Business Etiquette Blog with Margaret Page

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My Holiday Wishes for You

December 22, 2017

May your hopes dance like snowflakes in the winter wind, that decorate your life with beauty.

May your dreams glitter like tinsel and illuminate all that you are and all that you can be.

May your world be filled with wonder and may the magic of this season touch you and your loved ones in ways you’ve never imagined.

~ Margaret

season-greeting

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Posted by Margaret in Just for Fun and tagged

Holiday Gift Giving Etiquette Tips

December 10, 2017

christmas-presents

Gift giving, especially during the holiday season when everything is so shiny and bright, can be fun! But holiday gift giving can also be tricky. For example: Do you buy a gift for your boss? What do you do when you’re caught by surprise—when someone gives you a gift and you find yourself empty-handed? Do you rush out and purchase a gift?

Keep in mind that the most important aspect of gift giving is that it comes from your heart. It’s truly a gesture of appreciation extended to those who have touched us in some way throughout the year.

If you receive a gift, graciously thank the gift-giver. If you don’t have one to reciprocate, remember the gift-giver isn’t giving you a gift simply to get one in return. A simple, “How thoughtful of you. Thank you so much,” will be appreciated by the gift-giver.

Other gift-giving tips include:

  • Avoid giving holiday gifts that have your logo on it. Gift-giving is a way to show your gratitude.
  • Stick to your budget. It really is the thought that counts.
  • Include a gift receipt. This tells the person that it’s OK to exchange the gift.
  • Your boss would probably prefer you save your money or purchase gifts for others rather than them. It can also make fellow employees uncomfortable if some people give a gift to the boss. Alternatively get together and purchase a group gift for the boss.
  • If you’re exchanging gifts with a colleague (or just a select few), be discreet. Choose a time before or after work hours to exchange gifts.
  • Regifting is tricky– my advice is to avoid it. If it is discovered that you have regifted, it’s uncomfortable for everyone.
  • It’s perfectly acceptable to give a gift to someone who doesn’t celebrate the same holiday.

In addition to gift-giving etiquette questions, this it the time “who to tip”—and how much to tip—is a topic of concern for some. Here are a few tips for holiday tipping that will help you plan for the season.

Happy Holidays!

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Posted by Margaret in Everyday Etiquette and tagged

To Gift or Not to Gift: Office Gift Giving Etiquette Tips

December 8, 2017

christmas gift
During the holidays, the rules for gift giving in the workplace are tricky. Many people are simply unsure of the protocol when it comes to inter-cubicle gift giving.

How much should I spend on a coworker?

Should I buy for my boss?

What should I buy my staff?

 All of these questions are common this time of year.

Gift giving during the holiday season provides you with an opportunity to say “thank you” to those people who have supported you during the year—and that includes coworkers and mentors.

There are no mandatory holiday gift giving rules when it comes to how much to spend, however, some workplaces have guidelines in place that you must adhere to when giving gifts at the office. A good rule of thumb is to spend no more than the tax credit allowed in your country for professional gifts. In the U.S., the IRS allows a $25 tax deduction for each professional gift.

When buying for your boss, keep in mind that he likely has enough gadgets and trinkets. Be modest and consider doing something unique this year, such as making a donation to one of his or her favorite charities in the recipient’s name.

If you’re the boss, it’s a good idea to keep your radar up all year—listening in for your employees’ hobbies and interests. This will save you time choosing the perfect gift to give each one during the holidays. And it will make them feel appreciated!

Some gift-giving inspiration 

Just can’t figure out what to buy? Here are a few ideas for you:

  • Wine. When you give someone a bottle of wine, they can enjoy it now or save it for a long time.
  • Chocolate. Dark chocolate is not only decadent, but it’s good for you! The perfect gift for everyone on your list!
  • Treat someone to a service. Giving someone “permission” to treat themselves is the perfect gift.
  • Food. During the holiday season, there are many stores that offer pre-made savory or sweet food hampers–or you can get creative and create a basket of goodies!
  • Gift card. A gift card from Amazon is always a favorite gift because it gives the recipient an opportunity to buy whatever she wants anytime of year – guilt-free!

If you’re thinking about giving gifts to your customers this year, make sure you think about this first:

  • Don’t give expensive gifts, but those intended to make the customer feel as though you appreciate them (not obligated to buy from you.)
  • Don’t send gifts to prospective customers. By giving a gift too early in your business relationship, the intention may be misconstrued. Gifts are appropriate only if you have an ongoing business relationship.
  • Don’t send promotional gifts. When sending a gift to a customer, refrain from sending something that’s tagged with your logo or brand. Save those items for trade shows and business events.
  • DO send something of meaning. Tying a gift to a customer’s hobby or outside interest shows that you value the relationship.

The most important aspect of gift giving is that it comes from your heart so if you’re wondering where to draw the line, go with your instincts. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of giving a particular person a gift, then don’t do it.

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Posted by Margaret in Everyday Etiquette and tagged

What’s Your Name?

December 4, 2017

rememberThere’s something uniquely miserable about forgetting someone’s name. Not only can it make you appear thoughtless or inconsiderate, but it can make the mystery person feel small. And this faux pas can be disastrous when you’re trying to make business connections.

You’re more likely to encounter this delicate situation during the busy holiday season. But don’t panic! A few simple strategies can help you save face.

 Don’t try to guess. The only thing worse than blanking on a name is using the incorrect name. If you’re not certain, keep your mouth closed! Better not to refer to Janet as Eva.

Follow the clues. See if you can extract information with a few carefully worded questions. For example: “When did we last see each other?” or “It’s so good to see you! How long has it been?” Hopefully, you’ll gather enough nuggets of information to trigger a memory and recall a name.

 Ask for help. If you’re in a group setting — at a networking event, for example — discreetly ask a friend or colleague for the person’s name. If you don’t have the opportunity for a private moment, ask the mystery person to introduce himself to your friend: “Please say hello to my colleague Celeste!”

Play the introduction game. At the first opportunity you get, ask the mystery person to introduce herself to someone else you know: “Have you met Jason?” That gives you the opportunity to be courteous while also prompting the mystery person to divulge the information you need.

Fess up. If all else fails, be honest. It’s best to keep it simple by saying, “I’m so sorry. I remember meeting you but I just can’t seem to recall your name. Could you please remind me?” It’s not ideal, but it’s a better option than flailing — or, worse — using the wrong name.

How do you cover your tracks when you can’t remember a name? Or, even better, what do you do to remember names? Tell me in the comments.

 

 

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Posted by Margaret Page in Business Etiquette, Communication, Etiquette Tips, Everyday Etiquette and tagged , ,

Hi There! The Etiquette of Salutations in Business Communications

August 12, 2017


Envelope & Pen
A friend of mine recently commented that a large number of emails she has received over the past few months seem to begin with “Hi!” or “Hi Jane!” While that’s an appropriate salutation if you are sending a note to a friend, it is not appropriate if you’re reaching out to a business contact—or someone you don’t know personally. An email is a letter, and should be treated as such—from beginning to end.

With our ability to fire off quick emails and send texts that include short-forms of words (LOL) and fun emoticons, when writing a business letter, here are salutation tips to remember…that never go out of style.

Most of the time, in the business arena you will start your e-mail or letter with “Dear Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. or Dr. Hyde or even Dear Margaret –whichever is the appropriate way to address the recipient depending on your relationship with them. Also consider the industry norm and even the culture you are communicating with.

However you begin, the salutation ends with a colon. You know the punctuation mark that’s used in happy faces :0). (Although most people incorrectly use the semi-colon; in salutations.)

It is important to note that traditionally, “Mrs.” Was used for married women and “Miss” was used to address unmarried women. Because this distinction was made only for women—with men always being referred to as “Mr.” regardless of marital status –we now use “Ms.” in salutations to address women unless you know they are married. Most of the time, you will start your letter with “Dear Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. or Dr. ______–whichever is the appropriate way to address the recipient—followed by a colon.

Unless you know that the person you’re sending the e-mail or letter prefers “Miss” or “Mrs.,” always use “Ms.” when addressing her in a formal manner.

If your business letter or email is not being addressed to one particular person at a company, the best practice is to address the company, the department or the specific role. The more specific you are, the more likely your letter will make it to the hands of the appropriate person. If, for example,you’re sending a cover letter with your resume—and you don’t have the name of the human resources director (although it might be better to do some digging as that will probably get your letter to the top of the pile), address the letter with “Dear Human Resources Director.”

As busy as we are today, it’s highly likely that your business correspondence is being sent via Internet rather than through the post office. It’s important to note that even though it’s so easy to send a quick note to a client or business contact by email, the salutation sets the tone for the remainder of the email message.

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Posted by Margaret in Communication, Etiquette Tips, Everyday Etiquette and tagged

The Fundamentals of Photo Etiquette

July 3, 2017

camera in a cameraFacebook and other photo-sharing networks growing life wildfire, many of us have had this unfortunate experience, and the feeling that follows is downright awful! Such careless regard for others’ feelings translates to bad photo etiquette.

Remember, permission is very important, for both taking and sharing a picture of someone else.

This lesson is especially important in dealing with other cultures. All around the globe, people believe that when someone takes your picture, they trap your soul. Carelessly snapping shots of an Australian Aborigine or Native American could be considered a grave offense, and even land you in jail!

Even with your average tech-savvy person, always ask permission before posting pictures of other people online. There are many reasons they might decline, and their privacy must be respected.

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Posted by Margaret in Everyday Etiquette and tagged , , ,

Did you know…? About forks?

June 30, 2017

fork
While the knife and spoon have long been accepted as common eating utensils, the fork had a much harder time earning its place at the table. The fork’s similarity to the pitchfork, a sign of the devil, was the source of most resistance.

Imagine the astonishment then, in 1004, when Maria Argyropoulina, Greek niece of Byzantine Emperor Basil II, arrived in Venice for her marriage with a case of golden forks to use at the wedding feast. She was roundly condemned by the local clergy.

When she died of the plague two years later, Saint Peter Damian suggested that it was God’s punishment for her “forked” ways. The devil took her!

By the 1400s dining forks were appearing in Italian cookbooks, and shortly thereafter, another noble marriage influenced the public’s perception of the fork. Catherine de Medici arrived from Italy to marry the future French King Henry II, and with her she brought several dozen intricate silver forks. Wealthy French families eagerly adopted the new Italian influence. (Who knew the fork was once pop culture?)

Well into the early 1800s, forks were still considered a novelty by some, and the source of great confusion to others.

By the first World’s Fair in 1851, the fork had finally gained widespread Western acceptance as a popular eating utensil. It even had its own set of rules to help the confused or socially self conscious. Perhaps that was the point when the fork’s reputation as the ultimate symbol of etiquette issues was first forged.

So, the next time you sit down to a formal meal and feel a hint of panic at the sight of three forks, don’t sweat it! Your ancestors didn’t get it either, but in time, there’s hope for us all.

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Posted by Margaret in History of Etiquette and tagged

The Business Lunch Demystified

June 10, 2017

Lunch

Lunchtime is a great opportunity to be productive and network. Here is a healthy serving of guidance to help you thrive in a business lunch.

No matter where you go for your business lunch, be on time. If you live in a big city, you know that traffic can be terrible. Even in the worst traffic scenarios, you can be on time if you plan ahead. Arriving early gives you time to use the restroom to check your appearance, fix your tie, reapply lipstick, make sure your shirt is tucked in, etc.

At your lunch meeting, enjoy your meal, be yourself, and remember to exchange any important information before you leave the table.

In Japan, meishi koukan is the formal exchange of business cards. The practice is very important in Japanese culture, and their long list of proper steps in the business card exchange is taken seriously. While we are not so formal in North America we have adopted the Japanese custom of handing a business card to someone with both hands with the print readable to the receiver. Your business card needs to be pristine and accurate. Look the person in the eye as you hand them your business card.

No matter the type of business lunch, whether it is an interview, a sales pitch, or just a get-to-know-you meal, remember your table manners. Keep the phone on silent and put away, and keep your handbag on a hook — never on the table or floor. Know and practice napkin knowhow, silent service code, and be silverware savvy.

Before you meet for your next business lunch, have an outcome for that lunch in mind. If you invited someone to lunch let them know why you are wanted to meet with them. It is good form to pay for your guest if you extended the invitation. If it is a mutually agreed upon luncheon, be prepared to pick up the tab, at least for yourself, when the bill arrives. Most importantly, be polite, stay focused on the outcome, and enjoy the conversation.

 

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Posted by Margaret Page in Business Etiquette, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , ,

10 Ways Women Sabotage Their Own Presentations (And How to Fix Them)

May 11, 2017

Speaker at conference and presentation. Audience at the conference hall

Presenting before a group is a golden opportunity to make your voice and your opinions heard, to change minds and hearts, and to woo people to your business.

So why is it that we women are so prone to sabotaging these valuable moments?

I’ve watched thousands of speakers and have presented innumerable times myself, and over the years I’ve noticed a pattern: Women are prone to several habits and tics that undermine their message.

I’m not saying that men don’t make similar mistakes — they do — but let’s face facts. Woman make less money on the dollar. We face the tug-of-war between home and the office in a different way than men do. We risk being called too shrill, too bossy, too opinionated.

Combine that with the following speaking faux pas and you risk undermining your own hard work. You can gain the upper hand, though, with a bit of practice. Here are the most common mistakes we women make — and how to fix them.

No point of view. Women are wonderful at one-on-one discussions and small groups because we’re naturals at collaborating and building consensus. Unfortunately, that also means that many women avoid the stage. We have fewer female speaking role models that we can emulate, and we can tend toward general sharing of information rather than specific viewpoints. A presentation without a point of view can come off as a lecture, or the presenter can appear wishy-washy. The fix: Create and cultivate your own unique perspective. Think about TED Talks: They’re informative, yet they always have a point of view that makes you think. By drilling down, reflecting and asking good questions about your information you can develop an opinion that stands out.

Pacing the stage. This is a bad habit that’s common among both men and women presenting on small to medium stages. Pacing the stage makes you seem unsure and it also robs your audience of a steady viewing point. Think about what audiences have become accustomed to: Broadcasters stay in one spot. At large events, you don’t see speakers dashing all over the stage — it would be magnified on the Jumbotron! Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t move during your presentation. But pacing doesn’t indicate confidence or wisdom; it telegraphs nervousness to the crowd. The fix: Try the Fripp method of stage movement: move when you want to demonstrate action such as walking or running, when you demonstrate the passing of time, and when you transition from point to point. Remember that your goal is to connect with your message and to connect with your audience. Before speaking, release nervous energy with jumping jacks and move on to deep, diaphragmatic breathing to center yourself and clear your mind. You can even hold your hand over your heart to remind you of how you want to present yourself to your audience: With a passion that clearly comes from within.

High voice and upspeak. Everyone’s voice tends to rise when nervous — it’s human nature — but on the stage it’s a clear sign that you have a bit of stage fright. Upspeak, on the other hand, is when your voice rises at the end of a sentence so that it sounds like a question. Women are more prone to upspeak thanks to our collaborative nature; we want to invite opinions. It’s common for speakers to draw the audience in with rhetorical and literal questions, but those questions need to be planned and deliberate. The fix: Practice modulating your voice. Slow down. Be present. Focus more on connecting with your audience rather than being overwhelmed by the prospect of having one. Remember, all speaking is public speaking and you’ve been speaking to others your entire life.

Too much smiling. Women are taught from an early age to smile, but smiling too much can seem as if you’re insincere. I’ve watched women smile through presentations even when they’re delivering pain points and bad or sad news, which throws the audience off. You want your facial movements to reflect your inner feelings and emotions; otherwise, it’s just a mask! An audience can always sense a speaker’s lack of authenticity. The fix: Practice with your presentation so that you’re not just reading words, you’re delivering a message. You would be thrown off if a person told you about a death in the family while smiling; the same rules apply to your presentation. Both you and your audience will have a better time if you take the journey together. A word of caution: If you’re still acutely grieving over a loss or difficult event you’re not yet ready to share what you’ve learned from the platform.

Clothing that doesn’t match the occasion. There’s a time and place for your favorite short skirt or deep-V shirt, but it’s not on a stage or in a boardroom where it can detract from your credibility. The fix: Stick to skirts or dresses that are knee-length or just above the knee and avoid cleavage.

The wrong set of heels. As with short skirts and low-cut tops, there’s a place for those sky-high stilettos. (Hint: It’s not at work or on the stage.) Keep in mind, too, that certain high heels — no matter the heel size — can make a distracting clack-clack-clack as you walk across a stage. The fix: Stash the stilettos and test your heels on a hard surface before making your presentation. If they make noise when you walk, ditch them in favor of a less noisy pair. If the problem persists, buy some felt-bottomed ballroom dance shoes. This will allow your words to be heard rather than your heels.

Clothing patterns. Men, in their suits and ties, normally have an advantage here: We haven’t seen too many heavily patterned clothes for men since the 1970s. We women, on the other hand, have a wide variety of styles and patterns to choose from when dressing. Unfortunately, too-busy patterns can put the focus on our clothes rather than on what we’re saying. The fix: Reserve patterns for off-work hours and stick to solids.

Imploding body language. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy has a term for women who cross their legs, pull their shoulders in, or cross their arms: “imploding.” All three of these body stances make you physically smaller, which is the opposite of what you want when you’re before an audience. To connect, you must be open. For your message to land, you need to deliver it confidently. Creating the smallest version of yourself doesn’t indicate confidence, it indicates defensiveness. The fix: Stand with your shoulders back and your spine straight. If you’re sitting, keep your legs together and uncrossed or crossed at the ankle.

Using eyeglasses as props. Eyeglasses are essential for so many of us, but they belong in one place during presentations: Balanced on the bridge of your nose. If your glasses slide down your nose and you peer over them, it gives the actual effect of looking down your nose at someone. Not the best if you’re trying to create a real connection. Another faux pas is removing the glasses and then holding them while speaking. Drama teachers will tell you that props are powerful because they command attention. Do you want to command attention to your reading glasses? The fix: Adjust your glasses immediately if they slide down your nose. At the next opportunity, have them adjusted at an eyeglass store. If you need to remove your glasses during a presentation, make sure you have a place to stash them out of sight.

Preening. This is another unconscious action that’s particular to women: We touch our faces and push around our hair while speaking, which is just as distracting as using eyeglasses as props. The fix: If necessary, pull your hair back so you’re not tempted to touch it. Ask your hairstylist to teach you two or three stage-ready styles that you can easily create yourself. Touching your face can be a difficult habit to break, but I’ve found great success by remembering that touching your face can spread germs and make myself more vulnerable to illnesses like the flu.

With a little preparation, practice, and awareness, you can dial back distractions and turn your next speaking engagement into a chance to make a difference for your audience.

 

 

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Posted by Margaret Page in A Page of Insight, Communication and tagged ,

A Valentine’s Survival Guide for Couples

February 13, 2017

Heart frame from red rose petals over white background

I know Valentine’s Day is here already, but here are some Valentines Day etiquette tips that will ensure a romantic and memorable evening (and keep everyone out of the dog house!)

(Note: If you waited until today to buy a special Valentine’s Day card, you might be stuck with the leftover corny Valentine’s Day cards. Think about making your own card for your sweetie. Homemade gifts are always a hit in the romance department.)

  • Turn your cell phones off: It goes without saying that you should give your date your undivided attention at all times, and most especially on such a romantic day as Valentine’s Day. Gentlemen: turn your cell phones off—and leave them off the table–so you’re not tempted to check sports scores during dinner.
  • Buying a gift: Valentines Day means different things to different people – depending on how long you’ve been together and how serious the relationship is. A traditional gift of flowers and chocolate are still time-honored traditions, and they fit into most budgets. Remember, it really is the thought that counts. Handwritten love letters are also a hit!
  • Mind your table manners: As with any time you’re sharing a meal with someone, be sure to bring along your best table manners. Chewing with your mouth open or shoveling food into your mouth is NOT romantic.
  • For the men: Remember the simple things, like opening the door for her, helping her with her coat, and pulling out her chair for her if the wait staff don’t do it for her.
  • Who pays? Many women are still looking for that knight in shining armor–chivalry is desirable. So, men, pick up the tab unless your lady in waiting has extended the dinner invitation.

Valentines hearts beat more passionately than everyday hearts

~ Anonymous

 Wishing you all a very happy (and romantic) Valentines Day!

photo credit: pixieclipx 

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Posted by Margaret in Everyday Etiquette