Tag Archives: communication

Did Covid Kill Our Conversation Skills?

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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.


  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.

Workplace Ghosting—Another Bequest from Covid

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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.

Press One and Go Directly to Voice Mail Jail

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Stuck in voice mail jail

If you want to get a reaction from someone, all you have to do is say, “voice mail”.

I used to think that was odd because voice mail is one of the most efficient and effective communication tools we have today. Then I realized that for many people hearing the words “voice mail” means that they are about to find themselves in “voice mail jail.”  You know, when you dial the business number and a voice—not a live person—answers with, “Hello, you have reached XYZ Company.  Please listen carefully to the following options as our menu has recently changed.”  You’ve heard this before so you grit your teeth and prepare for an ordeal.

After listening to all the choices, you realize that none of them suits your needs.

You suffer any one of several different reactions . You might feel stupid that you can’t figure out what number to press.  Or you become annoyed when you have to go through the list again, wasting precious time while you try to guess which magic number will get you through to the person who can help you.

“All of our customer service representatives are currently helping other customers…”

Perhaps you didn’t have difficulty making a selection.  You picked a number, heard the line switch over and were told, “All of our customer service representatives are currently helping other customers…” You know the rest.  You hear that your call is very important and a disinterested voice  asks you to stay on the line for who knows how long until someone can get to you. My personal favorite of all the automated messages is the one that tells you that you are caller # 1. You expect some one to come on the line immediately.  Dream on.

In yet another effort to assist the customer without having to have any personal interaction is the option to bypass the menu and enter the extension of the person you are calling. 

The voice  tells you that if you don’t know your party’s extension, you can listen to the names of all 300 people in the firm and their extensions in alphabetical order.  This can send you right over the edge, especially when the person you are calling is named Ziglar. If you are lucky, you are told to enter the first three letters of the person’s name. What if you don’t know the name of the person who can help you? Sometimes you can press zero and go straight to an operator, but that trick doesn’t always work.

So what are customers to do? 

 Well, if customers have a choice, they go to the competition.  When they don’t have an option, they get angry or frustrated.  When they finally get someone on the line, they lose it.  The person on the other end now has an irate customer to handle and has to engage in damage control.

Why put your customers through this? 

 If you have an automated answering system, call your own business from time to time and see how you like it.  Do you really mean to build a wall between yourself and the people who keep you in business?  If people stop calling, it won’t matter what state of the art system you have, you won’t need it or your phone line.

Gone are the days when a live person answered the phone in most businesses. The automated systems save money, but are they worth it if they turn people away? What most of us want to hear when our calls are answered is a pleasant, “Hello, this is XYZ Company. Veronica speaking. How may I help you?” Finally, a real human being.


Photo from Savannah magazine

Lydia Ramsey is a business etiquette expert, professional speaker, trainer and author who works with individuals and organizations who understand that manners add the polish that build profits. Good manners mean good business. Lydia believes that It’s not about rules; it’s about relationships.






Body Language in Business – Can You Read it?

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Has it ever occurred to you how much you are saying to people with your body language? Even when you are not speaking, people can hear you. Unless you are a master of disguise, you send messages about your true thoughts and feelings whether you are using words or not.

Think about it.  In the business setting, people can hear what you are not saying. In other words, they can read your mind. By the same token, you can pick up on the unspoken words of colleagues, customers and client by paying attention to their body language.

A professor at UCLA did research on communication in which he arrived at the 7%-38%-55% rule. He found that 7% of communication is based on the actual words we say. As for the rest, 38% comes from tone of voice and the remaining 55% comes from body language.

The next time you are in a meeting watch for body language cues from others, and consider your own.

Eye contact is the most noticeable way you communicate.  When you look the other person in the eye, you show interest.  When you look away, it’s clear that you are not paying attention.

Smiles are also an obvious form of non-verbal communication. When it comes to smiling, the mouth can lie, but the eyes don’t. A genuine smile involves the eyes, crinkling the skin around them. If you want to know if that smile is authentic, look for the crinkles at the corners of the eye.

The position of your head sends unspoken messages. Keeping your head straight, which is not the same thing as keeping your head on straight, will make you look confident and authoritative.  People will take you seriously.  If you want to appear friendly and open, tilt your head slightly to one side.

Arms and legs give clues about how receptive a person is.  Arms crossed or folded over the chest signal resistance as do crossed legs. The move may not be intentional, but it is reveals that the other person is blocking off what is being said.

The best place for your arms is by your side.  You will look confident and relaxed.  If this is hard for you, do what you always do when you want to get better at something—practice.   After a while, it will feel natural.

The angle of your body gives an indication to others about what you are feeling and thinking.  Leaning in says, “Tell me more.” Leaning away signals you’ve heard enough.

Mirroring body language is a good thing. Copying another person’s posture and gestures is usually something we do unconsciously when we are in agreement and feel a bond with another person. If you are in negotiations, this tip is useful.

Posture sends an immediate message. The person who enters a room standing erect and using open expansive gestures looks self-confident and in control. That person commands respect.

You may not be aware of what you are saying with your body, but others will get the message.  Make sure it is the one you intend to convey. And watch for the signals that other people are sending. You may not be a mind reader, but you can learn a lot, especially when words don’t match expressions and gestures.

Photo from Savanah magazine

About Lydia Ramsey

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, professional speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her at LydiaRamsey.com to leave a comment, ask a question or learn more about her programs and products.




Should You Talk Politics at the Holiday Dinner?

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Thanksgiving Table MannersIt goes without saying that this has been a difficult year with a contentious presidential primary. You probably thought that peace would be restored once the election process was final. Wrong. In many ways, it has only gotten worse.  Do you dare talk politics during this holiday season?

Before the election, there were those who were willing to talk about the candidates’ behaviors and their verbal attacks on each other, but reluctant to disclose how they planned to vote. As soon as the polls opened, people came out of the woodwork to declare their position and candidate of choice.

You follow the news. You know what has happened since. A lot of it is ugly. As the holidays approach and friends and family gather for the traditional festivities—particularly the holiday dinner–do you dare talk about the election?

No one is naïve enough to believe that family gatherings always go smoothly and joyfully. Every family has one or more members who can stir the pot—not necessarily the one on the kitchen stove. How do you handle that person, or persons, this year who wants to talk politics, the ever-forbidden conversation topic?

Is it wrong to bring up the subject or talk about the obvious “elephant in the room”? Maybe not. How you do it is the tricky part.

  • Do you try to force your opinion on everyone else?
  • Do you put down those who don’t agree with you?
  • Do you become argumentative?
  • Do you toss your napkin on the table and stomp out in anger?
  • Do you force people to take sides and polarize the family?

I hope not.

The political situation cannot be ignored. It’s like living on the coast of Georgia, as I do, and not talking about Hurricane Mathew that ravaged my community. The 2016 election is too much a part of our lives to disregard. It should be discussed and acknowledged, but in a way that values all opinions.

  • To use a cliché, you should agree to disagree.
  • Keep your mind open to the views of others.
  • Listen without being offended.
  • Don’t interrupt.
  • Question without challenging.
  • Beware your body language.
  • Give yourself permission not to join in the conversation.

I am not so naïve as to think that everyone will play by these rules. Some of these family gatherings will end in disaster. Just make sure that you are not the one who caused the 2016 holiday event the one to remember for all the wrong reasons.

Approach those whose opinions you do not share with kindness, courtesy, respect and a heavy dose of tolerance.

13-0811 Lydia Ramsey eBook CoverFor more information on how to handle this and other holiday issues, order a copy of my ebook, Business Etiquette for the Holidays.


lydia_sm-e1393277822156Lydia Ramsey is business etiquette and modern manners expert, keynote speaker, seminar leader and author of Manners That Sell-Adding the Polish That Builds Profits. Based in Savannah, Georgia, she travels across the US and as far away as India and Dubai to work with clients that include universities, corporations, small businesses, associations and non-profit organizations. Her topics range from flip-flops to forks. Visit her website www.lydiaramsey.com for more information about her services and resources.

Know Your Client’s Preferences

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Imagine this: you’ve worked for hours putting together the proposal that your prospective client requested and are ready to send it. You choose what you believe to be the most efficient way to communicate—you e-mail the document. You expect that your prospect is checking e-mail regularly and will be contacting you within a few hours to seal the deal.  You have a mental picture of yourself signing the contract and depositing a nice check into your account.

What you don’t know is that your prospect doesn’t check e-mail frequently.  You failed to find out what form of communication this person prefers and how he wanted to receive the document.  Sadly for you, your competitor is on the ball and knows.  By the time your e-mail proposal is opened and read, the deal is done, but not with you.

Maybe you called the prospect, who was out of the office at the time, so you left the information on voice mail and waited all day for a response.  As it turns out, he only checks voice mail once at the end of every day and returns his calls in the morning. Again, your competition knew this and sent an email instead.

We are absolutely overwhelmed with ways to transmit information. Current studies indicate that e-mail is the business communication tool of choice. However, many people still prefer the telephone, the office staple since Alexander Graham Bell first spoke to Mr. Watson from another room.  The phone is no longer permanently attached to the wall nor does it reside on a desk all day. Now that phones are mobile, people carry their phones with them. Some people even wear them like an accessory.

Phones are also “smart” now so they can do everything that you used to have a landline, a computer and a fax machine for. Their latest trick is texting. Skip email. Forget calling and just send a cryptic text message. There is an entire segment of our population that does not know any other way to communicate than to text. After all, it is so convenient. You can text anytime, anywhere to almost anybody. The business person who doesn’t text is considered to be something akin to the dinosaur.

We all have our preferred means of communication.  If you want to be successful, grow your business and develop good client relationships, find out how your clients want to communicate.  Just because you think that e-mail is the most efficient tool doesn’t mean that your clients and prospects like to sit in front of a computer all day watching messages pour in. Some may prefer to use the phone so they can discuss issues and gauge reactions – something that is hard to do with e-mail.  Others may like getting your proposal in person and would prefer a face-to-face meeting in the office or over a meal. And don’t forget that group of people who want it quick and dirty so they text all day.

Respecting your client’s preferences is not just a courtesy, it’s good business.  It’s not about you; it’s about your client. How can you tell which way your client prefers to communicate? Ask. It’s as simple as that.

If you’ve emerged from the cave and think that you are now using every means available to stay in touch with and in front of your clients and prospects, there is a next level—that of social networking. I am not going to be your expert on this topic today, but I can tell you who is. Check out my friend Jerry Gitchel’s latest blog on Make Technology Work to learn how to be a savvy social networker.

Here’s to made-to-order communication!

professional speaker

Photo from Savannah magazine

Hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.

Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions.  Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.

Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.

Contact her via email at lydia@lydiaramsey.com or call 912-604-0080. Sign up for her free monthly newsletter and visit her website, lydiaramsey.com.