Flag Etiquette

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As we approach the Fourth of July, what better to time to review our flag etiquette? For those who have served or are serving in our military, flag etiquette is second nature. For the rest of us, the do’s and don’ts are not so well-known. If you are among those eager to fly “Old Glory” on July 4th, no doubt you want to do it correctly and avoid anything that is disrespectful of our stars and stripes.

The American Legion established the standards of flag etiquette under what is known as the United States Flag Code. Compliance is not mandatory. It is voluntary and strongly suggested. I have chosen to offer the best practices for respectfully caring for and displaying your flag.

Displaying the Flag.

The flag is displayed from sunrise to sunset on buildings and outdoor flagstaffs. It may only be displayed 24 hours a day if it is illuminated during the hours of darkness. If you are flying the flag on the front of your house, you need not run out and purchase a spotlight. Just leave your porch light on.

Pay attention to the position of the union—the blue background with white stars, symbolizing the union of the states. The union should be at the peak of the staff when projecting horizontally, at an angle from a windowsill or the front of a building. When displayed against a wall or in a window, the union should be uppermost and to the flag’s right—that would be to the observer’s left.

The flag should not be flown in inclement weather unless you have an all-weather flag, one made of nylon, polyester or other treated material.

The flag is never displayed with the union down except as a signal of extreme distress meaning danger to life or property.

Respecting the Flag

Flags should not be displayed over any part of a vehicle, train or boat unless they are affixed to a staff.

Neither the flag nor any part of it should be used for apparel, bedding, drapery, or as part of a costume or uniform. The exception is using it as a flag patch on the uniform of military personnel, firemen and policemen.

No items that are intended for temporary use should be decorated with the flag. That means that the flag should not be embroidered, embossed or printed on cushions (please, don’t sit on the flag), napkins, boxes, bags or anything else that will be discarded.

Disposing of the Flag

Torn or tattered flags are not appropriate for display and ought to be destroyed respectfully. According to the code of respect, this should be done by burning. Organizations such as the American Legion, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts regularly retire flags. There is no need to start your own bonfire.

The flag as wearing apparel

The line in the flag code that causes the greatest confusion is the one that states that the flag should not be used for apparel. That begs the question “Is it permissible to wear an item of clothing that looks like the United States flag?” The answer from the American Legion is “Unless an article of clothing is made from an actual United States flag, there is NO breach of flag etiquette whatsoever. People are simply expressing their patriotism and love of country by wearing an article of clothing that happens to be red, white, and blue with stars and stripes. There is nothing illegal about the wearing or use of these items.”

For those of you who may be celebrating the 4th of July by wearing your red, white and blue face mask to honor our country and respect the health of your fellow citizens, have at it. It’s acceptable.

Coronavirus Etiquette at the Grocery Store

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Coronavirus has done it again. It has altered another aspect of our lives and caused us to rethink one more behavior—the way we grocery shop. The result is a new set of what I deem Coronavirus etiquette rules. When I began writing this column 25 years ago, it never occurred to me that grocery store etiquette would become a topic. But here I am writing to remind people how to conduct themselves while shopping for their daily bread.

During this pandemic, grocery stores have implemented new policies and procedures to protect their customers and employees. They are trying to ensure that everyone is following the recommended guidelines to prevent the further spread of Covid-19. For their part, stores have provided hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. They have posted signs and make periodic announcements reminding customers to social distance. They have marked their floors at checkout points to indicate where customers should stand. Others have gone a step further and redesigned their floor plan to create one-way traffic so customers do not find themselves passing too close to each other.

With stores doing their part, it’s time for the shopping public to do theirs. Most people are following the rules. As always there are exceptions. Those few are making it risky for others.

There are etiquette rules that everyone needs to follow in order not to be the jerk at the supermarket. Etiquette means exhibiting a strong moral code of conduct as well as being respectful and courteous towards others. As we struggle to get through this difficult time, you can do your part.

Wear a mask. It can be uncomfortable, but it’s fast becoming a fashion accessory. Who would have thought? You might as well invest in more than one mask as this pandemic is most likely to be with us for a while. Why not have a little fun with it? As a reminder: you wear a mask to protect others, not yourself. Let’s all put one on.

Follow the signs. Pay attention to where you should stand. There may be places other than checkout lines where you need to keep physical distance. Respect those one-way paths.

Minimize your shopping trips. Although our governor has lifted the stay-at-home order for all but special cases, limit your visits. By doing so you can cut down on the chances of spreading the virus. Your pocketbook will thank you. You’ll plan more thoughtfully and learn to shop for only what you need.

Don’t be a hoarder. I will never look at a roll of toilet paper the same way again. It will forever be a reminder of Covid-19. Granted, some items are still scarce. Most stores have set limits on those high-demand items. Take only what you need. Leave some for other people. There will always be food on the shelves. And yes, toilet paper.

Watch where you put your hands. Some experts warn that the virus can live on certain surfaces for some time. Others disagree. Why take a chance? We know so little about this disease. Make it a habit to touch only what you plan to buy. It’s not necessary to handle five tomatoes before you settle on the one you want.

Properly dispose of gloves and wipes. The ground outside the store is not the place to toss them. Someone has to clean up after you. If you can’t find a trash can, take items home to discard them.

Shop mindfully. You may think you are invincible, but not everyone is. We continually hear that we are all in this together. Think of others; not just yourself.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert. She has traveled across the US and as far away as India and Dubai. Now she can now come to you virtually to offer her wisdom. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com to learn how her virtual presentations and workshops can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits, especially during tough times

Etiquette And Coronavirus

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We are now almost three months into the Coronavirus, at least from the standpoint of sheltering at home and enduring quarantine. It was on or about March 13th that we first learned  we had to avoid contact with other human beings as much as possible. It’s been a long three months. If you’re on vacation three months pass quickly. When you are stuck in isolation, it’s  painfully long.

We have somehow managed. We have binged on Netflix; accepted old tee-shirts and sweat pants, even pajamas, as work attire; have started cocktail hour earlier with each passing day; have begun to look like the “Hunchback of Notre Dame” from spending too many hours bent over our computers and laptops; gotten more than our money’s worth from our tablets and smartphones. We’ve mastered technological challenges like Zoom and Facebook Live–tools we had never even heard of before.

Unfortunately, we have become cranky and feel quite comfortable acting like total jerks in public. We have no problem calling out people when they violate our space or when they fail to wear a face mask while we are struggling not to suffocate behind ours. It’s time to talk about things we can all do to survive the 2020 pandemic with a bit more grace and courtesy. It’s time to talk about etiquette amid Coronavirus.

Choose your words carefully. If you are doing your part to practice social distancing, communication is key and can serve as a reminder to others. When someone is too close for comfort, try saying, “Sorry, I’m just trying to keep distance” as you move away. A friend had an all-too-close encounter with a man in a grocery store. When she reminded him of the six-feet rule, he screamed an obscenity and informed her that she couldn’t tell him what to do. Words are critical particularly when you are wearing a face mask. Others cannot see your facial expression. They only have your tone of voice to go by. In this case, I don’t think an extra coating of sugar would have made any difference.

Greeting people. Greetings and interactions look different now. It’s oh-so-hard not to reach out a hand or offer a hug when seeing friends. We miss touching. Given that the majority of people know that these behaviors are off-limits, long explanations are not necessary. When someone comes toward you with arms outstretched, it’s easy enough to say, “I am so happy to see you but afraid of getting too close.”

Honor differences. In many areas restrictions are being lifted. Some people feel they can move about and interact freely. Others are still being cautious. Don’t be judgmental. No matter which side of the issue you fall on, give others the benefit of the doubt. You have no idea what their situation might be nor do they know anything about yours. If you are ready to break out of quarantine, proceed with consideration for others. You can follow your own instincts as long as they don’t endanger someone else. Your right to behave as you wish ends when it infringes on another person’s rights. I think that’s third-grade civics.

Wearing face masks. This has become a hot button everywhere. You only have to read or watch the news to learn about the extreme behavior of those people who have a “You can’t make me” attitude. No, it’s not a law; it’s a request. It’s a request made by many business owners who want all their customers and employees to feel safe. I haven’t met anyone yet who enjoys wearing a face mask, but we do it. We do it to protect other people.  I am neither a doctor nor a scientist nor do I claim to be a health expert. I rely on the people who hold those titles. The majority of them are telling us to wear protective gear to slow the spread of Covid-19. Keep in mind that you don’t wear a face mask to protect yourself. You do it to protect others. It’s an unselfish act done out of courtesy and respect for others.

Let’s be kinder gentler people during this challenging time.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert. While she has traveled across the US and as far away as India and Dubai, she can now come to you virtually to offer her wisdom. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com to learn how her virtual presentations and workshops can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits, especially during tough times.

The Etiquette of Virtual Meetings

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We’re living in a new reality where “business as usual” means gathering remotely in virtual meetings. Companies, large and small, need to maintain clear, concise communication with employees regardless of physical location. As long as “shelter-in-place”, or as we Southerners say “hunker-down” rules continue, business professionals have to adjust to what has become known as the “new abnormal”. Although physical offices will likely always exist, the future of work is flexible and that means being equipped to manage employee interaction with a dispersed workforce. Now, more than ever, is the time to be communicating with your employees frequently, ensuring they are safe, secure, and productive amidst the chaos. It means an explosion of virtual meetings.

What has become of all those meetings we used to attend? They still exist, but we no longer have to leave home or the office to be present. Meetings are coming to us. They are invading our homes and what we have up till now taken for granted was our safe space. Physical communication has become virtual communication. Whether companies are using Zoom, GoToMeeting, WebEx or some other platform, these new technologies are the norm. As always, we get the technology first along with its accompanying tutorials and instructions for how to use it before we learn the etiquette rules that apply.

What is the etiquette for virtual meetings?

How are we supposed to behave in this new environment? There is an upside and a downside to our ability to hold meetings with anybody, anytime, anyplace. The positive aspect is that we no longer have to factor in travel time to get to meetings. Wherever you are, you are there. The negative aspect is wherever you are, you are there. No escaping, no excuses. Here a few issues that you need to consider when preparing for or attending a virtual meeting.

Be aware of your surroundings

Your home office could be anywhere in your home since you may not have had a dedicated office space before this pandemic. If you are set up in your bedroom, make up your bed and pick up your clothes before you get online. As your mother would say, “Clean up your room.” The same applies if you have an office space all to yourself in the house. Keep it neat at least as far as what your webcam allows others can see.

Dress appropriately.

Having the freedom to dress more comfortably at home does not mean showing up in your pj’s. You are at work; you just happen to be at home. You need to present a professional appearance. And that means head to toe in case you need to move around during the session.

Establish rules for your household while you are attending a virtual meeting.

 If you have the luxury to close off your office, that’s all the better. However, not everyone does. Maintain as much control as you can over your environment. That includes family, friends and pets. Consider posting a notice on your door that says “Do not disturb. Meeting in progress.” Okay, the dog probably can’t read.

Mute your microphone when you are not speaking.

 Unless you live alone, your house may be noisy. Try not to allow your noises to be a distraction to others in the meeting.

Be aware that you are always “on” during these virtual sessions.

Think “Candid Camera” if you can recall that old TV show. People can see your every move and facial expression. Some of those online may be paying more attention to your body language than you think.

As a friend of mine pointed out recently, we may be in danger of being “Zoomed-out”. Could it be time to rethink how much added pressure we are putting on ourselves and others with our virtual meetings?

Contact Lydia to schedule a virtual training session.  All of her presentations are available as live or recorded webinars. Learn how she can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits through tough times. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com

 

 

 

Will the Handshake Fall Victim to Corona?

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The handshake, as we know it now, is in danger of becoming extinct, much to the delight of some and to the chagrin of others. During this crisis in addition to practicing social distance, washing our hands constantly, not touching our face, we have been advised not to shake hands. Eventually, we will be able to gather with others socially and professionally. When we do, we may remember to wash our hands frequently. We may think twice before touching our face. But what will become of the handshake? If Dr. Fauci of the Corona Taskforce has his way, the handshake will be history. I have the utmost respect for Dr. Fauci.

I am not disagreeing with Dr. Fauci. I am wondering just how this will work. After all, we have been shaking hands for centuries. Mo Rocca of CBS interviewed an anthropologist who stated that the handshake dates back 60 million years. He said it is “a very primal sort of connection, very emotional.” He pointed out that chimpanzees and gorillas long for tactile contact and do much the same thing as humans. We all like that physical connection.

Throughout history the handshake has been a sign of peace and respect. We shake hands with our right hand. Some say that has its origins in medieval times. Knights used the right hand because that was the one that drew the sword. Engaged in a handshake, the knight was not able to draw his sword and strike.

Today we extend a handshake in both social and business situations. We offer our hand when we meet people, when we leave people, when we thank someone, congratulate someone or offer an apology. If that age-old practice goes away, what will we do? While there are options, one thing is for sure, there will be many awkward moments.

Before you head out into the world of the “new normal’, decide how you want to deal with the issue and plan what you will say. If you choose to remain a fan of the handshake, don’t assume other people are. You might approach by asking people how they feel about shaking your hand. If they don’t want to engage, assure them that you understand. If you are anti-handshaking, say so right away. You might say, “Please forgive me for not shaking your hand, but in light of all we’ve been through, I am not comfortable doing so.”

Some people are turning to the East for guidance and choosing the Indian greeting Namaste. You bring both hands together and center them in front of your chest. Then make a small motion to bow while saying Namaste. In the Japanese tradition, the bow is another choice for staying germ-free.

One more greeting is simply holding up an open hand to others. That signals that you are not going to shake hands. It is generally readily understood. Just make sure your open hand doesn’t come across as “Whoa, back off.”

In case you end up shaking someone’s hand because it’s such an ingrained habit, pause before dousing yourself in hand sanitizer.

I have omitted the fist bump and elbow bump from my list of professional greetings. Need I say more?

Good manners and etiquette are about making people feel comfortable. Keep that in mind when you decide how to deal with shaking hands in a world that the Corona virus has changed forever.

Working Remotely: It’s Not Business As Usual

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Are you working remotely? Do I even need to say Corona virus for you to know where I am going?  In the last two weeks, our lives have changed drastically. It’s not business as usual. Social distancing has become business distancing. Vast numbers of people are working from home during this crisis. Employers are not just asking their people to work from home, they are mandating it.

So how do you handle working from home? Maybe it’s what you thought you always wanted. Now that you can, what do you do? It may be a bit more challenging than you realized.

As someone who has worked from home for 25 years, I have some suggestions for how to maintain your productivity and professionalism from your newly-created home work place.

Designate a specific space for your office. For some that maybe easier said than done. You may have to operate from a shared space. Not everyone has a spare room waiting to be used.  You may need to share your office with a spouse or partner who is also working remotely. The arrangement may not be ideal. Your new office could be your kitchen table. Share that with the whole family.

Set ground rules for others in the house. Just because you are at home doesn’t make you fair game whenever a family member wants to interrupt you.

Create a routine for starting your day. Model it after your previous schedule when you got up, dressed, and left for work. I call this “Let’s pretend.” Let’s pretend you are going to your away-from-home office.

Get dressed for work. Yes, dress for work. Get out of those pj’s. That will help get you in the right mindset. Additionally, you’ll be ready to present a professional image when you receive an unexpected video call.

Schedule your breaks and honor that time. You would be taking breaks in a traditional setting and not thinking much about your water-cooler time. You need to step away from your desk from time to time to refresh.

Don’t be hard on yourself. Take advantage of the perks. It’s okay to put in a load of wash or tend to other at-home duties. Cut yourself some slack.

Stay off social media during your business hours. Turn off everything that might be a distraction. Ouch!

Declare your WFH (work from home) hours. People need to know when you are available. Consider publishing your work hours online and putting them your voice mail greeting. That way people won’t assume that you are goofing off when they can’t reach you.

Establish an end of day routine.  Review the day, create a work plan for the following day, shut down your computer and leave the office.

These are just a few suggestions for working effectively from home. Most are good old common sense. Your organization probably didn’t have a playbook in place for this situation so everyone is working it out either alone or together. The goal is to stay focused, productive and professional while not being hard on yourself and your family—and that includes the dog.

The Business Apology

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The business apology can be worth its weight in gold when done properly. With an intentional strategy, it becomes a part of the overall customer experience and part of a plan involving customer acquisition, retention, and loyalty. It goes without saying that an apology is critical when a company has made a mistake. Just as important, it needs to be part of the customer service approach when the company has not made a mistake, but the customer believes it has. It’s incredible how many organizations don’t know how, when, or even why to apologize and fail to train their employees on the value of uttering with sincerity the words, “I’m sorry.”

There are nine simple steps to a good business apology.

  1. Say, “I’m sorry.” In spite of what your lawyer may have told you, those should be the first words out of your mouth. (Note: If the incident could result in any kind of legal action or liability then delaying long enough to seek legal advice is prudent and necessary.)
  2. Be sincere. Your body language and tone of voice need to match your words. First, people believe what they see more than what they hear. A fake apology doesn’t fool anyone.
  3. React quickly. An apology that is several days old loses its credibility and effectiveness.       A lot of damage can be done if you wait too long.
  4. Drop the excuses. Take responsibility for whatever you said or did. You weaken your apology when you start piling on excuses such as “I was having a bad day” or “I just broke up with my girlfriend.” The last sentence actually came straight out of the mouth of a server in a restaurant. The customer was not impressed.
  5. Forget the blame game. It doesn’t matter whose fault it was. It happened.
  6. Make amends. Do whatever you can to set things right. I recently sent one of my products to a customer. The item did not arrive on the day I promised, and I had an unhappy individual on my hands. I apologized and sent a replacement overnight. There was an additional cost to me, but I won over the customer who has since come back for additional products and services. The shipping company was at fault, but the customer didn’t care and it was up to me to take responsibility and correct the situation.
  7. Don’t get defensive and argumentative. Once you get your dander up, you are headed for trouble and will only make the situation worse. One of my favorite sayings is “Never argue with an idiot.  Those watching may not be able to tell the difference.”
  8. Listen without interrupting.  When customers get upset, they need to vent.   Often they require something to chew on and that may be you. Let them. You may learn something important from what they say. When you interrupt people, you are likely to miss hearing valuable information that could help you resolve the issue.
  9. Finally, don’t go overboard and over-apologize.  Say what you need to say and do what you need to do, then move on. You will only make matters worse with excessive apologies. As the saying goes, “When you find yourself in a hole, don’t keep digging.”

People can come up with any number of reasons not to apologize, but there are many more reasons for the business apology.  Number one is because it is the right thing to do. Plus, it is good customer service, which is good for business and that’s good for the bottom line.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, keynote speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com. Find out how her presentations, workshops and resources can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits.

Acknowledging Loss in the Workplace

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Acknowledging loss in the workplace is difficult. When a colleague, co-worker or business associate loses a family member, do you find yourself wondering what to do? Are you afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing? Often the result of uncertainty is that you end up doing and saying nothing and later regretting it. A business owner who attended one of my presentations confessed that when faced with the loss of an employee or an employees’ family member, he found himself hiding behind “busyness”, ignoring the death because he didn’t know what to do. Don’t let that be you.

Let these tips on the etiquette of sympathy be your guide to acknowledging loss:

When someone you work with suffers a loss, the kindest thing you can do is to acknowledge the passing. It is just as important to show your sorrow in a business relationship as it is in a personal one. Don’t withhold your support because you are uncomfortable.  It’s not about you.

Attend the funeral or visitation even when you did not know the person who died.  You are there for your colleague or friend—the survivor who is suffering. If you can’t make the funeral or memorial service, go by the funeral home and sign the register book. Another option is to leave an acknowledgement in the online guest book.

Acknowledge family members who are present. Introduce yourself and speak to as many as you can, not just the ones you already know.  Explain your relationship to the deceased. No one should have to guess who you are and what your connection may be.

When you see the family, talk about the person who has passed. Share your favorite memories with the family.  This is a time when people need to hear stories about the person they have lost.  Laughter and happy stories, as well as ones of praise, are healing.

Write a note of condolence in addition to attending the service.  People will keep those handwritten expressions of sympathy and treasure them for years.

Whatever you do, don’t send your sympathy via e-mail unless you are in Outer Mongolia and that is your only option.  Electronic mail lacks the personal touch that this painful time deserves. In today’s online world, there is usually a guest book on the funeral home website where you can also express your thoughts in the proper context.

Offer to help where you can in order to leave the family free to grieve.  The most mundane chores or errands can be a tremendous help. Whatever you do, try not to say, “If there is anything you need….” That’s not helpful at all since those grieving have no idea what to ask for. Suggest things that you are willing and able to do.

Once the funeral is over, stay in touch.  Reaching out as time goes by can be more meaningful than your initial response at the time of the death.

Forget what people say about a year of grief—grief lasts longer than a year. Mark the date of the death on your calendar. Call, visit or send a note on the anniversary of the loss.

Part of building relationships can be sharing the saddest of times.  If you know what is expected when acknowledging loss, you will be more confident and more likely to do what serves others best.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, keynote speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com. Learn how her presentations, workshops and resources can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits.

Texting in Business: the New Phone and the New Email

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Just a few short years ago would you have thought that texting in business would be a widely-accepted staple of  communication? Probably not, but then a decade ago, you would not have believed that email would be flooding your inbox. Thanks to texting, those overflowing inboxes are no longer consuming the better part of our day. Texting has become the new email and the new phone call.

Before we get into the subject of why, when and how to text, be assured that I am not suggesting that you abandon all other forms of communication in business. Hopefully, nothing will supplant real conversation over the phone or meeting face-to-face.

Why should you consider texting in business?

  1. Your customers prefer texting. Regardless of your preferred means of communication, it’s the customer who chooses. Because of all those spam calls, some people, even in business, do not answer their phones. Others won’t take your call because they don’t want to get involved in a lengthy phone conversation.
  2. Texting has a higher open and response rate. Studies show that people will open a text message while they ignore an email. And they are more likely to respond. Now that’s good business.
  3. Texting is a time– It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that texting is faster than making a phone call or sending an email.
  4. Texting is versatile. You can send out reminders, make appointments, schedule meetings and announce business updates. It’s a short sweet marketing toll. 

Before you embrace texting with all of its advantages, establish guidelines and set standards for yourself and your business. If you don’t, you can quickly spoil a business relationship.

What are the etiquette rules for texting in business?  

  1. Avoid abbreviations and acronyms unless your customer uses them. Don’t assume that everyone knows what you know or knows what you mean.
  2. Text at appropriate times. Is it after hours? Are you likely to be an intrusion?
  3. Use correct spelling. Yes, even in texting.
  4. Limit your number of texts you send. A nuisance will quickly lose credibility.
  5. Include your business name in each message. Again, make no assumptions.
  6. Consider your “why” for sending the message. Your customers need to know what you expect them to do. Do you have a “call to action” or an obvious reason for sending that text? Be clear about your purpose and give instructions for responding.
  7. Proof your text. Treat it just as would your email. Check your grammar, spelling, readability and especially the autocorrect. Texting makes assumptions. If you don’t double-check, it will replace what you wrote with some bizarre and unintended words.
  8. Get your customers’ permission before texting them. There are laws that govern texting in business. Know what they are. Ask your attorney or refer to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

Texting is here to stay. People like it. Why? They like it because it is private. They like it because it leaves a record of conversations. They like it because it’s polite and respectful of others and acknowledges their busy lives.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, keynote speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com. Find out how her presentations, workshops and resources can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits.

The New Year is Thank You Note Season

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Now that the holidays are almost over, and we find ourselves in the new year, it’s time to start sending out thank you notes for the thoughtful gifts and tasty treats you received during the season. Yes, I know, those are not the words you want to hear—especially since you know that I am talking about those handwritten notes that I continue to harp on. It would be so much easier and more convenient to text or email your gratitude. A few clicks of the keyboard, and you’re done.

However, when it comes to delighting those special gift-givers with the perfect sentiment at the perfect time, here are two things to consider:

  • Ink trumps email. Why? Ink implies effort.
  • Handwritten notes connect people in a way that simply isn’t possible via text or email. How? Your unique handwriting makes your message and therefore your relationship more personal.

Now that you understand the power of the handwritten note, what’s holding you back?

  • Is it the time? We all have the same number of hours and days.
  • Are you too busy? Everybody feels life is too demanding.
  • Do you lack the supplies you need? If you haven’t heeded my earlier advice and purchased appropriate cards or notes before the holiday rush, those items are still available. They do not sell out during the holidays.
  • Did you forget to buy stamps?  If so, no problem. The rush is over at the post office so pick up stamps while you’re out shopping for your stationary. Then write a note to self on your calendar for next fall that reminds you to buy your correspondence cards or notes and stamps early.

Finally, the greatest obstacle for most people is knowing what to say and how to say it? Those two things should be the least of your worries if you establish a process for writing your thank you notes and follow these steps:

Step 1. Decide how to address the recipient. Do you need to formal salutation or one that is casual? Are you going to call the person by first name or use their title and last name?

Step 2. Begin with “Thank you”. There’s no need to attempt anything more exotic than those two words.

Step 3. Name the gift specifically. Saying “Thank you for the gift’ is cold, off-putting and will make your recipients wonder if you value their gift or even know what it was. You might as well say, “Thank you for the thing.”

Step 4. Say something about the gift. What made it special? How will you use it? If someone sent your food items, tell them how much you either enjoyed the treats or how much you are looking forward to having them. Even if you are not thrilled with what you received, the giver need not know.

Step 5. Say how much you appreciate the thoughtfulness. This is really simple and always sincere. Who doesn’t appreciate being thought of?

Step 6. Choose your closing. Again…are you being formal or casual in your approach? Your salutation will determine your closing.

Think of your thank you note as a sandwich.

The opening and closing are the like the two slices of bread. Your thank you for the specific gift is the lettuce; the sentence about why you like the gift or how you will use it is the meat; the statement saying you appreciate their thinking of you is the cheese. Now wrap that in an envelope; garnish it with a stamp; and you have it. Just don’t forget to drop your handwritten thank you notes in the mail.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, keynote speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com. Find out how her presentations, workshops and resources can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits.