing campaign of humorous sketches featuring teens and bad mobile manners such as sending racy pics, bullying and spreading rumors all of which can be viewed on YouTube and Facebook.
9. The Presidential Dog, Bo. The six-month-old Portuguese water dog has impeccable manners thanks to behavior lessons by a dog trainer. Apparently, he sits and stands at the command of the First Daughters and according to the Los Angeles Times, makes no toilet errors, and does not chew on any White House furniture.
10. Lady GaGa. We may not love her outrageously risqué attire, but her manners were impeccable as she prepared for a recent visit with the Queen. After being briefed about etiquette at the Palace, Lady Gaga made sure to leave a very good first impression.

Worst Manners List 2009

1. Kayne West. For the biggest offense of red carpet manners at the MTV Video Music Awards. Lord knows what possessed Kayne to run up on stage, grab the mike from Taylor Swift who was graciously accepting her award and proclaim Beyoncé the bell of the ball. He is now regarded as a laughing stock in the music biz.
2. Serena Williams. For extremely bad sportsmanship at the U.S. Open. Maybe John McEnroe can get away with it, but a woman must always maintain her composure in public. No matter how she felt, Serena should have never spewed such profanity at the line judge. All it did was tarnish her reputation as a talented athlete and diminish her stance as a role model for young girls.
3. Congressman Joe Wilson. For exemplifying blatant disrespect and heckling the President during his health care speech. Congressman Wilson let his emotions get the best of him and his outburst cost him considerably. He wound up having to apologize profusely and do major damage control.

4. The Salahi's. For trespassing on the White House property and crashing the State Dinner. Tareq and Michaele Salahi, upon speculation of appearing on "The Real Housewives of DC" reality show, took it upon themselves to crash a VIP party they were not officially invited to. As much as this was insanely wrong to do, I do give them kudos for at least looking like they belonged.
5. Tiger Woods. For infidelity and avoiding responsibility with a series of lies. After years of playing golf, a sport known for its decorum and manners, it’s amazing that Tiger would lose all sense of composure in his personal life. He has not only made a disgrace of himself with his family, but he has forever stained his character in the eyes of the public.

6. The Balloon Boy Hoax. For staging a publicity stunt that usurped international media attention. Just three days after the Heene family claimed that their 6 year old son Falcon was trapped in a runaway balloon, authorities discovered that the whole story had been fabricated. Richard Heene, later admitted that the incident had been staged to attract publicity for a reality TV show. It's scary what some folks will do for their 5 minutes of fame.
7. Ivana Trump. For being belligerent towards children and flight crew. On a plane departing Palm Beach just after Christmas, Ivana Trump was physically removed from a Delta Airlines commercial jet bound for New York. Apparently, she was unhappy with her seat and frustrated by some children who were running up and down the aisle. I have two words for her, private jet!!
8. Elizabeth Lambert. For ferocious play. The New Mexico women's soccer player was suspended indefinitely for committing a series of excessively rough plays, including yanking a BYU forward to the ground by her ponytail. I know that soccer can be an aggressive game, but I don't believe hair pulling is in the soccer rule book.

9. Adam Lambert. For sexually suggestive choreography. Adam Lambert claimed it was the heat of the moment that caused him to kiss another male on the American Music Awards. Pushing the envelope is more like it! P.S. I thought the same thing about Madonna and Britney Spears' kiss on the MTV Video Music Awards almost seven years ago.
10. Christian Bale. For yelling at a crew member on the new Terminator movie set. The actor went ballistic and delivered a series of rants against the director of photography who had accidentally ruined a scene by walking onto the set. Perhaps anger management courses should be in his list of resolutions for the New Year.

**A special nod to Larry David and Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 10 for continuing to make us laugh by understanding the comedy of manners that defines our daily lives. Everything from the table read where George defiled Larry's pen, to the crazy text messages Larry received from a nine-year-old daughter of a co-worker, to his getting annoyed by his friend Funkhouser who just showed up on the set of the Seinfeld reunion, to Larry getting accused of leaving a water stain on Elaine's table, we didn't stop laughing all season long!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Rules of Re-Gifting

Holiday time is flush with gift-giving. Composing the long lists of whom to get gifts for and how much to spend. Should I give the person something I like or something I think they will like? Will they be happy with their gift or will it make them want to spit in my egg nog? Even if you spend hours deliberating over what you think may be the perfect gift, chances are it may wind up as a re-gift to someone else. Couple that with the current state of the economy and the overwhelming unemployment rate and you'll understand why re-gifting has become a more acceptable pastime. If you are the recipient of a re-gift or a serial re-gifter, here are a few etiquette rules we think will ensure goodwill to all this time of year.

1. Inspect each item carefully before re-gifting. Conduct the equivilent of a Silkwood shower by removing all signs of previous ownership. Make sure there is no hidden writing with a personalized message, monogram or name. There should be no evidence of prior wrapping or packaging torn from being previously opened.

2. Re-gift items that are relatively new. There is nothing worse than receiving a re-gift from a store that no longer exists or an item that shows it's age like a boom box with a cassette player. Have the decency to at least re-gift something purchased within the same calendar year.

3. Some items should never be re-gifted. Gifts that have been opened or used should not be re-gifted. Nor should one-of-a-kind gifts or handmade gifts from loved ones, as that would be truly crushing. Mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law should never re-gift items received from each other. Some relationships are so fragile that one re-gift given to the housekeeper could send them over the edge, and trust me, you do not need that!

4. Keep detailed records. Make sure you keep careful records each year of who gave you what gifts from holidays past. This will prevent you from accidentally re-gifting an item to someone who gave you the same gift the year prior.

5. Make the re-gift look spectacular. If you re-gift an item, at least take the time to make it look presentable, even spectacular. Purchase some new wrapping paper, tie on a ribbon and attach a well written, thoughtful card to the new recipient.

6. Acceptable circumstances for re-gifting. (1) If you are financially strapped and you are positive the recipient would enjoy the gift as much or even more than you do. (2) If you are attending a last minute party and do not have time to purchase a hostess gift. (3) If it is an act of generosity such as an article of clothing, a toy or a gift basket that you do not need and would be more appreciated by a local charity organization. (4) If you are participating in a secret holiday gift exchange. The cap for these gifts is typically $20 and just might be the perfect time to unload a re-gifted item that has been stashed in your closet.

7. Re-gift responsibly. Make wise choices and avoid conflict. Don't re-gift Uncle Fred, a recovering alcoholic, with a bottle of champagne you received from your client. Don't bring attention to Cousin Sheila's thyroid problem by re-gifting a giant popcorn canister from the office. And, avoid re-gifting your sensitive friend Susie with a collection of self-help books you received from your therapist.

8. Accept re-gifts graciously. Never point fingers at a re-gifter and don't feel obligated to tell the recipient they just received a re-gift. There is never a good way to mention a re-gift so it is better to keep this information to yourself on either end of the equation. If you receive a re-gift, simply accept it with grace and say "thank you". If you are the re-gifter and you are caught, the best you can do is pass it off as an intentional gag gift and then high tail it to the nearest store to buy something new and fabulous and include a gift receipt!

A final thought to re-gifters. A gift that is given from the heart that is either handmade or purchased is the best gift of all. Sometimes a re-gift feels like a slap in the face and conveys a feeling of I don't care enough about you to spend the money and that can feel pretty hurtful. Gift giving and receiving should induce pleasure. It should not feel obligatory. After all, it's not about what you give or receive, but the sincere thought that goes into the exchange.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Oh the holidays! 'Tis the Season and Such...

Personally, I love this time of year. We Southern Californians get a touch of cold weather and clear skies and we can actually drink hot chocolate without melting. All is cheerful and festive. What I don't subscribe to, however, is the stress and chaos that seems to go along with this time of year. The list is never-ending from the holiday cards, to the gifts and parties, not to mention the family, school and work obligations, it is a wonder we make it through alive. To make the holidays nicer for all, here are 9 quick etiquette tips to guarantee a stress free and joyous holiday season!
1. Eat, Sleep & Be Merry. A hungry stomach or a tired body is a recipe for holiday party disaster. Schedules tend to be packed during the holiday season leaving little or no downtime to recharge batteries. Avoid any pitfalls by making sure everyone gets plenty of rest and eats a light snack before attending any holiday celebration.

2. Dress for Party Success. Dress appropriately for the occasion. If your family is attending a party at a ski chalet then a pair of clean jeans, a parka and Uggs will suffice. However, if the holiday gathering is a more formal affair then party attire, in the form of a dress or a nice pant suit, is a wise choice.

3. On the Road. On your way to the party, make sure to review any rules such as the type of holiday party you will be celebrating, who will be attending, what kind of food will be served, and any special activities your family may be asked to participate in.

4. Arrive on Time & Bearing Gifts. Your hosts are looking forward to your arrival so avoid being late and make preparations ahead of time. Select your attire beforehand, make sure all gifts are wrapped and a proper note has been written, map out your route and write down a contact phone number in case of an emergency.

5. Essential Holiday Table Manners. (a) Wait to be seated until everyone has arrived at the table. (b) Follow the lead of your host or hostess for everything. (c) Place your napkin on your lap. (d) Pass all trays of food to the right and all condiments in pairs. (e) Make pleasant table conversation with the person on your right and your left. (f) Chew with your mouth closed. (g) Wipe your mouth before taking a drink. (h) At the end of the meal, place your utensils in the finished position on your plate and your napkin loosely on the left side of your plate. (i) Ask to please be excused.

6. Clean-Up & Be Invited Again. If you are attending a sit down dinner celebration with family or with friends, offer to pitch in. This will guarantee future invitations.

7. Gracious Gift Receiving. Graciously accept all gifts whether they already have them or not. Focus on something positive to say. For example, if you do not like a gift, you do not need to say they do. You can simply say "thank you" or "how nice of you to think of me". Being polite always pays in dividends.

8. Departures. Designate an agreed upon beginning and end time with your family to prevent any misunderstandings when it comes time to leave the house or return from a party.

9. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You! A phone call or, better yet, a hand-written note of thanks to your holiday party hosts shows your appreciation for all their hard work. If you've thanked someone in person for a gift, a thank-you note isn't obligatory. But, it is never wrong to write a thank-you note. If you receive gifts from family members that you won't see to thank in person, write them a thank-you note-both to let them know their gift arrived and that you liked it.

The best way to alleviate stress from the holidays is to do something charitable. Look into your local organizations to see how you candonate your time to those in need. Offer to serve a holiday meal, hang decorations, bake cookies, read stories or sing holiday songs. Set a good example for your children while doing something fun and inspiring for the whole family. Take a moment to realize how lucky you are and be thankful for all that you have.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Halloween Etiquette - Tricks for Surviving the Night of Fright!

Halloween can be a wonderful and fun-filled time not only for the little ones, but also for adults. There are some basic etiquette rules however, that we all need to observe to ensure the safety and enjoyment of everyone. Here are a few essential tips on how to survive the night of fright!

Trick-or-Treating. This is truly 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. A child who has reached the age of sixteen or seventeen should retire their pumpkin candy bag for good. Begin trick or treating at dusk while their is still some light for safety. Try not to crowd or stampede the doorways for candy. Teach your children to be patient and polite and to remember the all important "please" when they ask for a treat and "thank you" when they receive it. There is nothing like seeing a ghost or goblin at your front door with impeccable manners.

Neighborhoods. It is perfectly acceptable to travel outside one’s own neighborhood, particularly, for children who live in a hillside neighborhood without sidewalks or for children who may be living in a neighborhood that is less than child-friendly. However, if you do decide to leave your neighborhood, the next best thing is to trick-or-treat in a neighborhood that you are familiar with or that is the neighborhood of a friend. If a house is dark and all the lights are turned off, this is the unwritten signal that the family is not participating in the ritual or may not even be at home.

Costumes. As far as costumes for children, the general rule is that they be kid-friendly. Politically incorrect outfits or very scary horror costumes are not considered appropriate. Older teens and adults may choose to let their wild imagination get the best of them, however, etiquette dictates that whatever they choose, they should try to be considerate of others and their environment. 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 alternate choice. Oftentimes, we think only about ourselves and not of others.

General Halloween Etiquette Tips. Halloween is a perfect “training” time to teach your children to take only one candy and be sure to say “thank you”. After just a few visits, your two year old will be an expert! At least one parent should accompany children up to at least the age of twelve. Make sure to speak with children about general safety rules, staying with their group, and if older, curfew time. Parents should check the treats of the younger children before they eat them. Children should never eat anything that is handmade or specially prepared (unless you know the family).

Saturday, September 12, 2009

“Top 10 List of Back-To-School Manners”

After the Labor Day weekend, children all across the country are finally back in school. Some parents are jumping for joy and can’t get them out of the house quickly enough and others are experiencing the bittersweet emotion of separation and loss as their “baby” is growing older. Regardless of your child’s age and how long they have been attending school, we have devised a list of Back-to-School Manners we believe will help you and your children transition more easily and gracefully into the new school year.

1. Obey “The Golden Rule”. We’ve heard it a hundred times. Treat others they way you would like to be treated. Think about it, if our children actually, consciously pondered this phrase I bet there would be a lot less hurt feelings, bullying, and unruly behavior in the classroom and on the playground.
2. Practice Safety First. Believe it or not, to be safe is to use good manners. When children are watching out for themselves and their fellow classmates, fewer accidents occur. This is true for both the school grounds as well as the surrounding parking area.
3. Bullying is Bad Behavior. Teach your children to be sweet and kind to their fellow schoolmates. Being a bully is usually a cry for help from a child who is in desperate need of some attention and love. Take the high road and show sensitivity towards that child until they are able to learn how to properly express themselves.
4. Friends Forever. Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold. Each year the students in the classrooms change. Children should view this as an opportunity to make new friends. They should be reminded to cultivate the relationships they already have, but also be encouraged to introduce themselves to new students and new classmates. Remember to stand up straight, smile and make good eye contact when making introductions.
5. Cut Out the Cliques and Be Inclusive of Everyone. All students want to be accepted by their peers at school. Speak to your children about the negative effects of whispering, gossiping or excluding others. Explain to them how they would feel if the shoe were on the other foot. They should be inclusive of everyone at all times at school, especially to new students who may be more shy or reserved. They do not have to engage everyone in deep conversation, but a friendly and warm smile is a must!
6. Make Cleanliness & Hygiene a Top Priority. The Swine Flu epidemic was enough to put most parents on high alert. Teach your teacher the value and importance of cleanliness and hygiene. Make sure they wash their hands (with soap) repeatedly throughout the day, sneeze into their arm as opposed to their hands (which carry germs) and (for those with long locks) wear their hair up in a ponytail or braids to avoid bringing home lice.
7. Be True to Your School. Children should be respectful towards the school administration and staff. Encourage them to channel their inner school spirit and support their school teams both academic and sports related. Motivate them to run for student council or take the lead on a charitable drive to raise funds for the school.
8. Practice Good Study Habits. Children quickly learn that homework only gets more difficult as you get older. Better to learn good study habits when you are young so that they become second nature as you progress into higher education. Assist them in creating a schedule with blocks of time for work and for play so that no matter how much work they have, they will feel a sense of balance.
9. Birthday Parties & Sleepovers. This goes back to our rule about inclusion. Children should be sensitive to their schoolmate's feelings and not exclude individuals. For birthday parties, they should either invite the entire class, keep it a same gender party or limit themselves to two or three friends for an intimate celebration. They should send party invitations via email or mail and not through backpacks as they are easily lost. For sleepovers, teach your children to discuss their plans after school to avoid any hurt feelings from friends who are not part of the plan. If they discover a friend is within earshot, suggest to them a sleepover plan for another date in the future.
10. Back-to-School Manners are Not Just for Kids! Parents are often some of the worst offenders. Greet fellow parents each day with a warm and friendly smile. Remember to include new parents in school activities and special events. Avoid gossip or negative comments about other parents or the school. Use the magic words unconditionally and often with teachers, administration and staff. Your children emulate you and will do as you do and not as you say. Better to set them on the right course by setting a good example. Remind them of your expectations and rules with regard to their manners and behavior in general. This will provide them with the confidence they need to achieve in school and have a productive and successful year!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Is it rude to keep your cell on the table at a restaurant when you are expecting a call?

Yes. When you are in the company of another person, put your cell phone away. Hide it in your lap where it is not visible. If you need to have your phone on to receive a call from the kids or the let’s say the White House, by all means keep it close by. Otherwise, put your phone on vibrate and let everything else wait!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Brother, Can You Spare a Parking Space?

Last Sunday, I drove to my local Farmer’s Market with my two girls as I do almost every Sunday. It's usually pretty crowded and parking is hard to find. I approached the parking area in front and waited for a space to open up. I sat patiently in my car with my girls hounding me, “Can’t we get out of the car mommy?” “I have a headache, I want to get out of the car!” I noticed there was a car behind me and felt relieved that at least I was first in line and the wait would soon be over.

After what felt like an eternity, a man and woman holding bags of flowers and veggies came walking down the street towards their car in the open lot. They were parked on the left and I was waiting on the right. As they began loading the bags into their car, I saw the car behind me race up in front and turn towards their space. Being a girl from NYC, I was not about to let that happen! I’m used to people double parking and getting out of their car to do an errand, but stealing another person’s space that they have been waiting patiently for is absolutely out of the question!

I tried to reason with the driver and was ignored. (See "To Dodge or Not to Dodge.") He proceeded ahead until he was halted by another defensive driver who told him that they would not move until I was able to park. Thankfully, the thief relented and we pulled into my primo parking space. After informing the security guard of the tense situation , we entered the Farmer's Market a bit tainted from the whole experience. What happened to my relaxing Sunday?

Long story short – My manners are in check most of the time...but when it comes to parking spaces and meter maids, everything seems to fly out the window. I always look for the absolute closest parking space to wherever I’m going and will usually wait until I get one. Admittedly, I am not a patient person and so waiting for anything is a painful exercise in restraint. So here are a few etiquette rules I wish I could instigate when it comes to parking and meter maids.

  • Don't steal other people’s parking spaces in parking lots, (especially when they have waited for patiently with screaming, hungry kids inside the car). This is true for metered parking as well. If you see someone double-parked and waiting for an open space, you should not steal the space from them.
  • FAIL parking meters are fair game. I can’t stand parking garages so if I can find a meter or 2-hour free street parking even better and unlike most people who wouldn’t dare to park in a space with a FAIL parking meter, when I find one I consider it my lucky day!!
  • Running a quick errand? Save yourself the quarters and take advantage of the timed parking zones (3 min., 10 min, etc.). Don't take up an hourly parking spot when there are short-term ones available for your quick errands.
  • Prepare your spare change ahead of time. If you visit the bank to deposit checks, next time ask your teller for a roll of quarters. It'll save you time to be prepared!
  • Don't abuse the system. I see people taking advantage of disabled parking spots all of the time! Those spots have been set aside for people who need them most. This is a terrible practice, not too mention really bad karma.
  • Parking attendants should be more reasonable when it comes to writing tickets. They should stop when someone approaching their car while the ticket is still being written. Why can’t they give us the benefit of the doubt? If they see us running towards our cars and risking our lives to save ourselves from having to pay a ticket then that should account for something!

Do you agree with us? Share your thoughts about parking spots and parking attendance and add a point to our list of etiquette rules. PARKING ATTENDANTS: this is an opportunity to tell your side of the story. Let your voice be heard! Post your comments and/or experiences below.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

To Dodge or Not to Dodge, That is the Question

Have you ever been on the receiving end of a dodge ball?

I was in the supermarket the other day and saw someone that I was just not in the mood to speak with. I was pretty sure that they saw me too and I wondered, Should I dodge this person or should I just be polite and greet them? I am ashamed to admit that on this day, I dodged--BIG TIME. When I saw her coming down the aisle, I ran. When I approached the checkout line, I glanced to make sure she wasn’t there. When I left the market I could see that she was in front of me so I pretended to look at my receipt and delay my leaving. When I saw that the coast was clear I walked straight to my car...AND GUESS WHAT? It turns out she was parked right next to me and looked straight at me as I drove away with my tail between my legs.

On top of that, a week ago I was on the throwing end of the dodge ball. I was getting out of my car and saw someone that I knew. I yelled out to the person to say hello. Unfortunately they were less than interested in me at the time, so they completely blew me off. And let me tell you--it didn't feel very good at all.

This question of whether or not to dodge someone is becoming a problem! Why is it so hard for us to put on a happy face and engage in simple niceties? Perhaps we have become hardened by society. Instead of being fun, spontaneity now throws our plans off schedule. Are we so important that only certain people are worthy of our time and attention? Has it become too draining to be polite?

In my classes, I teach that we should always try to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes -- we need to think about perspectives and how people feel. It seems harmless when we are dodging someone, but when we are the ones being avoided, it feels terrible!

I learned my lesson that day. We all could use "The Golden Rule" to:
  1. Treat others with decency and
  2. Acknowledge others with a friendly hello and smile.
It’s the least we can do to harmoniously co-exist in today’s busy and aggressive world.


What do you do when you see someone you’re not in the mood to speak with? Do you run, or do you meet them head on? Post your comments and/or experiences below and...

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

No Subject Line, No Email Etiquette

"More than 90% of Internet users between 18 and 72 said they send and receive email, making it the top online activity just ahead of search engines", according to the non-profit research group Pew Internet and American Life Project (Feb 2009).

As a user, you may be wondering what exactly the guidelines for proper email etiquette are and questioning whether this tool has actually simplified our lives or made them more complicated. We have devised a list of the top 16 rules of email etiquette we believe take into consideration OPF's (other people's feelings) as well as protect our own.

  1. Designate time each day to review emails in your inbox. Since we are inundated with email 24/7, it is important to put aside a couple of times during the day to sit down and go through them in a calm fashion. The exception: timely business emails which require your immediate attention and response.

  2. Return emails within 24-48 hours. Similar to a phone message, it is courteous to return all email communications within a one to two day time period.

  3. Check your Spam or Junk Email Folder. Unfortunately, email sometimes makes its way into these folders without any rhyme or reason. It is your duty to check them daily to make sure no emails were inadvertently misplaced. This is especially crucial if someone says they are sending something to you and you have not received it. Please remember to double-check these folders first before requesting that an email is re-sent.

  4. Return all emails in-kind. If someone is pouring their heart out to you in an email, don't respond with a brusque retort. This is the equivalent of a one word answer in conversations. Consider the sender's feelings and respond with an email that is reciprocal of the one that was received.

  5. It's okay to respond even if you can't respond. If someone sends an email that requires a response and you can't get to it right away, at least have the decency to let them know you will be addressing it shortly and will get back to them as soon as possible. This will prevent hurt feelings and any miscommunication in the future.

  6. Always include a subject line. A subject line describes the reason for the email, without it, the recipient is lost. Take the extra second and include a subject line in all communications. This allows the recipient to determine the relevance of your communication and also to categorize it and refer back to it in the future.

  7. Refrain from sending personal emails with a Request Read Receipt or Request Delivery Receipt. This is bothersome and puts the recipient on the defense. Unless you are the IRS or the CIA, your message does not require this extra measure.

  8. Remember that email addresses are private. Big corporations go to great lengths to obtain personal email addresses. Refrain from sending mass email communications with the email addresses on display for all to view. It is much more polite to send mass communications to a group email name or by Blind Copy ("bcc") to protect people's privacy.

  9. Be careful with "Reply", "Reply All" and "Forward". If you accidentally hit the wrong button, it may come back to haunt you. A few years ago, I mistakenly hit the "Reply" button when I meant to select the "Forward" button and landed in some pretty hot water. Trust me, you want to double and triple check yourself before hitting Send.

  10. Remember that email is a permanent record. Be very careful what you write in an email because everything can be used against you. These communications are forever embedded in servers. If you must vent or say something truly unpleasant, a face to face conversation is always best.

  11. Digitally file and/or back up all business emails. I recently had to access some emails from several years ago to verify a business matter in which I'd been wronged. These email documents were the proof I needed to win my case.

  12. Don't assume everyone has the same humor as you do. There is nothing more annoying than having to filter joke emails or chain letter emails when you are busy at work. Please save these communications for your most intimate friends or spare us and yourself and don't send them at all.

  13. Email thank you notes are fine, but if you truly want to make a lasting impression then a handwritten thank you note is much more impressive.

  14. Refrain from emailing in all CAPITAL LETTERS. It is the online equivalent of shouting!

  15. Review all spelling, grammar and punctuation before pressing the send button. Remember your emails are a reflection of you and you always want to make the best impression whether in person or online.

  16. End emails on a positive and upbeat note. If you're hitting writer's block and need some pointers, check out some of the most popular email closings and their meanings.

Do you have any particular pet peeves when it comes to emailing? Would you like to add an etiquette rule to our list?

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Friday, July 17, 2009

"Mix up a cocktail: Customer service is on the line"

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I was recently watching the now defunct comedy spoof show Mad TV” late one night and found myself hysterically laughing at a skit detailing a conversation between a man and a customer service representative. The whole skit escalated into the man screaming obscenities and the customer service rep hanging up the phone!! It was a dead-on interpretation of how extremely exacerbating these phone calls can be.

Today I had my own experience with one such call center when I attempted to activate my new credit card. The first attempt had me listening to the usual automated system and plugging in my card number and then my zip code and finally the 3-digit security code on the back of the card. Then after pressing “0” for operator about 100 times I finally was connected to a live person. They then proceeded to ask me more questions like What is your social security number? and Can you tell us the address of your prior residence? and then I was placed on hold and then DISCONNECTED. This happens all too often when these call centers are trying to transfer you to different departments. I clinched my teeth, dialed the 800 number and went through the same series of questions then again was put on hold. The representative then started hammering me with a series of impertinent questions. Is what is your mother’s maiden name no longer cutting the mustard? Must we provide a DNA sample in order to prove who we are? A conversation with a customer service call center has become akin to waiting at line at the DMV. And then they ask you if you would like to complete a customer satisfaction survey at the end of the call. I mean, Come on! After what felt like a lifetime, the activation process was finally completed.

So I ask you, how does one maintain their cool and avoid phone rage when dealing with customer service reps and call centers? I feel terrible admitting that I have a hard time being patient, especially when I’m in a rush to get something done like simply activate a credit card. Am I the only one who goes crazy when the customer service rep has to read their whole script and will not cut to the chase and answer the question at hand? Must they speak so slow that it seems intentional that they put me to sleep before they get to an answer? Must these companies make us jump through hoops just to speak to a human being? Why do they want to make the whole experience so painful?

I did a little soul searching and came up with a few ways I hope to maintain good manners and keep my cool in future communications:

  1. Take a deep breath before calling
  2. Situate myself in a comfy spot next to the TV or curl up with a book to occupy myself during long hold periods
  3. Recognize that the customer service rep is just doing their job
  4. Clearly define why I am calling and what I need from them
  5. Take up knitting as an activity to engage in while answering the myriad of nonsensical questions about my personal history
  6. Politely ask if it is possible for them to skip any scripted information
  7. Remember to say thank you at the end of the call even if I have lost 10 years of my life waiting for information.
We hope some of our tips will help you deal with the person on the other end of the line next time you need to talk with customer service. Cheers!

Does this remind you of someone with amazing manners OR perhaps, not such good ones? Air your manners compliments or grievances with photos, comments, conversations and questions!

1) Send us a message on Facebook

2) Email us at

3) Follow us on Twitter at @protocallout

4) Comment on this blog entry

Monday, June 1, 2009

Who Wants to be Perfect?

I started a personal exploration to uncover the perception of perfection to determine whether perfect was even attainable in today’s world and to see if anyone really cared to be perfect!

As a parent and an etiquette instructor, the quest to be perfectly mannered is the biggest problem I face every day. Sometimes I’m afraid to tell people what I do because I think they will judge my every move, check to see if I make a mistake or if I lose my cool. Friends and acquaintances alike are often self-conscious about their manners around me. It must be exhausting for them and I know it’s certainly exhausting for me. In fact, quite often I will say in social situations that I’m turning my ‘off duty’ light on so people can feel free to be themselves and so that I may let my guard down a little and relax and enjoy.

The question then becomes, can we raise polite, considerate, thoughtful children even if they are not perfect, do not come from perfect parents and do not grow up in perfect households? My answer is a definitive yes. At Beverly Hills Manners, we present manners and etiquette in a way that is spontaneous, natural and fun! Our style of teaching admits that being perfect is not only impossible to attain, but also quite boring. We'd rather teach our children to be chameleons who change their colors to fit into any social situation. This is what makes life exciting and pleasurable. We avoid training them to behave like little robots and conform to one way of being, instead we teach children to rely on their own unique strengths and attributes to capitalize on them through etiquette training which, will ultimately lead them to great happiness and success!

In today’s world of two income families and two minute attention spans, who has the time for etiquette perfection and who wants it anyway? Let me know your thoughts! Post your comments below.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Manners – New School Style

Manners – New School Style

We’ve come a long way from the stodgy, old rulebook of etiquette from days past. The iconic images of the prim and proper looking women and men of the 40’s and 50’s have given way to a more modern, sensible and practical image of today. In our frenetic world of sound bites and short attention spans, people are searching for a more tangible and more accessible way to receive information regarding etiquette and manners.
At Beverly Hills Manners™, we offer just that. We are an education and entertainment company that promotes a ‘new school’ style of manners and etiquette to both children and adults. Our approach introduces a new rulebook for social behavior and brings us into the 21st century showing good manners to be spontaneous, natural and fun!!! We are dedicated to re-instilling the spirited, stylish and sophisticated times of Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly into today’s generation who is lost in a world of tight jeans, racy pop songs, celebrity obsession and impersonation.
Don’t be fooled by our zip code. Our programs and classes are offered to anyone interested in learning a few tips and techniques on how to get along more easily and gracefully in today’s chaotic, callous and competitive world. Let’s face it, whether you’re 5 or 95, it is always helpful to know how to make an introduction at a party, shake someone’s hand at a business meeting, give someone a hug at a family gathering, make polite conversation at school or eat properly at a formal dining table. Our ‘new school’ methods help people feel more confident, well-rounded, polite, poised, smart, funny, communicative, honest and comfortable.
Now, let’s be clear about something. We do not by any means profess perfection. Instead, we acknowledge that none of us is capable of being perfectly mannered 24/7. However, we do expect to raise the awareness level to assist our clients in being better parents, children, friends, colleagues, employees, citizens, and so forth.
We have started our own blog to draw more attention to the fact that people are tired of living in a society where lewd, crude and rude is our national motto of behavior. In fact, we have also added a younger voice who will be introduced in the coming weeks to address how teens and college-aged students feel about the subject. So stay tuned to read about more compelling and relevant topics on a bi-weekly basis!


Know someone with amazing manners OR perhaps, not such good ones?
Air your manners compliments or grievances with photos, comments, conversations and questions!
1) Send us a message on Facebook
2) Email us at
3) Follow us on Twitter at @protocallout
4) Comment on this blog entry