There’s this little café in my neighborhood that I love to patronize. They always make my caramel latte with almond milk, just the way I like it. Their attention to customization and meeting the customer’s needs is superior. Dare I say, it’s even better than Starbucks!
Well, the other day in this perfect little coffee house, I witnessed a common offense take place. A guy made himself comfy at one of the tables, set up his laptop, logged onto the free WiFi and started surfing away. Then, he took a sip out of his 24 oz. McDonald’s cup!
One of the owners noticed this and demanded that the WiFi moocher leave immediately. As the (non)customer begged to finish his drink and Internet session, the owner explained a very valid point. This is a business and their particular business is coffee. Every time someone buys coffee in another shop, brings it into their café and uses the WiFi at no cost, they lose on at least three fronts:
1. You spent you’re money somewhere else;
2. You’ve given the other shop free advertising in this establishment; and
3. You’re jamming up the Internet for all their paying customers while getting service without giving back to the business.
Most businesses cannot afford to support freeloaders, but small businesses, especially, cannot bear that burden. If you want your favorite shops to stay in business, then help them out by showing a little consideration. Don’t be that guy.
My mother and grandmothers began teaching me the laws of etiquette from a very young age. (I can remember lessons as far back as three years old.) Through all of the training, a solid group of sayings and thoughts on etiquette, manners, and protocol stuck with me. They have gotten me through many encounters within different settings, cultures, and countries in the company of all types of people and customs. You may have heard some of them along the way, but I’ll share them here with you, because I am confident they will help you shine in just about any protocol bind.
1. There is a time and place for everything (often abbreviated by moms as “Time and Place”). This saying encourages you to remember that you should consider where you are and what is going on around you, before you speak or act. For example, if you are already at the party surrounded by other people, that is not the time to tell your girlfriend she looks like she is gaining weight and her dress makes her look pudgy around the middle. Or consider that if you are at an academic function, that is not the time to run wild and go streaking across the stage.
2. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. (This is still my mother’s favorite saying.) You can and should tell the truth. It’s how you tell it that decides how the other person feels by the end of the conversation. So I can look at you and say, “Whoa you look like crap! What the hell happened to you?” or I can go with, “Hey, it’s been a rough morning. I might need a splash of cold water and a cup of coffee to pick me up too. Want to come with me?” The message is sent either way, but the latter phrasing cushions the message so that you aren’t directly offending the person.
3. If you aren’t sure, follow your host’s lead. Depending on what setting you are in, you would follow the example of the person who invited you, the highest ranking person, or the leader of the group. If you are attending a formal dinner party and don’t know where to sit, look to your host(ess) for a cue. When you are out with coworkers and don’t know if it is okay to order alcohol, wait until the boss or the person who holds the most superior position orders his/her drink and then decide based on what he/she is having.
4. Money can’t buy class. (Wealth does not equal taste.) How many times have you seen this? A new money pop star, crass heiress, brash entrepreneur, a friend who landed a good job, etc. and they have no upbringing, but they find themselves amidst high society and they just don’t know how to act. They need to either learn on their own or be guided in what is appropriate to say, do, wear and so on. But believe me when I say, no amount of money in the world will improve their behavior amongst and towards others (unless maybe it’s money put towards etiquette training).
5. When in Rome, do as the Romans. Along with this concept, my paternal grandmother taught me that the key ingredient is making your host(ess) or friends feel comfortable being themselves around you. Don’t turn your nose up to their traditions, hobbies, cultural practices or daily lifestyle. Of course, you should draw some barriers for yourself, but not so many that you spoil the fun. Jump in, make yourself right at home and put everyone at ease.
6. Good manners will take you far in life. My maternal Grandma always reminded us that no matter what situation presents itself, always mind your manners. Be gracious, courteous and pleasant in your dealings with others, unless or until an issue calls for more aggressive behavior. And even then, you still maintain a dignified position, because when the issue is over you want to come out on top.
It’s turkey time and lots of us will be spending the tummy-stuffing holiday at a home other than our own. As guests, we want to be on our best behavior and make the host’s job a little more enjoyable. So here are some quick tips to make you into the guest they’ll welcome back next year:
1. Bring a thoughtful gift. Traditionally, you would bring a dish to add to dinner or a pretty bouquet of flowers. However, now we have many more options to choose from. What does your host(ess) like? Try to find out a little about his/her hobbies or interests ahead of time. If they like music, make them a holiday mixtape. If they’re into technology, get them a subscription or app for the latest tech magazine. Do they love fashion and beauty? Give a gift card to their favorite clothing store or online boutique. Maybe they have a pet. A new chew toy to keep their dog busy would be perfect. Not only will they adore you for bringing something they find useful, but it will be a great, easy conversation starter.
2. Help do something! Don’t just offer to help once and then glue your bum to your seat as soon as they decline. Unless the dinner is catered or your host(ess) really does not want you getting in the way, it is only polite to help them with some aspect of the gathering. You know what you are good at doing, so don’t offer to help cook if you were a contestant on “Disaster Chef Season 2.” Help set the table, wash the dishes, keep the children out of the kitchen, or even set up the dvd player for the after dinner movie.
3. Keep your foot out of your mouth. You probably know too much of their business already. This is not your opportunity to blurt it all out while they’re shoveling pumpkin pie in their mouths. Even if they raise some of their personal issues, (yes, even if they ask for your input), keep your comments limited and respectful.
4. Show gratitude. After all, that is the whole point of this season. Remember to thank your host(ess) for having you join them. Compliment them on something about the evening. It doesn’t have to be anything formal or grandiose. A simple, “Thanks for everything. Dinner was great!” works just as well as, “I appreciate you inviting me to share this day with you. You are a divine chef and host. This was truly delightful.” Make note of your setting and who you are addressing in order to decide how spicy your “thank you” needs to be. If it is an all out Thanksgiving dining extravaganza or an especially heartwarming affair, you might want to consider sending a nice thank you card afterwards. If they put that much into the evening, you can put a little extra into your thank you.
Now you’re off! Happy Thanksgiving to you all!
Remember to mind your manners and check back in for more holiday etiquette tips.
Ever since girls got the idea that they could run the world, it seems boys have been deciding they no longer have to follow common chivalry. Clearly if a woman can earn a college degree, found an organization, incorporate her own business, or sit at the head of the board room, then she can also open her own doors, flag her own taxis, pull out her own chairs. Right? I suppose so, but a lady is still a lady at heart. As independent as she wants to be, she can’t deny the special flutter she feels when a gentleman puts her needs and safety first.
I wave my independence flag and single lady finger as much as the next girl. I feel empowered knowing I’m making my own way in this world. Yet, last night a gentleman humbled me in my stride. As I approached the bus amidst the hustle and bustle, he stepped aside pulling a younger guy aside with him and signaled for me to go first. Pleased as punch, I nearly curtsied. Surely someone would have knocked me over if I tried that, so I settled on a grinning thank you. That one small act carried the reminder that chivalry does not have to die. We can resuscitate it. Not only does the return of chivalry present opportunities for the most delightful interactions, but men should know it takes them a lot further in professional and social aspirations with just about any lady.
So perhaps we can update chivalry a little to suit the world we live in now. Maybe a man can back off from ordering dinner for his date. She knows what she likes and she can state it. However, he can most certainly take her coat, pull out her chair and even wait for her to be seated before he takes his own seat. Maybe he doesn’t need to run in front of his female coworker to yank open every door for her, but he can definitely let her enter the elevator first instead of knocking her over to beat the crowd. If he sees his female neighbor struggling up the steps with a hundred bags of new shoes, well it is most appreciated if he offers to carry a few of them the rest of the way and not rush past like he didn’t see her little head peeping out for help. Oh yes, and if it starts to rain, he racks up serious points for holding the umbrella over her head.
Sounds like extra work for the new age man to do for the new age woman? I’d bet it’s a lot less tedious and way more effective than the other methods used now to grab her attention, to leave her with a lasting impression, or to simply convince her to disclose her Twitter handle. Go on, try it! Let us know what happens.