Tag Archives: etiquette expert

Expressing Condolences during the Coronavirus Pandemic

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To even suggest that these are difficult times is a classic understatement. We all know and feel the challenges and pain of Covid-19. In one way or another, each of us has been affected. We are all mourning and searching for ways of expressing condolences.  We have lost family members, close friends, colleagues, coworkers or acquaintances. If we have not personally suffered the pain of loss, we know someone who has.

Helping those who are mourning has become complicated since we cannot gather to say goodbye, we cannot embrace the bereaved family and we cannot come together as a community to celebrate and remember a life well-lived. All that being said, I do not mean to imply that there is nothing you can do to reach out to people who are grieving. There are numerous ways of expressing condolences and showing that you care.

Attend the funeral or memorial service.

If the service is conducted in a place, such as a graveside, where you can social distance and wear a mask, by all means, go. Even if you cannot speak to the family, you can sign the guest book so they will know that you were with them.

Pick up the phone and call.

During this time of isolation, a phone call and the sound of another human voice may be just what the grieving person needs. If they do not feel like talking, they can decline your call. They will know and appreciate your effort. If you connect, do not attempt to be a grief counselor. Your job is to ask how they are feeling and listen to what they have to say.

Food is always appreciated.

There may not be the usual large family crowds around, but someone is going to need to eat. If you find out that enough food is already being provided, wait a week before offering to take a meal. It may be needed more later. For fear of spreading the virus and to practice social distancing, advise the family that you are coming. Call when you arrive and leave your nourishing gift at the door.

With today’s technology, there is no excuse for remaining silent.

While I am not a fan of using the Internet to send condolences, it is better than nothing at all. In spite of my aversion to emailing, texting, or using forms of social media to convey your sympathy, there are those for whom it is their preferred means of communication.  Options for expressing your condolences online include 1) writing a message in a guestbook published on the funeral home’s website, 2) sending a sympathetic email, 3) texting your acknowledgment—although that should be the channel of last resort. Online communication platforms are endless.

If you are a loyal subscriber to this blog, it will come as no surprise that when you cannot do it in person, my preferred manner of conveying sympathy is the time-honored handwritten note.

Nothing trumps that. If you want your kindness to make a lasting impression and offer the most solace, find your note or correspondence cards, your nicest fountain pen, your forever stamps and share your thoughts on paper with the one who is grieving. Those who have suffered a loss often save those notes for a long time and bring them out at anniversary dates and other times of remembrance.

During this time of Covid-19, people who are mourning need support more than ever.

They are often alone having to quarantine. They need love and support. Whatever you decide to do, do it immediately and make a promise to yourself that you will not let it end there. Go beyond keeping these people in your thoughts—keep them in your actions. Continue to stay in touch and do the little things that can mean so much.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com to learn how her virtual presentations, workshops and resources can help you and your associates add the polish that builds profits through these 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.

The State of the Email Salutation

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It’s possible that you are not aware of a raging debate online and in print regarding the proper email salutation. The controversy is not quite on the same level as the political debates, thank goodness;  but like those hurricanes some of us dread all summer long, it is growing in intensity and covering an ever-widening area.

A while ago I was contacted by the Wall Street Journal for an article titled “Hey, Folks: Here’s a Digital Requiem for a Dearly Departed Salutation”. That was followed by a call from a reporter at Forbes.com seeking my opinion on the use of “hi” vs. “dear” as an email salutation or greeting.  From the comments and responses in those articles, this topic stirred up quite a controversy. And it continues.

Opinions on the proper email salutation:

Those who were either interviewed or quoted in were adamant about their stance.  Some felt the word “dear” was old-fashioned and out-of-date.  One person said it was too “girlie” while another stated that it was extremely intimate. Yet another replied that using any salutation at all takes too much time to type. I’m no speed typist, but really? How long does it take to type two letters?

Opinions were all over the map. Many people who preferred “hello” over “hi.”  “Hey” did not seem to get any votes.  Maybe all those interviewed had a mother like mine who drilled into me that “hey” was not an appropriate greeting in any situation. “Hay is for horses” was her response to anyone saying “hey”.  As a Southerner, I have to admit that I use the word frequently as a verbal greeting with friends.  It’s as common as grits here in the Georgia.

My stance on the email salutation:

  1. One size does not fit all. Use the email salutation appropriate to the situation and the person to whom you are addressing your email. Context and familiarity dictate the salutation.
  2. Use “dear” in your initial correspondence with someone whom you have never met and with whom you are trying to establish a professional relationship. When in doubt, “dear” is always safe and should be the default greeting for any first communication
  3. Use “hi” or “hello” once you have established a comfortable relationship. “Hi” is viewed as relaxing and welcoming.
  4. Follow the lead of your client or customer. If the other person always uses “dear”, then so do you. If they begin their correspondence with you by saying “hi,” follow suit. As in all business situations, mimic your client.
  5. Use a salutation of some form. There is always enough time to be courteous. Launching your conversation without a greeting is the same online as it is in person. It’s abrupt.
  6. Along with your chose email salutation include the person’s name. However, never use anyone’s first name in business until and unless they give you permission. When people sign their email reply to you using their first name, that is a signal that you no longer need to use “Mr.” or Ms.”
  7. With friends you may be as informal as you like. If you frequently exchange email with certain friends and colleagues, there is no need to be formal. Nevertheless, I am a fan of a greeting of some sort even if it is simply starting off with your friend’s or co-worker’s first name.

Still confused? Let me summarize:

  • Although “Dear” is viewed as outmoded by some, it is a failsafe fall-back.
  • “Hello” followed by the person’s name, is also acceptable.
  • “Hi”, plus the name, has been on the rise for some time, and is considered standard in many situations.

At this point, I leave the email salutation to your good judgment. I feel confident that “dear” is not dead.  But I believe that we are going to see a lot more “hi” in our in-boxes.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, keynote speaker and trainer. She is the author of Manners That Sell – Adding the Polish That Builds Profits and Lydia Ramsey’s Little Book of Table Manners. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com to find out how her presentations and workshops can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits.

Conversation Creator Or Conversation Killer?

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Much has been written about the art of conversation. Engaging strangers comes easily to some people. For others, it is a nightmare to start a dialogue and keep it going.  In the business world, good conversation skills are a must if you want to build relationships with your clients and your colleagues.  

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

People with the best intentions can kill a conversation without realizing what they have done.  Here a few of the classic types who have earned the title “Conversation Killer.” With a bit of intention, you won’t find yourself on this list.

The Bore: That’s the person who talks on and on about himself when you want to talk about yourself.

The Interrogator:  This person read somewhere that asking questions is the secret to good dialogue.  The result is a barrage of questions fired at the other person until he is completely worn down.  By commenting occasionally on what other people are saying, you can avoid making them feel as if they are being grilled by the Gestapo.

The Interrupter:  This person doesn’t take time to hear you out.  He continually jumps in to finish your sentences for you, acting as if he knows what you are going to say next. Pauses make the interrupter uncomfortable.

The Advisor:  This conversation killer believes he is keeping the balance.  He has heard what you said and is now offering his advice.  The problem here is that you didn’t ask what he thought. To avoid being the advisor, keep your opinions to yourself unless you hear, “What would you do?” or “What do you think?” 

The One-Upper:  This individual can hardly wait for you to finish your story so he can go you one better.  So you had a skiing accident and broke your ankle?  Well, he fell off a mountain and was in a body cast for a year.  Whatever you have to say, he can top it.

Chatty Cathy: She talks way too much. She doesn’t realize that people seldom regret what they left unsaid.

The Poor Sport: This type refuses to play the conversation game. You can ask every question in the book, and he still manages to provide only one-word responses.

Good conversation is give and take.  Everybody enhances conversation by listening, acknowledging and offering the occasional response.  Sometimes it feels like work, but after all, you are trying to establish relationships, grow your business and be more profitable.  Being a conversation creator is part of the job.

As always, the best conversationalist is the one who listens.

 

 

Punctuality: A Must for the Polished Professional

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Punctuality came to mind last week as I was racing down the road to get to an appointment, I had a sudden revelation. This is not uncommon for me. It has become a regular occurrence. I am never late–well, almost never, but I often arrive at meetings or appointments with only moments to spare.

Living in beautiful Savannah, Georgia, I am aware of what we call “Savannah time.” Few people arrive anywhere early. Most show up exactly at the appointed hour. Others wander in at their leisure, with an apology or an excuse, but late all the same. I feel myself on the verge of becoming one of the band of late-comers.

I tend to think I can get one more thing done before I leave for the meeting or event. For example, if the phone should ring just as I am headed for the door, I can’t resist answering it.  Good old-fashioned curiosity. By the time I get in my car and check the dashboard clock, I realize that if I am lucky and all the traffic lights work in my favor, I’ll be on time.

In a recent blog I wrote about developing good habits for 2018. The habit I need to work on is joining the punctual people. That doesn’t mean arriving just in the nick of time. It means following the advice of the late Vince Lombardi who said, “If you are fifteen minutes early, you are on time. If you are on time, you are late. If you are late, don’t bother to show up.” In Wisconsin they call that “Lombardi Time.”

From now on my goal is to arrive fifteen minutes early. Certainly no more than that because I don’t want to intrude on those setting up the meeting or managing the event.

Punctuality is critical to good business relationships. People who are late send a message that they don’t value other people’s time or that they have more important things to do.

Think how you are viewed when you don’t make the effort to be on time. Do you want to be seen as inconsiderate or self-important? That certainly won’t help you grow your business or represent your organization in a professional manner.

Here a few tips to help you with your punctuality and to keep you on “Lombardi time”.

  • Don’t stop to take the last phone call. If the call is important, the caller will leave you a message.
  • Have everything you need for the meeting or the event conveniently placed so you aren’t scrambling around trying to find things—like your keys—at the last minute.
  • Decide how long it will take you to get to the venue and add some extra time. Allow for traffic jams, road construction and other unexpected occurrences.
  • If you are not 100% sure where you are going, do a practice run whenever possible. No one will be impressed with your tale of how you got lost. You probably know by now that you can’t totally trust your GPS.
  • If the worst should happen and you arrive at the meeting late, quietly take a seat. This is no time to interrupt to make your apologies and launch into a lengthy explanation about why you were tardy.
  • Check the agenda to see what items have already been covered. The late-comer who interrupts to ask about an issue that was previously discussed is not appreciated.

Join me in vowing to be on “Lombardi Time” from now on. Old habits are hard to break, but what better time to start than early in a new year?

This article first appeared in the Savannah Morning News.