Monday, December 27, 2010

Best & Worst Manners List 2010

As the year draws to an end, we are besieged by the endless lists of the best and the worst of 2010. From television programs to magazine covers, lists of every kind appear whether it’s in the form of a Barbara Walters special or a Time Magazine cover spread, you simply cannot pass through to 2011 without a proper recount of 2010. We certainly did not want to miss the boat, so we painstaking compiled eleven (a nod to 2011) of the greatest and poorest manners moments of the last year. Unfortunately, there was no shortage of entries for the year's worst contenders. Twenty-ten presented to us a fair share of politicians, celebrities and athletes who had clearly lost their way, but of course, we wished to also honor those special few that deservedly held a place at the very top of our list. So in chronological order, here they are...

1. BEST Conan O’Brien. In early January, when Conan O'Brien received the news that NBC intended to move him as host of "The Tonight Show" to 12:05am to accommodate Jay Leno whose "Jay Leno Show" would be moved to 11:35pm, he was definitely unhappy. Rather than begin a negative campaign against NBC or Jay Leno, Conan took the high road. He made the decision to leave NBC, but not without obtaining adequate compensation for his many employees who had moved out from New York to Los Angeles. Throughout the ordeal, he remained polite, patient and committed to his work. On the last night of his show he said these words, "Every comedian, every comedian dreams of hosting The Tonight Show and—for seven months—I got to do it. I did it my way, with people I love, and I do not regret a second [of it].... All I ask is one thing, and I'm asking this particularly of young people that watch: Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism; for the record it's my least favorite quality. It doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen." What a classy guy!

2. WORST John Mayer. If you happened to catch a glance at his Playboy interview back in February or read the complete transcript online, you will understand why John Mayer made our list. For someone who apparently was growing tired of his "douche bag" reputation and poor interview skills, we're not so sure this guy cares to change anything. He comes across as overly arrogant, pompous, self-indulgent and self-aggrandizing. Besides his kiss and tell remark about Jessica Simpson, he provided a bevy of other slanderous statements and racially insensitive comments completely embarrassing himself. We hope this ridiculous egotistical attitude will wear off in 2011 so we can go back to enjoying his beautiful music.

3. WORST Jesse James. On March 17th, just ten days after his wife, Sandra Bullock accepted her winning Oscar, reports of Jesse James infidelity during their 5 year marriage were igniting all over the place. The affair with tattooed stripper Michelle ("Bombshell") McGee, rumored to have occurred during the time Bullock was filming "The Blind Side," was the longest transgression. We wonder what James must have been thinking as Bullock attended the awards circuit thanking him profusely for staying by her side during her career. When the news came out, he issued a public apology claiming, "There is only one person to blame for this whole situation, and that is me." While Jesse James made his best efforts to take full responsibility and reconcile with Bullock, the irrevocable damage had already been done.

4. BEST Sandra Bullock. In striking contrast to Jesse James' unscrupulous behavior, "America's Sweetheart", Sandra Bullock, was a pillar of strength and dignity in the days and weeks following the news of her ex-husband's sexual escapades. The bittersweet irony that she would receive a Best Actress award for her film "The Blind Side" while simultaneously experiencing being blindsided by her own husband would have left anyone devastated. Rather than go for the jugular and spew public hatred towards James, Bullock made the conscious decision to rise above the tabloid gossip and conduct herself with poise and decorum making sure to never mention anything contrary regarding the situation.

5. WORST/BEST Lady Gaga. The talented glam pop singer has a pension for stirring things up. Most of the time it is for her outrageously flamboyant outfits that actually landed her the Best Dressed of the Year Award by Vogue Magazine (remember the meat dress she wore to the VMA's?) and other times it is for her misguided public behavior. One moment stood out for us in particular over the summer in June when she wore only a bikini, fishnets and a baseball jersey to a New York Mets game. Inappropriately dressed and apparently "lit", she was moved from her front-row seat and into Jerry Seinfeld’s empty box. When the photographers went to take a picture, she gave them the finger. Cut to several months later and hopefully a bit wiser, Lady Gaga has focused her energy on her role as a rising iconic figure for the Gay community standing up for Gay rights and speaking on behalf of the US military in favor of reversing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” campaign.

6. WORST Mel Gibson. Still fresh in our memory was the actor's anti-Semitic rant following his DUI arrest in 2006 and now Mel has done it again. Gibson was back in the news this July for his massive tantrum caught on audio tape with ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva. After a series of countless allegations including everything from his abusive nature to racist remarks and a bitter custody battle over his daughter, he was finally dropped by his agency, William Morris Endeavor Entertainment.

7. WORST Lindsay Lohan. The innocent Lindsay Lohan of the "Herbie the Love Bug" and "Parent Trap" fame has certainly seen better days. This year found her grappling with endless legal troubles, rehab stints and court hearings. One particular court hearing that took place over the summer made headlines over her controversial nail polish. Miss Lohan had taken the liberty of writing in tiny letters "F--- U" on the nail of her left middle finger. The surveillance cameras in the courtroom caught the blatantly disrespectful message on tape and enlarged it for easier viewing. Within minutes, it was all over the Internet.

8. WORST Charlie Sheen. Playing true to his character on "Two and A Half Men," Charlie Sheen made headlines in October for his reckless and shameful behavior in the famed Eloise Suite at the Plaza Hotel in New York. Just a couple of months fresh out of rehab, Sheen digressed into the world of drugs and escorts and went off the deep end trashing his hotel room while naked and frantically searching for his missing cell phone and wallet. The worst part about the incident was that his ex-wife, Denise Richards, and their two daughters were also staying in the hotel at the time for a planned vacation.

9. WORST Meg Whitman & Jerry Brown. There was quite a bit of mud-slinging leading up to this year's race for Governor of California. A particularly low point found Democrat Jerry Brown's campaign calling Republican challenger, Meg Whitman, a "whore." This came on the heels of another unfortunate incident in which Meg Whitman's housekeeper of 9 years sued her for wrongful termination and hired Gloria Allred to represent her. A series of negative television ads were created by both camps and then fired back and forth for the remainder of the campaign. The smear tactics became so prevalent that it prompted Matt Lauer, who was moderating an impromptu discussion at the Women's Conference between the candidates, to get them to pledge a truce for the final week of the campaign. No such luck, the race was a fight until the bitter end.

10. BEST Nacho Figueras. In comparison to most of the athletes we hear about in the tabloids on a daily basis, Nacho Figueras has all the right stuff. While Tiger and Derek, Brett and Tony are busy getting press for all the wrong reasons, Nacho has been making a positive impression as a charming and passionate polo player and a committed family man. This year he travelled extensively spreading the word about polo and working diligently to turn it into a mainstream sport that is more accessible to the masses. In addition to being a star athlete, he is also a celebrity in his own right as the face of Ralph Lauren’s fragrances and a model for his Black Label collection. His stunning good looks and natural talents could easily make him arrogant and entitled, but instead Nacho is known for his eloquent style, polite nature and genuine friendliness emitting warmth and charisma wherever he goes.

11. BEST Elizabeth Edwards. This December Elizabeth Edwards lost her long battle with cancer. Despite the many months dealing with her husband's unsuccessful campaign for Vice President, the scandal surrounding his infidelity and the fathering of a child with his former aide, Edwards maintained her composure, remained poised and put on a brave face. The words resilience and grace do not even begin to describe her strength and courage as she knew the end was soon approaching. She had these final words to share. “You all know that I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces — my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope. These graces have carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good times than I ever could have imagined. The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And, yes, there are certainly times when we aren't able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful. It isn’t possible to put into words the love and gratitude I feel to everyone who has and continues to support and inspire me every day. To you I simply say: you know."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Rules of Regifting - Seinfeld Style

In 1995, an episode of Seinfeld entitled "The Label Maker" was the first time the word regift was coined. It all started with Elaine who purchased a label maker as a Christmas gift for her friend Tim Whatley. He then apparently regifted the item to Jerry as a thank you for Super Bowl tickets Jerry had given him. This obviously upset Elaine and prompted her to exclaim, "He recycled this gift. He's a regifter!" She later discovers that the reason Whatley regifted the label maker was because the label adhesive wasn't strong enough, it was defective.

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 regift to someone else. Couple that with the current state of the economy and the overwhelming unemployment rate and you'll understand why regifting has become a more acceptable pastime. If you are the recipient of a regift or a serial regifter, here are a few etiquette rules we think will ensure goodwill to all this time of year.

1. To save your item from being regifted, make sure it isn't flawed. In Tim Whatley's defense, Elaine's gift was indeed defective and therefore he was unable to use it. Rather than tossing it in the garbage, he decided to pass it along to a friend. Should he have done that? Probably not. One should only regift an item that is in perfect working condition.

2. Inspect each item carefully before regifting. 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.

3. Regift items that are relatively new. There is nothing worse than receiving a regift 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.

4. Some items should never be regifted. Gifts that have been opened or used should not be regifted. 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!

5. 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 regifting an item to someone who gave you the same gift the year prior.

6. Make the regift look spectacular. If you regift 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.

7. Acceptable circumstances for regifting. (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.

8. Regift responsibly. Make wise choices and avoid conflict. Don't regift 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 regifting a giant popcorn canister from the office. And, avoid regifting your sensitive friend Susie with a collection of self-help books you received from your therapist.

9. Accept regifts graciously. Never point fingers at a re-gifter and don't feel obligated to tell the recipient they just received a regift. There is never a good way to mention a regift so it is better to keep this information to yourself on either end of the equation. If you receive a regift, simply accept it with grace and say "thank you". If you are the regifter 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 regifters. 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.

Monday, December 20, 2010

“Naughty vs. Nice” – Why Be Nice When Naughty Seems To Have All the Fun?

I've had a lot of issues with this "naughty versus nice" dilemma. As a mother raising two impressionable girls and an etiquette instructor attempting to make headway in a society where vulgarity is the preferred norm of existence, I have a double interest in the cause. Just listen to the news on any given day and you'll hear countless stories of celebrities, athletes and politicians who have fallen from grace and made headlines with the naughty things they have done. These clips are tenfold in comparison to the lesser known good deeds or simple acts of kindness these same figures may have demonstrated in their past.

What happened to the innocent young children who were once consumed with getting on Santa's good side to ensure a gift? I wonder if they find the naughty side more attractive and appealing? How could they not when they are inundated by these images in the media? This whole "catching flies with honey business" (being nice) isn't necessary in order to grab your 5 minutes of fame. All that is needed is a little cat fighting, some hair pulling and name calling and you're in like flint with a new television contract and a product licensing deal. These are the messages our children are receiving and this is what is influencing their behavior. Although there is still the sprinkling of interstitials by well-known figures reminding us to give to those less fortunate or be mindful of others, those are few and far between and hardly make a difference.

So this December when children everywhere are contemplating their fate to determine which side of Santa's List they will appear on, I thought I'd take a closer look to find out why being nice has fallen by the wayside and being naughty has become the new aspirational goal.

1. Being nice does not mean you have to be a doormat. People sometimes confuse being nice with being a wallflower or a doormat. The type that lets everyone walk all over them. This is absolutely not the case. Being nice does not mean you must be agreeable all of the time or play the martyr. You can be nice and still be real and true to yourself as well as others. Being nice simply means being considerate and respectful. It also implies that you take a moment to put other people's feelings before your own and that you act with civility.

2. Only the good die young. Billy Joel's famous last words remind us that if we are good (nice), then our time on this earth is limited. Could there be some truth to this phrase? How else do we explain the untimely deaths of everyone from Martin Luther King Jr. to Elizabeth Edwards? On the flip side, think about how many rat bastards (naughty people) seem to stick around forever virtually unharmed! Unconsciously, perhaps this is encouraging us to err on the side of naughty to ensure we'll live well into our nineties!

3. Do not confuse the word "nice" with wallflower or milquetoast. A nice person may surprise you. If someone is described as nice, it does not mean they are meek or timid or even unassertive in their nature. It may simply mean that they have mastered the fine art of socialization. Their intentions are not calculated or cold. They do not have to resort to anger or crazy behavior that is typically associated with being naughty or nasty. They are just naturally able to make others feel good while still getting what they want or achieving their goals.

4. Nice guys finish last. The term "nice guy" originated in the dating world to describe a man who was emotionally supportive, kind and considerate towards women. The nice guy was the man who got the woman in the end because he was the marrying kind and would make a good father to their children. Rather than spend a lifetime of heartache and headache chasing the naughty boys, wise women learned to settle down with the nice guy who treated them with respect and put them on a pedestal. Note: Don't underestimate the nice guy, just because they're nice doesn't mean they don't know how to get naughty in the bedroom.

5. It is the nice thing to do. We are constantly being told this phrase by others. Parents especially like to impress this upon their children to teach them how to behave in the world. Oftentimes, these words come across as patronizing and actually have the opposite effect making us want to do the naughty thing instead just out of spite. Rather than making this feel like a chore, we have to begin internalizing the act of being nice to thereby make it feel more automatic. With practice, it should feel more comfortable and natural.

Finally, making a case for a return to nice. Isn't it time we got over all this naughty behavior and concentrated on just being nice? After all, it does reap its own rewards and it certainly feels a lot better. Take Kelly Osbourne, for example. Here's a young girl who was best known for her naughty escapades, lewd behavior and even more crude language on the MTV reality series, "The Osbournes." Now, several years later, she has slimmed down considerably, curbed her language and has actually become quite the young lady appearing as an expert for her generation and commenting on everything from style to deportment. If you were to ask her which way she prefers to view herself, I guarantee it would be in the present form. She has really transformed herself, a far cry from her peer Miss Lindsay Lohan (pictured above) who has continued her naughty ways. So think twice kiddies before making your decision this year and let's see if we can make a concerted effort to lengthen Santa's "nice" side of his list.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"Thanksgiving with the Family" - Can't We All Just Get Along?

What is it about the holidays that sends most families running for the hills? Rather than feeling like an uplifting experience that we look forward to, holidays tend to feel more like a doom and gloom sentence that we have to endure, but not without a good dose of mind-numbing substances to help get us through. The real truth of the matter is everyone really does want to get along and have a pleasant and peaceful Thanksgiving, it's just that we let our egos and differences get the best of us and have no idea how to restrain ourselves and apply a little self-censorship. Here are our top five tips to surviving any family holiday celebration and perhaps even enjoying yourself for once!

1. Make it a formal affair. As we mentioned in our recent blog post on creating a glamorous Thanksgiving, set the tone of the party and keep things cordial by encouraging all family members to dress for the occasion. They will be much more inclined to be on their best behavior and turn on the charm than if they had arrived as if they had just rolled out of bed.

2. Keep it light and breezy. It is a well-known fact that humor is the best remedy to loosen things up and relieve a tense situation. Levity is definitely the way to go with those family members who are wound up too tight. If the air is so thick you can cut it with a knife, put on a funny holiday movie, crack a few jokes or rally a spontaneous game of charades which is always guaranteed to make people laugh. This should help alleviate the tension and hopefully make everyone forget their troubles (at least for a while).

3. Refrain from pushing each other's buttons. Family members are usually acutely aware of just the right button to push that will set another family member off towards the deep end. Bite your tongue, count to ten, run a lap around the block, do whatever you can to abstain from saying the wrong thing that may potentially ruin the entire occasion. You have the control and it is within your power to hold back, smile and rise above the situation.

4. Compliments are better than criticism. When we relax and are truly present for one another it is easy to find something nice to say that will make the other person feel good and loved during this time of year. Compliments are always well-received. It doesn't have to be anything earth-shattering, but it should definitely be authentic. After you pay a compliment, you may be pleasantly surprised by a normally restrained family member, who now feels more inclined to pay you a compliment in return.

5. Try to be thankful. Recognize the obvious and be thankful for the small things. If family members are able to attend Thanksgiving then that is a blessing in itself. For older relatives, this may be their last. You never know what the future holds so cherish each moment together, appreciate each other and focus on only the positive, unique attributes. Finally, before you gorge yourself with the Thanksgiving feast, go around the table and say one thing you are thankful for and maybe even one nice thing to each person at the table. This will bring contentment and peace to everyone attending and isn't that all we really want anyway?

"Glamorous at Thanksgiving" - Why It's Important to Dress More Than Just Your Turkey

Inspired by an article I read recently in Bergdorf Goodman magazine, I wanted to explore further the idea of not only dressing the turkey on Thanksgiving, but also oneself. There is nothing worse than showing up to an affair in elegant attire and discovering that the rest of the guests never got the "memo." Even if the host does not include a dress code in the invitation to Thanksgiving, common sense says that if someone has gone to the trouble of slaving all day in the kitchen to prepare a fabulous meal, then all guests should pay their respects by arriving specially clothed for the occasion. Listed are our top five tips to guaranteeing a photo worthy celebration.

1. Your Attire Helps Set the Tone. It is very easy to distinguish a special occasion from an ordinary one. Whether hosting a holiday celebration or arriving as a guest, getting dressed up should be an integral part of the tradition. For me this is easy, I am actually the one who feels more comfortable in heels and a suit than I do in sweats and flip flops; however, for most, that is not the case. If you are in this category, I encourage you to fake it anyway because wearing nice, clean, pressed clothes can brighten an attitude and truly does help to set the tone for everyone.

2. Put Some Effort Into It. Paying homage to the holidays requires a bit of thought if you want to do it right. You know they are coming, you have the date clearly marked on your calendar so take some time to get organized and plan accordingly. Look through your closet and pull out a couple of possible choices a day or so ahead. Don't forget to do the same for the children. Trust me, the last thing you need is to be fighting with them about what they are wearing as you are struggling to get out the door. Once you have narrowed down your favorite outfit, add a little flair by accessorizing with smart and stylish accents.

3.Getting Dressed Up Actually Makes You More Polite. As an etiquette instructor and an expert in this area, I speak from experience when I say that being polite goes hand-in-hand with putting yourself together. Making holiday plans with family can be stressful enough, even with the best intentions. To create harmony at Thanksgiving, create a more formal atmosphere and encourage family to dress for the meal. They will be much more apt to be on their best behavior if they are wearing dresses and suits than if they are wearing their tee shirts and jeans appearing as if they are ready for a throw down in the backyard.

4. What to Wear? Some family and friends take liberties in this area that are not necessarily the most appropriate, so we thought we'd lay down a few ground rules. Don't embarrass yourself and others by wearing anything too revealing. It's a family holiday for goodness sake! Save your 9-inch heels and low cut dress for your hot date on Saturday night. Think tasteful and sophisticated, something along the lines of a strand of pearls with a nice pant or skirt suit for a woman and a dark color suit or slacks and sweater ensemble for a man. Remember elegant and classic does not have to mean boring and understated, there are many ways to make yourself look fabulous with a bit of creativity and fashion sense.

5. The Hostess Should Be the Mostest. We've spent the majority of time focusing on what family and friends, otherwise known as guests, should wear to attend a Thanksgiving party. However, the most important figure at the event is the illustrious host or hostess who really should display the "mostest". We know this is the hardest part to do, especially after days of shopping, preparing and cooking for the meal, but when you open the front door to your home and receive your first guest, you really want to look the part. Your guests will feel terribly if they arrive dressed to the nines and you are still in your raggedy sweats with Uggs.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bullying - A Rite of Passage or a Dangerous Path to Destruction

It was my freshman year of high school. I was excited to begin a new school and had purchased a brand new wardrobe at Ann Taylor for the occasion. I was all prepared to start off the year on a good note. I had my best friend from elementary school to lean on, I joined the drill team with a group of friends and looked forward to the next four years with high hopes. Unfortunately, my experience was not always rosey for it was in high school that I became the victim of bullying. I will never forget the group of mean girls who would torment me for being small. They would spend their evenings making crank calls to my home and spewing out insensitive remarks at my expense. It was painful and still stings to this day. When I think of those girls now with children of their own, I can't help but wonder how they would feel if the shoe were on the other foot and one of their kids was being bullied by someone like them. Would they care? Did they grow up to become hardened adults? Who knows? Bullying has been around for generations, but the cruelty that has started spiraling out of control in recent years has to stop. As a parent and as an etiquette educator, it has become imperative that we pass on to our children the tools to become decent, considerate, empathetic human beings. If we fail in this department, it will have great repercussions in every aspect of society.

October is known as National Bullying Prevention month. This October sent a message loud and clear as it ironically and tragically focused on the death of bullying victim, Tyler Clementi, a college student at Rutgers University who committed suicide as a result of being cyber-bullied by his roommate and friend who took it upon themselves to stream live video of his sexual encounter with a fellow male student. This incident prompted a media storm to bring to the forefront an anti-bullying crusade. CNN's Anderson Cooper devoted an entire week on the subject, People Magazine and the Cartoon Network also mounted campaigns to help shed light. Celebrities spoke out to share their personal experiences with bullying and activists jumped in to provide tips on prevention. Below are some of the highlights we have compiled, as well as our thoughts on how to combat bullying through manners.

Anyone is a target for bullying. Bullying is an equal-opportunity offender where anyone can become a target. Victims are bullied for everything from being overweight to being underweight, for a bad haircut or for having curly hair, for wearing certain clothing, for their religious beliefs, for a physical disablement or a speech impediment, for their sexual orientation or for just being different.

Education and information is key. Kids know that bullying is wrong. They have attended countless assemblies on the subject. It is no longer enough to just speak about the problem and what kids should not to do. Instead they need to be armed with the tools on what they can do to prevent bullying and the education must be age appropriate and continued year after year. Kids must be educated on what constitutes bullying. Many kids know acts of physical harm are considered bullying, but they are not aware that teasing and spreading rumors or gossiping or excluding someone from a group is also considered bullying. Kids need to understand there are consequences of their actions. They need to know the difference between bully and cyber-bulling. They must comprehend that any mean, hurtful or threatening messages, posts, or videos they send online, through their cell phones and other mobile devices are permanent and can be used against them and, in some cases, may be considered criminal evidence. Hearing these cold, hard facts might help kids accept a no tolerance level on all forms of bullying.

Safety and structure starts with the curriculum. 160,000 kids don't go to school because of bullying. To make a dent in this epidemic, kids must feel that there is a safe environment for them to share that bullying is taking place. Teachers and administrative staff must also be instructed on prevention and solutions so that they may positively impact a situation. Curriculum that focuses on character building traits that promote empathy, honesty and respect must be incorporated into everyday learning to provide kids with the tools to feel confident and secure within themselves so that they will not need to put others down to feel in control. Most importantly, kids need to receive positive reinforcement from each other and from the school encouraging them to make wise choices and pointing them towards civility and good behavior. The goal is for these rewards to far outweigh the "reward" the bully gets for their negative behavior.

Technology has only exacerbated the situation.
Technology has significantly raised the stakes giving bullies new ammunition and a new way to torment their victims online 24/7. Bullying is no longer limited to in-your-face confrontations on the school yard, it takes place after hours and in the home and parents may not even be made aware of it. Internet kids are experiencing cyber-bullying on social networking sites such as MySpace, FormSpring and FaceBook. The important issue to remember is that bullying is bullying whether online or offline and bullying prevention all boils down to one thing, respect, regardless if you are communicating electronically or having a conversation face to face. Unfortunately, children feel much more free to express themselves without limitations online because it is non-confrontational and one-sided. This presents a very big problem where children are taking liberties to say whatever is on their mind without recourse. Without another person facing them, it is much easier to forget to take into consideration how the other person may feel. Instead, kids are too quick to type a message and hit "send" before thinking about the consequences of their words or actions. Children need to understand that they are equally responsible for the way they express themselves no matter the form, and that with any type of communication, they must put first and foremost "The Golden Rule" to treat others the way they wish to be treated.

How instilling a few good manners can help. We can no longer claim bullying as a rite of passage, just kids being kids. It has become a pervasive problem and a parents responsibility in this matter is greater than it has ever been. Bullying can be prevented by instilling what I like to call the three "R's" - Raising Awareness, Role Modeling and Repetition. First, parents must have a very real conversation with their kids about the value and importance of treating one another with simple respect and common decency. Second, kids need to have solid role models to look up to and revere. This is where parents not only need to talk the talk, but must be able to walk the walk and show their kids firsthand how to be compassionate and kind towards one another. They need to educate them on the difference between positive role models in real life and negative role models that are oftentimes revered in the media. They need to understand that these figures are exaggerated for entertainment value and are not to be emulated. Finally, repetition is key. It is one thing to educate children with these wonderful life tools, but quite another to actually practice them on a daily basis so that they become innate. After all, we are not born with manners. They are learned and change over time as our society continues to grow and innovate.

For more information on bullying and bullying prevention, please visit these informative websites:

"Countdown to Halloween - Tips for Surviving the Night of Fright 2"

Kids of all ages love Halloween. Some of them know exactly which superhero or princess they want to be months prior. Others look forward to visiting pumpkin patches and eating candy corn till their hearts are content. Many celebrate with Halloween parties and decorated houses and a few skip the festivities altogether. Regardless of how you choose to acknowledge the holiday, before October 31st, parents and children alike should take a moment to review our essential Halloween etiquette tips to ensure survival on the most frightful night of the year.

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. Begin trick-or-treating at dusk while there is still some light for safety. Try not to crowd or stampede the doorways. Teach children to be patient and polite, to limit themselves to one piece of candy unless more is offered, and to remember to say "please" when they ask for a treat and "thank you" when they receive it. There is nothing like seeing a ghost or goblin at a 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. 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 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. 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. Consider purchasing or making a couple of costumes, one for school and other festivities prior to Halloween and the other for Halloween night.

Halloween Parties. Anyone with a birthday in October knows how much fun it can be to have a Halloween party. Remember if you are hosting the party, be sure to be a gracious host 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 ghoul guest as well. Don't forget to bring a birthday gift or host gift for the party-giver as a thank you for including you in the celebration.

Be Safe, Not Sorry. It is best to have ample supplies on hand for emergencies. Sidewalks can be treacherous and lawns lined with electrical cords can be dangerous. Come prepared with flashlights to use to make sure you do not trip or fall. Keep a couple of Band Aids and some Neosporin on hand 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 be able to see clearly. Adults and children should stick together at all times. There is nothing more difficult than trying to track down a small child in the pitch black of night.

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 or specially prepared unless you know the family.

Guidelines for Older Children. When it comes to costumes, older children and teens have a tendency to let their wild imagination get the best of them. Etiquette dictates that whatever they choose, they should make sure it is not disrespectful or offensive to others. As this age group is old enough to trick-or-treat on their own, parents should lay down a few ground rules with regard to general safety and curfew. If they are attending a Halloween party, check to make sure there is a chaperon in attendance and that no alcoholic beverages are being served. If in doubt, offer to chaperon yourself.

Pranks and Tricks. Halloween is meant to be fun, to use your imagination, 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 an individuals 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.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Back To School Manners - The College Years

The beginning of a new school year is sometimes met with bittersweet sentiment, especially for those parents with older children who are leaving the nest and going away to college for the first time. After years of preparation, test taking, filling out applications and going on tours, the final weeks are spent shopping for dorm room essentials, new wardrobes and such.

I remember my first day of Sarah Lawrence College like it was yesterday. I recall the outfit I wore and the friends that I met. I remember the strange feeling of being in a new environment on my own and left to my own devices. It definitely took some time for me to settle in and feel comfortable. I can only imagine what college will be like by the time my girls attend in about ten years. One thing's for sure, I will want to arm them with survival skills to ensure their transition is a smooth one and bears no resemblance to an episode of Gossip Girl. Below are 8 surefire ways for your child to make the most of their college experience while simultaneously maintaining their respect as well as their reputation.

Be Approachable and Friendly. The quickest way to win friends and make allies is to be approachable, kind and friendly. Your fabulous presentation and engaging personality won't mean much if you forget to smile. Being happy and smiling sends a signal to others that you wish to engage. Use all three to your advantage. At all costs, stay away from negative body language. Crossed arms give the appearance that one is uncomfortable, defensive or does not wish to be bothered. Be aware of this so that you always put forth a positive first impression.

Know How to Start a Conversation. College is a melting pot filled with students from cities all over world. To connect with others, your conversation skills must be up to par. Those that can speak about a number of subjects are more attractive and appear more intelligent. It is a good idea to brush up on cultural events, national news and local happenings so that you may contribute to any conversation topic that may arise. Remember the key to being an expert conversationalist is to be a good listener and ask thoughtful questions.

Keep Your Dorm Room Neat & Be Respectful. When living quarters are shared, it is important to pay extra careful attention to keeping your belongings neat and tidy. Not only are students coming together and meeting each other for the first time, but they are also expected to live together under the same roof and learn to put up with each other's habits and so forth. Be respectful of your dorm mates, maintain your privacy and allow them the same courtesy. This will go a long way towards making sure you and your dorm mates are still close at the end of the year.

Beware of How You Present Yourself Online. Social media has become a very big part one's college identity. After all, Facebook was started by a Harvard college student! Begin your college experience with a clean slate by easing in to your online communications. Remember professors, school administration, your parents and many others may be able to view your postings. Stay away from uploading inappropriate photos or posting offensive messages about yourself or others. Keep certain information private. Leave some details to be uncovered during your face to face communications.

Practice Face to Face Communication. Although you may favor texting to talking or emailing to chatting, it is important to incorporate some quality face time in your relationships. Technology, although convenient, has only moved us further away from our personal interactions and has, in effect, caused us to separate from the people we care about. Schedule regular face time with your friends because no matter how many emoticons you incorporate into your devices, it's nice to read one's true emotions and feelings in person.

Maintain Good Health Habits. Just because you're off to college and there's no adult around to nag at you doesn't mean you should neglect regular hygiene and eating nutritionally. Trust me, your roommate has no interest in living with the stench of someone who has not showered in a week and eating nachos and drinking 20 ounce Diet Cokes for breakfast, lunch and dinner will provide you with absolutely zero nutritional value.

Challenge Yourself and Diversify. You may have already chosen all of your classes, but there are many extra-curricular activities you can enroll in to broaden your horizons and help make you a more interesting, well-rounded person. A challenge is always necessary for growth, take risks and do something that is different from what you are accustomed to. The rewards of breaking out of your comfort zone will pay off in the long run.

Have Fun and Act Responsibly. Most importantly, the time spent at college is meant to be fun. Since you will be there for a good four (or five years), you may as well make the best of it, possess a positive attitude and embrace everything it has to offer. Just remember that fun would not be as fun without the balance of responsibility. Dressing appropriately, showing up for classes on time, communicating respectfully to administration, staff and fellow students, participating in school activities, doing your laundry regularly and finding ways to contribute to your college community are all excellent examples of showing you are growing into a responsible and mature adult.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

“Red Carpet Manners” at the VMA’s – “Heavy on Crass with Just a Touch of Class”

When you enlist someone like Chelsea Handler to host the show, hold on tight because you know you’re in for a wild ride. She appeared on stage in all her glory dressed in a Lady Gaga regalia with a house on top of her head while releasing white doves from her pikachu. Before launching into her emcee duties, she made sure the audience knew that she was the first woman to host the VMA’s in the last 16 years. Without skipping a beat, she began a series of off-color jokes that included encouraging everyone to be on their worst behavior, telling them to feel free to break out weapons, and asking the audience to help her “turn this mother out.” Finally, she ended with a little secret that, while sobering up for a week preparing for the show, she was now “high as a kite.” MTV is about as low brow as it gets and we would expect nothing less than a full blown effort from Ms. Handler as a first time host, but as far as awards shows go, this one really takes the cake! Here are our top honors for most crass with a couple of nods to most class thrown in for good measure.

1. The Cast of The Jersey Shore. Only on MTV, would the “charming and sophisticated” (not!) cast whose claim to fame is GTL, tasteless outfits and swearing like truck drivers, be invited up on stage to present an award from a hot tub.

2. Lady Gaga. Her outfits were so outrageous that it required four discharged soldiers from the military to keep her from toppling over. They included an Alexander McQueen with lobster claw heels
and matching headdress, a black Armani dominatrix ensemble, and a "meat dress" with accompanying purse made by Franc Fernandez. The meat dress was probably the most offensive, especially to fans of P.E.T.A.

3. The Cast of Jackass 3D. The shock factor started early in the show when one of the cast members of the movie dressed in a mint green tux decided to strip to his white thong to present the award for Best Rock Video. More gratuitous garbage in our opinion.

4. Katy Perry. On the red carpet she decided to flip the photogs the Russell Brand (he was last year’s host) bird. She had his likeness painted on her nails and posed giving the finger. Later on in the evening when presenting an award with Nicki Minaj, she commented about the award statue as being stiff and intimated that Nicki should take one home for some fun! Classy, Miss California Gurl!

5. Ciara’s Performance with N.E.R.D. An interesting partnership with car maker Chevrolet had Ciara bumping and grinding and bending almost backwards in half into a table top position. Not a very becoming position for a lady.

6. Chelsea Handler. Famous quotes from the host. “They are backstage stapling their balls to each other”. She used this joke two times we think by accident to the cast of Jackass as well as Glee! “I’d like to take a ride home on your face” when referring to "True Blood" star Joe Manganiello. “Get your tongues ready because I want those tongues shoved in places they're not supposed to be." Sage advice dispensed to the audience.

7. Kim Kardashian and Justin Beiber. Ms. Kardashian did her best Mrs. Robinson trying to play with the made up crush on teenage heartthrob Justin Beiber, but her attempt was awkward at best. The Beib’s actually put in a really good performance. All of the sudden he’s all grown up and seems to have taken some recent lessons in smooth from his mentor and employer, Usher. Loved the drum solo at the end!!

8. Kanye’s Closing Performance. The moment everyone was waiting for fell surprisingly flat and remarkably uncomfortable. There was no formal apology or words of regret, instead Mr. West, in typical fashion, performed an ego driven song dedicated to his mother that touched upon his past behavior with embarrassing lyrics in the hook that included, “Let’s have a toast for the douchebags/ Let’s have a toast for the a–holes/ Let’s have a toast for scumbags.” Thoughtful? Compelling? No, just plain ridiculous.

9. Taylor Swift’s Ode to Innocence. Thank goodness the VMA’s had the good sense to allow Ms. Swift her just due by allowing her one of the few sane musical performances. She appeared in perfect hair and red lips on a simple stage, just her and her guitar to sing lyrics that wound up revealing the whole debacle between she and Mr. West at last year’s VMA’s. Ms. Swift handled this song and herself with grace and dignity rising way above the fray almost touching the clouds and stole the show in our opinion.

10. Florence & the Machine in Goddess-like Fashion. We had no prior knowledge of this band before the VMA's, but were really impressed by the lead singer's incredible stage presence and command of the material. She was a real live goddess on stage and handled herself beautifully belting out good lyrics while skipping barefoot around the stage. It reminded us of a combination between Jefferson Starship and Kate Bush.

Agree? Disagree? Share with us your personal top honors from the show!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"Jumping The Gun" - A Classic Ari Gold Moment Offers Important Manners Lesson

Last week's Emmys preempted us from watching our favorite Sunday night guilty pleasure, "Entourage". We had to wait several days before we had a chance to check out the second to last episode of Season 7. Luckily, we felt did not disappoint. In fact, we found it to contain a valuable lesson that we thought was important enough to share with our readers.

For those of you who live under a rock or simply have no time to watch the show, here's what happened. Uber-agent, Ari Gold, known for his outrageousness and bravado, had a big blow out with his arch nemesis, Amanda Daniels, at a fancy restaurant in LA. In the weeks leading up to this episode, Ari had been dealing with a professional crisis that involved a disgruntled former employee and her supposed release of his slanderous audio tapes to a notorious Hollywood insider. This wound up costing him a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring an NFL team back to Los Angeles. With a badly broken ego, he vowed to try and become a much more kinder, gentler version of himself. He was going to spend more time with his family and be a better father and husband. This was working fairly well until he learned that, Amanda, the woman behind the supposed release of the tapes, was now orchestrating her own attempt to bring an NFL team back to LA. For Ari, this was the last straw. To him, this meant war. He was now on a personal mission to destroy her.

Later that night, it just so happened that both parties were dining at the same popular LA eatery. Ari and his wife were there to have a quiet romantic dinner and coincidentally Amanda was seated at a table across the restaurant courting the NFL heads. She had been trying to call Ari all afternoon and once she spotted him, she walked over to his table to speak in person, but before she could utter a word, an outraged Ari unleashed the wrath of G-d. He spewed every thought, feeling and emotion he'd been bottling up since the whole debacle began. His arrogance, however, is what drove him to the end. Once his tirade was over, Amanda calmly and collectively said to him that she was not responsible for leaking the tapes and that it had been an unruly ex-employee with his own ax to grind against Ari. She went on to explain that despite her hatred towards him, she thought he would have been an excellent asset to bringing in the NFL, but now, after hearing him bury himself in the restaurant, in front of his wife and the NFL heads, there was no room left for second chances. The self-proclaimed "king of the entertainment business" was done.

So what is the very important lesson we had to share with you? Simply put, "don't jump the gun." Do not assume that the tape playing in your head is real. There are many sides to every story, but there is only one truth. If you fly off the handle before knowing all of the facts, you will always do irreparable damage to yourself and to others. Ari lives in a world of narcissism. Everything about him screams "me!" If he took one second to put himself in Amanda's shoes to see things from her perspective, perhaps he would have been able to change the course of events from spiraling into a free fall.

I'm not sure where Ari is going to be able to go from here. He suffered a public humiliation of the worst kind in front of his wife, the NFL heads, and one of his top clients (Vince was also at the restaurant) in a town that is less than forgiving. Rather than seek another shrink, perhaps what he really needs is a good, old fashioned lesson in manners. A quick no-nonsense reminder of "The Golden Rule" should pretty much take care of everything from learning how to be a good listener, to giving people the benefit of the doubt, and refraining from texting at dinner.

We look forward with anticipation to "Entourage's" final episode next Sunday, September 12th. They're certainly going to have to pull out all the stops to compete against the VMA's (which is rumored to have Taylor Swift & Kayne West performing a song together). Ari, remember, we're available for a little private coaching session in Season 8. No one has to know. Please feel free to give us a call. LOL.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Red Carpet Manners – Emmys' Style

This year’s Emmys came a month early and brought with it a new babyfaced host from late night. Thankfully, the Los Angeles weather held up surprisingly well for this time of year and provided us with a day that was goldilocks perfect. The female nominees were smartly dressed in the latest trends of nudes and shades of blue with their male counterparts attempting to compete in their predominantly black tuxes. There was the usual fare of poses on the red carpet and commentators offering hand sanitizer and mints. In our opinion, a few questionable notes were January Jones’ Atelier Versace dress which was a big departure from her demure wardrobe on “Mad Men.” With her just rolled-out-of-bed hairdo and the rigidness of her dress, we thought she could have used a more endearing smile to carry off the look. We were also not quite sure where Ricky Gervais was going with his bit about the lack of alcohol at the ceremony. Was it really necessary to waste our time watching waiters serve bottles of beer to the celebs in the first 2 rows? I don’t think so. We’re just thankful that executive producer, Emily Gerson Saines’, boob did not pop out of her dress as she was accepting the Outstanding Made-for-TV Movie Award for "Temple Grandin." We thought it came dangerously close to being a Janet Jackson/Superbowl incident. Finally, we’d like to send a special nod of congratulations to Steve Levitan for winning Outstanding Comedy Series and for citing his wife as the true inspiration for his work and the success of his hit show “Modern Family.”

After dedicated hours of switching back and forth between pre-shows and then watch the awards show itself, we have compiled our list of "Red Carpet Manners" hits and misses for this year’s Emmys.

Show Some Team Spirit. We thought “Access Hollywood” showed great effort in supporting many of the nominees by creating special moments for them on the red carpet. They went to great lengths by organizing a school pep rally for Matthew Morrison with his alma mater the Orange County High School of the Arts. They showered fellow Glee nominee, Lea Michele, with a birthday cake in a jar to honor her 24th birthday including a lit candle ready for wish making. When it came time to interview Jane Lynch, they had their camera crew noticeably dressed in Adidas track suits as an homage to her on camera role as Sue Sylvester. This is one way to guarantee the celebs stop by next time for interviews. Now that’s team spirit!

Take a Lesson in Grooming. Seal and Heidi Klum, ever the dapper and debonair couple, took to the red carpet in style once again. Dressed to the nines, no details were left uncovered including the his and her nail polish. When interviewed by the TV Guide Channel, we were reminded of Seal’s confident manner when he revealed his newly polished nails. Now we're not talking about the buffed and clear polish some businessmen prefer, we’re speaking of a dark beige polish that complemented his skin and his suit. The interviewer seemed taken aback when Seal went on to espouse the importance of the mani/pedi and men in general developing and embracing their feminine side. Now that's taking male grooming to a whole new level!

Make Good Eye Contact. Petite Paula Abdul needs a refresher course in the importance of good eye contact. In most of her pre-show interviews, we caught her looking down never meeting her interviewer's gaze head on. There is something very disconcerting about someone who cannot look you in the eye. It makes you wonder if they're really present. Paula already skates a slippery slope when it comes to making sense and we think she should be more aware of raising her head and opening her eyes. It might help her to sound more convincing.

Employ An Affable Host. There is no doubt about it, Jimmy Fallon is one likable dude. He comes across as sweet, polite, transparent and loads of fun to be around. All of this was evident Sunday night as he hosted his first Emmys. From the opening sequence of his Springsteen rendition of “Born To Run” to his medley of songs from epic shows that had ended, his vast talent and easy rapport with the audience was apparent. Not only was he a master of ceremony, he was also a master of quick change, able to whip out his guitar for an introduction or slip into a costume to belt out a song. It was a terrific casting by NBC. Kudos to Jimmy for a job well done!

Don a British Accent. Everything sounds better with a British accent. The eloquent and lovely acceptance speech, made by Archie Panjabi for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for “The Good Wife,” was music to our ears. This was her first nomination and win and her concise acceptance speech reminded us of the beauty and vast vocabulary we have available to us in the English language.

Deliver Acceptance Speeches Early. If at all humanly possible, try and get your awards speeches in during the initial part of the awards show. It is a fact that the first few categories have considerably more time to complete their acceptance speeches and as the show picks up steam and loses time, the music signaling it’s time to wrap up becomes more frequent. The exception, however, is Mr. Al Pacino who won for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie. We noticed the legendary actor was able to drone on and on thanking everyone from his hair and makeup people to Dr. Kevorkian without pausing and to no interruption of music. Perhaps the producer of the Emmys didn’t want to risk messing with Scarface.

Remove the Tickler from the TV Screen. We all love George Clooney and his humanitarian efforts are more than commendable, but do we need to know that he’s coming on in 17 minutes! Are we supposed to set our clocks so we don’t take a trip to the loo during that time? For some reason, in this year’s show, the Emmys felt the need to provide us with ticklers on the exact whereabouts of the celebrities and when they would be appearing on stage. I suppose for George it was a good thing we were around to see him on stage. After all he is one of the good guys who promotes (in his words), “the best version of the word celebrity.”

Hold Your Own Trophy. Perhaps Kyra Sedgwick is getting a bit bored of winning all those Emmys. This was her third year winning Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama and it seemed like old hat. She even had the audacity to ask Tina Fey, who presented her award, to hold her Emmy so that she could put on her glasses and read her acceptance speech. Tina humorously obliged and winked at the cameras, but if I were her, I would have been a bit miffed thinking, "who is this diva and why can’t she hold her own darn Emmy?!"

Be Present to Accept Your Award. If you are lucky enough to be nominated for an Emmy (even if it is your umpteenth time), make your best effort to get to the show. In one of the biggest upsets of the evening, Conan O'Brien's 'Tonight Show' lost to 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart' as Outstanding Variety Series. Making matters worse, Jon Stewart wasn’t even there to accept the award along with his cast. The announcer made a joke that he was "rested on a bed of melted Emmys." Anytime a celebrity misses an awards show, it comes across as a snub and gives the impression that they have more important things to do. If you can’t be there physically, at least have someone be your designated wingman to explain why you could not graciously accept your award and make sure the excuse is a good one!

All in all, there were no major catastrophic events to note. Everyone was fairly behaved and acted accordingly, but we would expect nothing less from television. It is, after all, supposed to be the most civilized of all the mediums, "Jersey Shore" notwithstanding.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

"It Doesn't Matter If You Win or Lose" - 5 Goals to Scoring Good Sportsmanship

We’ve all heard the expression, “It doesn’t matter if you will or lose, it’s how you play the game.” With little ones, explaining that losing can be just as fun as winning is a difficult argument to make, especially when you have a husband like mine who is competitive even during a family game of Sorry or a tennis match on the Wii. Each time he wins a round, it is followed by a BOUYAA!! So, of course, my girls have picked up on that and then they start to tease one another and then eventually one gets upset because the other one is winning and then there are the inevitable tears because feelings get hurt, and the next thing you know a perfectly relaxing time at home turns into a stressful evening.

Here are a few ground rules for being a good sport whether playing a board game or electronic game at home with the family or playing an athletic game at school or on the field with team mates.

Goal #1 – Enjoy the Game. The number one most important goal is to enjoy yourself. If you are going to participate make sure you are playing for the fun of it, not just to win. Be realistic about your capabilities so that you do not get frustrated with yourself or set certain expectations with others that you cannot fulfill. Focus on the goal of the game which is to practice certain skills, work as a team player and pursue your personal best.

Goal #2 – Incorporate Rituals. At home, a wonderful ritual is to designate a family game night. Find a comfortable spot in the house, set out some yummy snacks and break open the board games. On the field, athletic games are an excellent opportunity to engage in meaningful rituals such as beginning each game by standing and singing the National Anthem and ending each game with all players shaking hands with opposing teammates and coaches and saying “good game.” In either situation, practicing these small acts of ceremony helps to set the tone for the game and reminds everyone to act in a civilized manner.

Goal #3 – Learn the Rules. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the rules before playing. A team player takes responsibility and knows the dos and don’ts of the game. When playing sports, it is the referee’s job to make certain judgments based on the game. They have the final word and all team players must adhere to their decision regardless of whether they agree with it. With other games, it is always a good idea to select a player in advance to make the final call in the event a discrepancy occurs.

Goal #4 – Cooperate and Play Fair. Good sportsmanship is the result of a team effort. It requires the cooperation of everyone involved. In athletic sports, that includes the assistance of the players, the parents as well as the coaches. In order for everyone to get along, mutual respect and appreciation of the game is the highest priority. All players are expected to play fair and team morale should be positive and supportive. Regardless of the type of game that is being played, participants should encourage one another to do their best and congratulate each other on a job well done or for trying their hardest.

Goal #5 – Embrace Competition. Competition is not a bad thing. It is a great indicator of one’s personal strengths and weaknesses. Competition is what drives us and inspires us to achieve great things. A healthy dose of competition is a terrific motivator and is an excellent example of life’s natural ebb and flow teaching an important lesson that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. The key is to apply oneself wholeheartedly, to always play fair and honestly, and to find pleasure and satisfaction in the experience.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

“Headphones, Peanuts, Restraining Order?” - Today’s Air Travel Etiquette Rules

Last Monday's showdown between JetBlue flight attendant, Steven Slater, and a fellow passenger, was just one more reminder that the friendly skies aren't so friendly anymore. No matter how many Richard Branson Virgin Airways beauties you stick on the plane, the travelling experience is a far cry from what it was back in the day.

I remember so looking forward to getting on a plane going anywhere. It was always an adventure. I still get chills when I hear the United Airlines theme song, Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," play at the beginning of a flight. It sends me right back to my childhood. Back to the day when planes were not oversold so if you booked a domestic flight in coach, you had a row all to yourself to stretch out and get comfortable. I also remember ample leg room and rows so wide my sister and I were able to play cards on the floor in front of our seats 'till our hearts were content. The coup de grace was the ice cream sundae bar, complete with hot fudge, that they used to serve for dessert. Granted that may have been in first class, but I seem to remember a finer selection of cuisine back then. If it wasn’t a hot fudge sundae in first, then it was certainly a twice baked potato with your steak in coach.

Ah, yes, those memories stuck with me a long time until I grew older and became fearful of flying during college. I think it was because I was travelling back and forth from the States to Italy where I was studying abroad for a year. I remember one flight back to New York in which we must have landed a little short on the runway because everything went slamming forward towards the cockpit. That was basically it for me and then I became insanely nervous to the point that I had to enroll myself in an American Airlines "fear of flying" program. I took the 2-day course in Los Angeles and the graduation ceremony was a flight to Lake Tahoe. They must have chosen that route deliberately because it was one of the most turbulent rides I've ever taken! I have to say I did pretty well, finding myself consoling fellow comrades who were way more fearful than I. I don't even remember the particulars, but I am pretty sure that once the program was finished, I was fairly fine with flying again.

Once I became a mother, my relationship to flying completely changed. Traveling became a welcome escape from the humdrum of everyday life. Forget about a stiff cocktail, I was perfectly at peace on a plane with my stack of magazines in tow. (Although, I must admit, I do have a ritual that I swear keeps the plane in the air and flying safely to its destination.)

So how to enjoy the flying experience when we are bombarded with so many negative elements that make it virtually impossible? Here are a few helpful reminders to restore safety and civility and set us soaring in the friendly skies once more.

. Dress for yourself and your fellow passengers. I don't care if you're flying to the Caribbean or Hawaii, forget the flip flops and short shorts and put on something decent for the plane! Years ago, passengers and flight attendants would "dress" for flying. It was all very civilized. Over time, comfort became the norm and all of the sudden everyone started looking disheveled. Nowadays, it is entirely possible to appear quite chic while still being comfortable. When it comes to shoes, select something closed toe and easy to slip off at the security gate. Don't forget to wear socks. Nothing is worse than stepping barefoot on the airport flooring. Wear deodorant, but go easy on the cologne and perfume. It's a good idea to pack some lip ointment and hand creme to combat dry skin. Ladies, put a little lipstick on for goodness sake! You never know who you're going to meet on a plane.

2. Take a chill pill. If you have a severe aversion to standing or waiting in line, do not fly! Unless you hire a special airport greeter or are flying business or first, you must be patient and grin and bear the cattle calls. Getting agitated only makes matters worse. Bring a magazine or book so you can read passively while waiting to check your bags or go through security. To pass the time, you can always fill out your luggage tag. Keep your identification card handy as well as your boarding ticket. You will be asked to show proof of both repeatedly.

3. Be prepared for small annoyances. There is no way to avoid the safety ritual of walking through security. Everyone must remove their shoes and jackets and risk a pat down by a security officer. To make things easier, wear shoes and outer garments that are easily removed and quickly organize your belongings and place them in the open containers for the x-ray machine. Make sure to separate your laptop in its own container for easy viewing. Remove all jewelry and accessories that may set off the alarm.

4. Avoid confrontation. Make it easier on yourself as well as the flight attendant by not attempting to stuff your entire closet into your carry-on luggage. If you cannot lift your bag and place it in the overhead bin on your own, the flight attendant will be forced to help you and may question its size or weight, especially if they see you struggling to jam it into a small compartment. Avoid going down this road and either pack lighter, check your bag or call a delivery service like FedEx to deliver your bag door to door in advance. It's not worth getting in to an argument on this one, the airlines will always win.

5. Respect personal space. In this tube 30,000 ft. in the air, everything is exaggerated. Some people do not wish to engage and prefer keeping quietly to themselves. Be respectful towards those around you and read their signals. (a) If you are bringing your own food on to the plane, keep it simple. Do not stink up the plane with smelly cheeses or a really pungent dish. (b) If someone is reading a magazine or book, do not engage them in conversation as they may not wish to be disturbed. (c) If you are tired, rest your weary head on your own chair with your blanket and use only one armrest for your arms. (d) Make sure to use the restroom before being seated to avoid musical chairs throughout the flight. (e) Before reclining your seat abruptly, check behind you to give your fellow passenger a heads up. They will appreciate it.

Curb the cell phone conversation. There is nothing that equally worries and annoys fellow passengers and flight attendants alike than someone who chooses to completely ignore the FAA's rule to turn off all cell phones and other electronic equipment while in-flight. The jury is still out as to whether the radio signals from these devices can interfere with flying equipment so for the safety of everyone, cut it out and follow the rules!!!

7. Check yourself, not just your bags. If you are in a bad mood, take a few breaths and calm down. The airport and flying experience is hard enough without the attitude. Present a cheerful face, always be courteous saying "please" and "thank you" and be helpful and accommodating. This will smooth over any extenuating circumstance or accidental wrong-doing.

Let's face it, flying in today's world is a challenge. It gets us at our very core, constantly testing our patience and questioning our abilities. How do you weigh in on the flying scale? Are you nice or nasty? Share with us and let us know...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Handshake Is Worth A Thousand Words

Forget about the picture, one handshake is all you need to get a good reading into the person inside. The proof was in the pudding during a recent encounter at a yogurt shop just last week. While in line, I happened to notice a guy with big muscles and sunglasses on top of his head. I was wondering what the was doing stopping for yogurt in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday. Did he have a job? Did he have a family? I was there legitimately getting yogurt for my children. Mint chip, their favorite.

As I was leaving, I spotted a fellow mom that I know from our children's school and stopped to say hello. While we were speaking, I noticed that the guy had come over to the table to sit down. It turns out he and the mom were there together! She was kind enough to introduce me and so I extended my hand because that is what a lady is supposed to do. Little did I know I was about to receive the most intense bone cruncher of a handshake that I have yet to encounter!! So tight was the squeeze across my knuckles that I actually let out an EEEEEEKK!!!

I've talked about the bone cruncher in my classes a hundred times, but I had never felt one firsthand. It hurts!!! For me, this guy's horrific handshake was the nail in the coffin. He could have been a gazillionaire and it wouldn't have mattered in the least. Everything about him screamed wrong. I could spot it from a mile away. The lesson here: don't be a negligent when it comes to handshaking. Take the time to get it right. Here is the skinny on all you need to know about handshaking with a few important factoids to boot!

Handshaking 101
The most universal gesture for greeting another is with the handshake. It may be the first contact we have with someone new and our handshake really says a lot about who we are. The idea is to bring people in by shaking their hands, not repel them. To shake hands properly, extend your right hand. The palm should be facing sideways with the thumb up and the fingers extended away from you. When you shake you want to make sure you are meeting hands web-to-web (the area between your index finger and thumb). The whole arm should not move, only the forearm from the elbow down. Shake with two smooth pumps and then release. Your grip should be firm, not too strong and not dangling like a limp fish.

Common Mistakes
The Wet Fish - This is the type of handshake where the person touches only the tips of your fingers. This handshake feels a bit distant and aloof as if the person isn't invested in meeting you.
*The Bone Cruncher - This is the type of handshake where it literally feels as if the person is crunching the bones in your hand. This handshake makes you feel as if the person has something to prove or that they are trying to wield their strong power over you.
*The Thumb Pincher - This is the type of handshake where the person presses down too firmly with their thumb and gets you right in that sensitive pressure point. The person offering this type of handshake is perceived as nervous or a bit uncomfortable.
*The Endless Handshake - This is the type of handshake that seems to go on forever where the person has absolutely no clue when to let go. The person who offers this handshake appears overly enthusiastic and a bit too eager.
The Business ArenaA strong emphasis is placed on a firm handshake because it speaks loudly about credibility, confidence and professionalism. Make sure every meeting begins and ends with a handshake. In a professional setting, it doesn’t matter who offers a hand first, however, the person who extends a hand first typically has an advantage because it shows initiative and is perceived as being in control.

Hostile Anyone?Neglecting to shake another person's hand is considered one of the most rude offenses. There is nothing worse than extending your hand for a handshake and having it rejected by the other person, no matter what the reason. I recently witnessed one man neglect another man's handshake by refusing to extend his own hand and instead extending the hand of his son! Unless you have the Swine flu, Whooping Cough or some other contagious infection or disease, always accept an offer to shake hands. If you are particularly worried about germs, you can always high tail it to the bathroom to disinfect or do a Silkwood rub down with the Purell.

For Your Eyes Only
A handshake means nothing without making good eye contact and flashing those pearly whites. In the U.S., a tremendous amount of emphasis is placed on eye contact. It is a sign of respect. When shaking hands, maintain good eye contact throughout, display a natural smile and give your undivided attention to the person making them feel as if they are the only person in the room.

Just the Facts
Ladies First - In a social setting, a lady should always initiate the handshake because a man should never presume that a lady wishes to make physical contact of any kind.
*Stop Signals - If you happen to encounter an endless handshake, simply release the tension of your grip. This will send a non-verbal signal that the handshake has officially ended.
*The Upper Hand - The person who extends their hand first is perceived to be the most confident and have control of the situation.
*Stand & Deliver - Unless physically unable, a person always stands for a handshake. It is a sign of deference.
*Sweaty Palms - Suffering from sweaty palms may ruin a perfectly good handshake. An easy remedy is to carry a cloth that can absorb sweat in your pocket or purse. Gently touch the cloth before shaking somebody’s hands. For events or parties where one is expected to shake a lot of hands, try rubbing some unscented antiperspirant on your palms prior to the engagement.

Have you ever encountered a person with a lousy handshake? Do you know someone who absolutely refuses to shake hands altogether? Do you prefer fist pumps or hugs to handshaking? Share your thoughts. We'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mad Men Etiquette Lessons - Season 4, Episode 1

1. Interviews: An interview is an opportunity to set the record straight and highlight your attributes. Be an open book and offer more than one word, snide remarks.

2. Empathy: People are always hiding behind something and sometimes they over-compensate for it. Don't make fun of a man with a wooden leg.

3. Truthfulness: Transparency is key in business. Bribery and fighting over a holiday ham may not be the best way to increase an advertising budget.

4. Decency: Housekeepers put in a long day too. Have the decency to thank them for making dinner and cleaning your home.

5. Graciousness: An invitation to Thanksgiving dinner at a colleague's home is a lovely gesture and it is polite to accept the invitation.

6. Consideration: Regardless if your mother shoves sweet potatoes down your throat, try not to gag and spit them out at the Thanksgiving table.

7. Self-Control: Cutting back on the chain smoking and scotch drinking may be a good idea, especially in front of the kids.

8. Role-Modeling: Kids count on their parents. Be a good role-model and return home on time to tuck your young children into bed.

9. Good Sportsmanship: Be a team player. Don't throw a tantrum and kick potential clients out of your office when a meeting doesn't go your way.

10. Modesty: Find the middle ground. There is a happy medium between refusing to talk about yourself and bragging about yourself.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

"Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word"

An article by Lisa Belkin in Sunday's New York Times Magazine, took a good look at the act of saying sorry and whether we really mean it or are just mouthing the words to appease others. In the article, Dr. Aaron Lazare, author of the book "On Apology" proclaimed that apologies are one of "the most profound of human interactions" and, that when made sincerely, can mend most offenses. As we get older, it seems that the act of saying sorry becomes increasingly difficult. Why does this happen? Why does the apology sometimes come across as so painful for the person saying it, that it appears as if they'd rather cut off their right arm then actually say the words?

In my etiquette classes for children, we always cover the 5 main "Magic Words". The first ones that come to mind are always please, thank you and you're welcome. Then inevitably one of the children mentions the words, excuse me, followed by "I'm sorry." They learn these words from a very young age and are taught to use them as a way to show respect, consideration and kindness towards others.

Since apologies are a hot topic these days, with everyone from celebrities and athletes, to corporate heads and politicians making them, we thought we'd take a moment to break down some of the proper uses as well as a few misconceptions.

1. Say it like you mean it. At one time or another, most of us have been on the receiving end of one of those "nonapology apologies". These are also affectionately known as half-assed apologies or hidden apologies. You know the kind of apology that makes you feel like you are pulling teeth to get the person to say it and can actually make you feel worse than if they had offered no apology at all! Any way you slice it, it just doesn't feel right. The point is, if you are going to take the time to say you're sorry, say it like you mean it and offer an admission of true regret. This is the key to an effective and sincere apology.

2. Take the high road. Oftentimes it's easier to apologize and say you're sorry even if you didn't do anything wrong. This is the best way to spare another person's feelings and works well with those who are highly sensitive. In most cases, you are never going to see eye to eye so it is simpler to be the bigger person and say you're sorry to enable you both to move on.

3. Give the benefit of the doubt. Accidents will and do happen. Before you launch into a battle with someone, give them the benefit of the doubt. Rather than immediately assuming the action was intentional, take a breath and see if it was merely an accident. In most cases, it is an accident and therefore a simple, "I'm sorry" is all that is necessary.

4. Don't be in such a hurry! How many times a day are we bumping into people physically because we are rushing somewhere, whether it be to get to the supermarket or pick up the kids from school? Taking a quick moment to say "sorry" to someone you may have side-swiped along the way will certainly alleviate the tension and prevent those around you from thinking you are beyond rude.

5. Please don't patronize. There is nothing worse than the person who says they're sorry in a way that makes you feel inferior. This is the type of sorry that sounds patronizing and positioning and seems almost as if the person saying it wants you to feel bad. Newsflash: No one wants to be talked down to, so please save your patronizing tone and refrain from these types of sorry's altogether.

6. Take full responsibility. Saying sorry means nothing if the person saying it doesn't include a complete explanation for their actions and a plan going forward to avoid future mistakes. If you are going to say sorry to someone, make it meaningful and claim 100% responsibility for your behavior. Take a moment to put yourself in their shoes to see things from their perspective. This will help validate their feelings while also conveying your sincerety which will ultimately lead you to a successful outcome.

7. It takes two to make an apology go right. The person who says they're sorry and asks for forgiveness must have the full cooperation of the person who accepts the apology. This requires practice and precision. Typically, you only have one chance to apologize, so practice saying sorry and rehearse the scenario in your head before making the apology in person. Precision is necessary to choose just the right words that will give the person ample opportunity to forgive you.

8. Say it. Don't text, email or write it. Saying sorry has to be done in person. Both parties should be able to read each other's emotions, body language and gestures to determine if the apology is sincere and to truly be able to mend the situation. Writing a letter is second best. It is easier for most people to put their true feelings into words, but a follow up in-person conversation is still necessary. Don't even bother sending a text or email apology. It is way too impersonal and won't cut it with most people.

Sorry for any inconvenience reading this blog may have caused you. We hope you'll find a moment to share with us your thoughts on saying sorry and making apologies. To learn more information on perfecting apologies in general, check out