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 www.perfectapology.com.