Monday, January 18, 2016

Manners Monday – Five Personal Manners Hacks to Handle Life's Everyday Situations

It's impossible to turn on the television or pick up a magazine these days without hearing or reading about some type of hack. There are food hacks, wardrobe hacks, hair hacks, organizing hacks, decorating hacks, medical hacks and money hacks.  The list is endless.  Back in the day, the word hack had a mostly negative connotation.  It was used to describe everything from a nagging cough and an annoying prank, to a techy who could break into computer networks or a service provider who did a shoddy job.  Nowadays, the word has been transformed to define a quick solution that solves a problem – a much more positive association. In an effort to keep up with the times, I compiled a list of what I consider to be the top five personal manners hacks to handle life's everyday situations. These short cuts are guaranteed to help you prepare for any encounter and will have you feeling your most confident and comfortable in any environment.   

1. Mirrors. Strategically placed mirrors will help with a multitude of issues. A floor-length mirror is ideal for checking posture and alignment from the tip of your head down to your toes. A bathroom mirror does double-duty for brushing teeth and practicing your smile.  A small folding mirror set opposite your place setting at the dining table will remind you to sit up straight, close your mouth while chewing and keep those elbows off the table.

2. Grooming Aids. Personal hygiene is a must.  No one should ever leave the house without applying a healthy dose of deodorant.  An antiperspirant also works as a wonderful barrier for sweaty palms. Stash a small pack of curiously strong mints in your pocket for fresh breath. Keep a packet of tissue handy for wiping noses or wrapping a used pieced of gum. Smear lotion on your body to alleviate dry skin. Reserve a minuscule size of hand sanitizer on your person to obliterate any passing of germs.

3. Stationery. As much as we live in a technological world, there will always be a need for personal correspondence.  Stockpile a drawer full of stationery whether personalized, monogrammed, engraved, embossed or all of the above. This will enable you to send a thoughtful note or handwritten thank you at a moment’s notice.  Assemble a selection of writing implements and a few books of Forever stamps for effortless snail mail delivery.

4. Time Piece.  Punctuality is the height of polite. Invest in a watch. Smartphones may be a permanent fad, but a time piece is a fashion statement that lasts forever. Trust me, you will need it when your iPhone goes kaput, you find yourself in a remote location or you simply run out of battery life. 

5. Gift Closet.  You never know when you’ll need a host gift on the fly.  We live in a social world and at any given time may be invited to a fabulous dinner party or special event. No need to rush out to the store and pick up the perfect gift.  A gift closet carefully curated with an array of host gifts for last minute invitations will keep you in good standing with colleagues, friends, and family alike. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Manners Monday – 26 Must-Have Manners in 2016

Twenty-sixteen promises to be a doozy of a year.  With a contentious race for the oval office here in the U.S. and mounting turmoil around the world, there has never been a better time to break out our best manners for goodness' sake. The days of watching “Downton Abbey” are drawing to an end and so seems our arbiter of all things decent and just. During the Edwardian era, pride and dignity governed every decision and interaction. Discretion, decorum, and modesty were to be maintained at all times. 

Over one-hundred years later, it seems the exact opposite is true.  The more conspicuous, defiant, amplified, arrogant, and crazy/uncontrollable/trainwreck you are, the greater power and influence you yield. Whether you love him or hate him, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump is a perfect example of this. He has captivated interest and catapulted in the polls by ignoring the rules and imposing his unfiltered opinions. So have the Kardashians and the Housewives franchise for that matter, gaining attention and popularity by exposing their uncensored, unapologetic selves warts and all.  

These are the times we live in and society is taking note. While celebrities and politicians with public forums have more license with this type of behavior, the rest of us in the real world must adhere to a more humble set of rules to succeed. We need to treat each other with kindness, respect, and consideration in order to build relationships and forge meaningful bonds. 

To get started on the right foot both personally and professionally in the new year, here are 26 must-have manners for 2016. 

1. Greet people with good eye contact and a toothy smile.  It makes you appear more approachable and likable.
2. Always stand to shake someone’s hand.  Extend your right hand, shake web-to-web with two firm pumps, and then gently release.
3. RSVP to invitations in a timely manner. Be sure to reply even if you know you will be unable to attend.
4. Express gratitude for gifts received and other acts of kindness with a well written thank-you note delivered via post.    
5. Practice the three "B's" when toasting: begin, be brief, be seated. If you are the recipient of a toast, do not raise your glass to drink.  Simply smile and say thank you.
6. Use the Continental style of dining holding your fork in the left hand and knife in the right.  Face fork tines down to pierce the food while using the knife to cut and push the food onto the fork.  Sit up straight and lean in towards your plate. 
7. Return all phone and email communications within 24 – 48 hours.  Failure to do so conveys a message that one is not worthy of your immediate attention.
8. Texting is the preferred method of communication to let someone know you're running late, however a serious relationship cannot be conducted on a smartphone. Place a call instead.
9. Practice the art of articulation.  The more succinct your message, the better chance others will listen.
10. If you are invited to someone’s home for dinner, bring a host gift or offer to contribute to the meal.  A favorite homemade dessert, a nice bottle of wine or potted plant is always welcome.
11. Place your cell phone on vibration mode. Go silent in public places. Warn companions ahead of time if you are receiving an important call. At mealtime, keep phones off the table.
12. Fold your napkin in half lengthwise on your lap when eating, rest it on the seat of your chair to excuse yourself during the meal, and lay it on the table to the left of the plate once the meal has concluded.
13. Tip the standard 20% for services rendered and you will be sure to receive excellent service time and again.
14. Email wisely by typing the content first and then inserting the “Send” address before transmitting.  This will reduce accidental or incomplete communications.
15. After a job interview, send a thank-you note the same day, it will increase your chances of obtaining that position. 
16. Bathe on a daily basis. Keep hair, nails and skin clean. Use deodorant and only a dab of perfume or cologne.
17. When entering a room, stand up straight like a palm tree.  You will appear more confident, your clothes will fit better and you will look taller and leaner.
18. Meet and greet, neat. Ladies must be introduced to gentlemen, younger people to older people, and regular folk to dignitaries or VIP’s. At work, observe the hierachy from top to bottom, but remember the client always comes first.
19. Keep unsightly habits out of sight. Nail-chewing, gum-snapping, knuckle-cracking, excessive hair play, or grooming of the extremely personal or unsanitary sort will detract from your overall appearance.
20. Be forthcoming with the magic words. Include please, thank you, you’re welcome, excuse me, and I’m sorry in everyday conversation to smooth over every interaction, confrontation or altercation.
21. Dress according to season, weather or event. When in doubt, a good coat will cover up almost any fashion crime.
22. Resolve any conflict by listening and validating the other person’s opinion. If necessary, politely agree to disagree and then make your best efforts to move on.
23. Never leave the house without something minty concealed somewhere on your person. The same goes for tissues or a handkerchief.
24. If you are in the wrong, express true regret and sincerely apologize. Take full responsibility for your behavior and clean up your own mess.  You will be forgiven.
25. Use social media wisely to enhance your life, not enslave it. Disconnect from the matrix on a regular basis and reconnect in person with the most important people in your world.
26. Possess a positive attitude.  A healthy, grounded and optimistic outlook on life will garner you more invitations, more opportunities and help you win friends.