Author Archives: Lydia Ramsey

Are the Rules of Etiquette Outdated?

Posted on by

I just finished reading an article on wedding etiquette that has my pulse racing and my blood pressure rising. The impetus for the article was wedding attire—specifically, is it acceptable for wedding quests to wear white?  It should come as no surprise that this was celebrity driven. It seems that Jennifer Lopez invited all her guests to wear white to the ceremony. I have no problem with that. It was her wedding so it was her choice.

The other issue involved Dua Lipa who wore white to the wedding of fashion designer Simon Porte Jacquemus and his partner, Marco Maestri. It was reported that jaws dropped over Dua’s all-white attire. It has long been believed that it is inappropriate for guests to wear white to a wedding out of respect for the bride.  

In another online article I read about the brouhaha created when the sister-in-law of the bride wore a white top to the wedding. In the wedding pictures the affronted bride photo shopped the sister-in-law’s top so she did not appear to be competing with the bride by wearing white. I can’t imagine how that family relationship will play out.

Family feuds aside, it is now back to the question of should you, could you or would you wear white to a wedding?  One lifestyle and etiquette expert was quoted as saying that the two stars were simply being fashion forward. She cheered the fact that people now feel free to push the boundaries. Does that mean that we should throw all caution to the wind and from now on behave as we like?

Are the rules of etiquette outdated? Those of you who have followed me for years know that my mantra is “It’s not about the rules; it’s about the relationships.” There are definitely rules of etiquette, but those rules are not set in stone. They are, to be more realistic, set in sand. They evolve over the years. I could go on by citing examples, but you could no doubt match me.

Etiquette and manners exist to make life comfortable for everyone. We follow certain rules of behavior out of respect and consideration for those around us. When we decide to break with tradition, it is important to think how our decision affects others. In the case of the sister-in-law who wore white to the wedding because she wanted to, she was not being considerate of the bride. Her action put a stain on a day that is one of the most special in someone’s life.

Before you decide to push the boundaries and exercise your right to behave as you wish, think about how your actions might affect others. Ask yourself, “Am I being kind, considerate and respectful?”  The rules of dress may change, but kindness, courtesy and respect never go out of fashion.

Did Covid Kill Our Conversation Skills?

Posted on by

It has now been over two years since we experienced our initial “stay-at-home” mandates because of Covid-19. California was the first to issue such an order on March 19, 2020. One by one most states fell in line, and our lives changed forever. Who could have predicted how different our professional and personal lives would be in two and a half years?

One thing that has stood out for me has been the loss of our conversation skills. Covid kept us more than six feet apart. The Internet became our primary means of communication. While Zoom, FaceTime and other online platforms allowed us to see each other’s faces, they did not offer the kind of connection we had when we were in the same room or space with others.

We grew so accustomed to being apart that rather than pick up the phone, we texted or messaged. Talking directly to someone else was uncomfortable. When we received an invitation to an event or an in-person meeting, we tried to find reasons not to go. What? Get out of our comfy stay-at-home clothes? Dress up? Go out in public and converse face-to-face with other human beings? It was almost unthinkable.

The time has come to leave our safe home environment and re-engage with others. That not only means re-learning how to talk to our co-workers but also how to manage conversations with our clients and connections outside the office. Remember business meals and networking events? Engaging with others is necessary in the business world if you want to build relationships and grow your bottom line. This is a suitable time to revisit the art of conversation.

Conversation is much like a tennis match where the ball goes back and forth from one person to the other. It is a balance of talking and listening. It’s the practice of asking questions, paying attention to the responses and building on them. Conversation is the act of showing interest in other people so let them talk. The person who speaks less and listens more is considered a good conversationalist and an interesting person.

Your conversation skills may be rusty, but you have not lost them. Take advantage of every opportunity to engage with others in this new environment. There are good questions you can ask to get a post-pandemic conversation flowing.

Ask:

  1. What did people do to survive staying at home?
  2. What was the most challenging part of working from home?
  3. What did they like the best about working on their own?
  4. How did Covid affect their lives personally and professionally?
  5. How do they feel about going back to the office?
  6. What do they believe are the advantages and disadvantages of both situations?

You get the picture.

Sometimes making conversation feels like work, but you are trying to establish relationships, grow your business and be more profitable. Being a good conversationalist is part of the job.

Flying the American Flag

Posted on by

Did you know that today, June 14th, is Flag Day? If you are planning on flying the American flag, what better 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”, 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 symbolizes 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 their 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 celebrating Flag Day 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.

Leave a reply This entry was originally posted in Business Etiquette, Flag Etiquette and tagged etiquette, Flag etiquette, flying the American flag on by Lydia Ramsey.

Covid: Conversation Killer?

Posted on by

It was almost two years ago to the day that we experienced our initial “stay-at-home” mandates as a result of Covid-19. California was the first to issue such an order on March 19, 2020. One by one most states fell in line, and our lives changed forever. Who could have predicted how different our professional and personal lives would be in just two years?

One thing that has stood out for me has been the loss of our conversation skills. Covid has kept us more than six feet apart. The Internet has become our primary means of communication. While Zoom, FaceTime and other online platforms have allowed us to see each other’s faces, they do not offer the kind of connection we have when we are in the same room or space with others.

We are so accustomed to being apart that rather than pick up the phone, we text. Talking directly to someone else is uncomfortable. When we receive an invitation to an event or an in-person meeting, we try to find reasons not to go. The barriers to one-on-one conversation keep building.

Engaging with others is a must in the business world if you want to build relationships with clients and colleagues. This might be the time to revisit the do’s and don’ts of the art of conversation.

The Conversation Creator

Like so much in life, good conversation is a matter of maintaining balance. It is a blend of speaking and listening. Paying attention to and following up on what other people are saying is crucial to keeping a natural flow.

The person who speaks less and listens more is a “Conversation Creator.”  The Creator remembers starter words like “who,” “what,” “when,” “why,” and “how.” The best phrase of all in conversation is “tell me about ….”

The Conversation Killer

On the other hand, people with the best intentions can kill a conversation without realizing it. There are a few classic types who have earned the title “Conversation Killer.” Try not to land on this list.

The Bore: The person who talks on and on about himself and shows no interest in others.

The Interrogator:  The person who read that asking questions is the secret to good dialogue so that is all he does until he has worn the other person down to a nub.

The Interrupter:  The person who does not take time to hear you out. Instead, he continually jumps in to finish your sentences. Pauses make the interrupter uncomfortable.

The Advisor:  The person who feels obligated to give advice on whatever you say even though you never asked for it. Keep your opinions to yourself unless you hear, “What would you do?” or “What do you think?”

Chatty Cathy: The person who talks way too much. She does not realize that people seldom regret what they left unsaid.

Your conversation skills may be rusty, but you have not lost them. Take advantage of every opportunity to engage with others in this new world. There are good questions you can ask to get a post-pandemic conversation flowing. Ask what people did to survive stay-at-home. Ask what the most challenging part of working from home was. Ask what they liked the best working on their own. Ask how Covid has affected their lives. You get the picture.

Sometimes making conversation feels like work, but you are trying to establish relationships, grow your business and be more profitable. Being a conversation creator is part of the job.

Workplace Ghosting—Another Bequest from Covid

Posted on by

We have been living with the merciless Covid virus for over two years. Our personal lives have changed in ways we could never have imagined. Our professional lives have changed, and our interactions with others have changed. We do not communicate as we used to. In many cases, we do not communicate at all. This has led to a behavior known as “workplace ghosting.” If you are not sure what it means, it is just as it seems. Ghosts are invisible. Ghosts are silent. Ghosts are simply not there.

During the pandemic ghosts have emerged—so to speak. Perfectly normal healthy people have become ghosts. Businesses and corporations have become ghosts. You know them:

  • Ghosts do not return your calls.
  • Ghosts do not answer email.
  • Ghosts do not show up for meetings.
  • Ghosts do not answer the phone.
  • Ghost cannot take you call “due to higher-than-normal call volume.”
  • Ghosts hide behind technology.
  • Ghost use automation where the non-human on the other end of the phone says, “You can talk to me like a real person.”

Real people do not seem to exist anymore. And if they do exist, they have gone into hiding.

When the real people emerge from their hiding places and come back to the traditional workplace, their former office or the new one, they are going to have to dust off their people skills and start practicing effective communication and relationship building.

So, what can you do to facilitate courteous communication and build stronger professional relationships? For starters, put an end to workplace ghosting.

  • If you drop the ball, acknowledge your error. You accidently deleted the voice mail before you listened to it. The email got buried in your inbox. You forgot to check your calendar. Things happen, but the way you deal with them is what makes the difference.
  • You dread having to deliver unwelcome news. It’s your jo so do it and do it person. If it makes you uncomfortable, consider this: most people would rather hear the bad news than nothing at all.
  • Do not use technology to relay complicated or sensitive information. Email, texting and instant messaging are no substitute for in person communication. Pick up the phone or arrange to meet.
  • Use every opportunity you can to have personal interaction with your coworkers, colleagues and clients. It’s time to go back in the water. (Thank you, Jaws.)

The return to work is exciting for many reasons, not the least of which is the opportunity for people and organizations to sharpen their communication and relationship-building skills.

***The inspiration for this article came from reading one written by Patrick Galvin, professional speaker and author of The Way series of popular business parables. He is also the chief galvanizer of The Galvanizing Group, a learning and development company.

The Handwritten Note of Gratitude

Posted on by

As I write this article, we have just celebrated one of our favorite and most meaningful holidays. Thanksgiving is in the rear-view mirror, but surely we maintain the attitude of gratitude from that day. Even in this difficult time of Covid, we have much to be thankful for. As we approach Christmas, Hannukah and Kwanza, we look forward to sharing meals, parties and gifts with our friends, families and coworkers.

Now is the time to consider how and when you will express your thanks to those who have brought joy to your life. Maybe it was something special that you received during the year—a gift, a favor, a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear or an encouraging word when you needed it most. Let those people who matter to you know how much you appreciate them.

How do you do this? By a simple act. You send them a handwritten note with words that come from your heart. Not surprisingly this is challenging for many of us. As a result, we don’t do it or we put it off for an embarrassingly long time.

Let me suggest a few things that will help you write those notes.

  1. Start with a list of those whom you want to thank.
  2. Keep your list close by so it stays not only on your desk but on your mind.
  3. Purchase your stationery, either fold over notes or correspondence cards.
  4. Buy several pens that write easily.
  5. You’ll need to have stamps at the ready.
  6. Keep all your supplies where they are easily accessible.
  7. Set aside a time every day to write a few notes.
  8. Then do it.

Thank you notes need not be lengthy. A few sentences are enough if you are feeling challenged.

  • Mention specifically what you are grateful for.
  • If you have received a gift, say what you will do with it.
  • If someone has been kind or thoughtful, let them know what their kindness meant to you.
  • Perhaps look to the future as you close. Mention how you want to connect with or stay in touch with that person.
  • Select a closing that you are comfortable with. It could be “Gratefully”, “With sincere gratitude” or even “Thank you again”.
  • Sign your name and you’re done.

I want to leave you with a quote from my dear friend and colleague, Elizabeth Herbert Cottrell, whose book HEARTSPOKEN: How to Write Notes that Connect, Comfort, Encourage, and Inspire is soon to be published.

“Some say the handwritten note is a dying art, yet in both professional and personal life, it is still one of the most powerful tools we have for connecting meaningfully with others. A well-written note can give voice to the stirrings of your most heartfelt sentiments and can be read, saved, and treasured forever.”

Thanksgiving Guest Etiquette

Posted on by

This week as we celebrate that fun-filled food-filled holiday Thanksgiving, I’d like to share a guest post from my friend, colleague, and etiquette expert, Karen Hickman. I hope you enjoy her words of wisdom on how to conduct yourself when you are a guest at a Thanksgiving dinner. I couldn’t have said better so thank you to Karen Hickman.

Thanksgiving starts off with the holiday gatherings in earnest. It’s the time we eat drink and make merry and share good times with family and friends. It is also the time we gather at the dining room table for special meals. So if you have been invited for dinner at someone else’s house, there are some things to keep in mind so you can be the perfect guest. So, here’s some guest Thanksgiving etiquette.

Arrive on time.

Showing up late and keeping everyone waiting or causing the turkey to dry out
doesn’t win any points with your hostess.

Don’t come empty-handed.

Even if your hostess has the meal all taken care of be sure you bring some sort of hostess gift. This is a good time to bring wine or a gourmet food item that the host can use at another time.

If you are assigned a dish, be sure you bring what you signed up for. Make sure it is ready to go in the oven or be served. This can eliminate needless confusion in the kitchen.

Sit where you are assigned.

If place cards are on the table don’t move them around to sit by someone of your choice.

Bring your best manners to the table.

If need be, brush up on your dining etiquette.

Don’t bring your technology to the table!

Bringing your phone to the table is saying that the people you are with aren’t as important as what’s coming through on your phone. Be in the moment!

Make sure your children are supervised and polite.

Holiday time is a good time to review or teach some good manners to your children, especially table manners.

Try a little of everything served.

You may find out that you like that oyster dressing.

Offer to help with the dishes.

Some hosts and hostesses want help cleaning up and some don’t, but it’s important to offer.

Send a thank you

A handwritten note or make a thank-you call to your host and hostess. A lot goes into planning and hosting a big holiday meal. Make sure you acknowledge that.

Most of all…

Be sure and bring your good humor and be tolerant of those who may make you a little crazy at other times of the year. Be of good cheer.

Happy Thanksgiving!

About Karen

Since 1999, Karen Hickman has developed and offered seminars that include: Basic Business Etiquette, Dining Skills, and Succeeding Internationally, to name a few. With a nursing background, she has designed training programs specifically for the medical/dental office and hospital practices called “Professional Courtesy Essentials in Healthcare.”

Recognized nationally for her speaking, training and writing for business and medical publications, she was also a major contributor to the publication, Dishing Up Smiles, for the Alliance of the American Dental Association. Karen wrote a Q&A column for the Fort Wayne News Sentinel called “Contemporary Courtesies” for over 7 years.

Professionalcourtesyllc.com

Airplane Etiquette: Flying the Not-So-Friendly Skies

Posted on by

You may remember a time when plane travel was something you enjoyed. Airplane etiquette prevailed. People dressed appropriately. Passengers didn’t bite, claw and scratch their way through lines. Seats were spacious and comfortable. Flight attendants were friendly. Airlines served real food. There were skycaps to help you with your luggage, which arrived at your destination when you did.

The “good ole days” are long gone. Flying has become an ordeal. We worry if our flight will be on time, if we will make our connections, if we will ever see our luggage again, if our flight will be canceled or worse yet we worry that there will be one of those out-of-control unruly passengers on our flight.

About 4.2 million travelers are expected to fly during this holiday season. The majority will happily be looking forward to spending the holidays with family and friends. Sadly, a few of them will be in something akin to combat mode. You can’t control what others do, but you can control your own behavior. Let me suggest ten rules of flying etiquette that, when observed by all, could transform the travel experience.

Pack your patience and good manners. If things go awry, be ready to take it in stride.

Don’t hog the overhead bin. Although you are allowed one carry-on plus a handbag or laptop bag, you should only put one of those in the overhead.

Middle seat gets the armrest. That seems fair since the people on either side can lean right or left for more room.

Be considerate when reclining your seat. Notice if the person behind you is using the tray table and alert them that you plan to recline so neither their laptop nor snack ends up in their lap.

Resist the urge to chat. Everyone should acknowledge their seatmates with a smile and a greeting. Once you do, you’re done. Let your seatmate fly in peace.

Don’t be a jack-in-the-box. That’s the passenger who hops up and down during the flight, crawling over everyone in their path.

Control your kids. Noisy, whiny, loud children ruin the flight for everyone except the parents—or so it seems. Anyone who has ever had the child behind them kick their seat understands the urge to kill.

Move as quickly as you can through the security line. Be prepared to remove your shoes, take out your laptop and toiletries and shed your jacket or sweater. Don’t wait until the last minute when you place your carry-on bag on the conveyor belt.

Be considerate of people with close connections when the flight has landed. How often have you heard a flight attendant on a late-arriving flight request that people with time to spare remain in their seats and let others with close connections disembark first? Few people honor that request.

Wear your mask as required. We are still in the midst of a pandemic. The airlines did not come up with the rule so don’t take out your frustration on the flight attendants.

Good manners won’t make planes any less crowded, seats any more comfortable or security checks any less stressful; but they can help you and your fellow passengers arrive at your destinations in a much better frame of mind—ready to enjoy the holidays.

.

Covid Kindness

Posted on by

“These are the times that try men’s souls” or so it seems. As we struggle to live with Covid and all that has changed about the way we live our lives, we tend to wonder, “Where have all the good times gone?” They are still with us. Even though I have identified a behavior that I call “Covid Cranky,” I can’t help but be heartened by another which is “Covid Kindness.” I experienced an example of that today.

It has been a completely miserable chilly, rainy and windy day here in normally sunny Savannah. As one who does not enjoy the obligatory trip to the grocery store under the best of circumstances, I particularly dislike it in bad weather. I might have survived without going out, but my two elderly cats let me know we were low on their favorite cat food. They rule so out I went.

Mercifully, it stopped raining just as I arrived at the store. I had my umbrella with me. Thank goodness. When I started to leave, the rain began to come down with a vengeance. I opened my pitifully small umbrella and with an overflowing cart made my way through the parking lot where the water was already puddling.

As I approached my car, a woman coming toward me smiled through the downpour and asked, “May I help you with that?” I need to point out that she had neither an umbrella nor a raincoat. I thanked her and said I would be fine. She was determined and refused to take no for an answer. Not only did she help me load the groceries into my car, but she also insisted on holding the tiny umbrella over my head.

When we finished, I tried to give her my umbrella assuring her that I had others at home. She would not hear of it. Thoroughly dampened, she set off through the pouring rain toward the store.

I have no idea who she was. I doubt I will ever see her again, but I will never forget her. The simple act of kindness from a perfect stranger made my day. The rain continues to fall, but nothing can dampen my spirits because of the humble act of a perfect stranger.

Will you be the kind stranger in someone’s life at the next opportunity? At a time when we are feeling more stress and anxiety in our daily lives, reaching out to another human being can make a world of difference in how we feel and how we make others feel.

Covidiquette: Etiquette in the Time of Covid

Posted on by

Is it Covidiquette or Pandemiquette? Whatever we call it, we are struggling to figure out the new rules of etiquette and manners so that we remain courteous and polite during these trying times. In a recent article, I wrote about “Covid Cranky,” a condition that, like it or not, has infected every one of us.

I stepped up and confessed that I have suffered from “Covid Cranky”. In the last two years, I have said and done things that seem completely out of character and certainly not worthy of someone who professes to be an “expert” on manners and etiquette.

When I have noticed this behavior in others, I have assumed these people were cranky and rude by nature and acted that way pre-Covid. However, through my own informal research into this phenomenon, I have discovered that this is not limited to those born cranky. Friends and colleagues, who are generally kind and courteous, have confessed to these uncharacteristic behaviors as well. They have found themselves being rude to people online and using the anonymity of the Internet to say things they would previously have kept to themselves.  They have lashed out at people over the phone and even abruptly hung up on a few.

What is it about the pandemic that has made us act in such uncivilized ways?

  • Have we been cooped up so long that we have forgotten how to act in the real world?
  • Do our masks give us license to act anonymously?
  • Are we tired of being told what we can and cannot do?
  • Is rarely being able to talk to a live person causing frustration?
  • Do we long to see smiling faces?
  • Is our patience wearing thin trying to keep up with the ever-changing rules?

It may be some or all the above plus more. You could add to this list, I am sure.

So, what can we do? As always, we cannot control the behavior of others. When we encounter rude or difficult people, we can:

  • Try not to mimic their conduct.
  • Honor the preferences of others and not be judgmental about their choices.
  • Step back and consider what might be going on in their lives to spark this behavior.
  • Protect ourselves when we feel threatened but do so graciously.
  • Consider the effect of our actions or words on others.
  • Ask ourselves if we are treating others as we would like to be treated.

It is not hard to be nice. It takes less energy than being combative. So, before you turn on your computer, pick up the phone or go out into the world, put down your sword and shield. Instead, put a smile on your masked face and generosity in your spirit. I promise to do the same.