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Relationship and Dating Etiquette

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Listen up or Lose out: Advancing Your Listening Skills

When we think of holding engaging, powerful conversations, the first thing that comes to mind is mastering the art of persuasive speaking. While there is magic in persuasion, one of the most powerful tools of a leader is the ability to listen.

You are tossing the idea around in your mind, right? Surely, the way to control a discussion, direct the flow of ideas, and get someone to jump on your bandwagon is to use your words to convince and even manipulate. Yet, think about how much more likely you are to hear someone out and consider their point of view when you feel like they’ve been paying attention to you. You’re more willing to do something they’ve requested or give them what they’re asking for if you feel like that person has taken the time to listen to you and has shown a deep interest in what you think or feel. Beyond that realization, consider that the only way to know how to build an argument to budge others from their stance is to listen to them and figure out from which angle to approach their way of thinking. There within lies the compelling strength of a master conversationalist. If you are striving to become a great leader and influential figure, it’s worth it to acquire the following listening skills:

1. Don’t cut others off while they are talking. It’s disrespectful and it makes them feel like their ideas are being devalued. Be patient and let them finish their thought.

2. Actually pay attention. Avoid getting so caught up in coming up with a rebuttal or good come back line that you completely miss what the other person is expressing.

3. Use the various nonverbal gestures that let a person know you are present and connected. Try these nonverbal cues:

  • Lean forward, without slouching.
  • Make eye contact, instead of letting your eyes wander, but don’t stare.
  • Nod your head, not like you’re falling asleep, but like you get what they’re saying.
  • Smile/Laugh if they say something cheerful or funny.
  • Put away any distracting devices, i.e. cell phones, mp3 players, etc.

4. Ask questions related to what the other person is talking about. That is a surefire way to let someone know you were not only paying attention, but that you’re interested.

Before I run off to another meeting, I’ll share with you one of my personal secret weapons: the head nod and furrowed brow combo. When my eyebrows move closer together and I nod my head as in “yes, I get what you’re saying,” without fail, the person who is speaking stops talking to everyone else in the room and directs his/her words towards me. If you need a big dog, power player to notice you, if even for a moment, then give that one-two punch a try.

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The Unfortunate Fashion of Love

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Love. Oh Love, how could you be so blind? 

When we’re head over heels for someone we make some of our most questionable decisions. It looks like our fashion choices may suffer right along with the rest of them, like this guy’s cute red crossbody chain purse. We know (hope) it’s his girlfriend’s, but come on, it matches his shirt perfectly and everything.

I suppose we’ve probably all been there at some point in our young, foolish lives, but hopefully nobody has a picture of it!

Who Minds Your Manners?: The Abridged Laws of Etiquette

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.

Little Lady Tips – 2/24/12

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A Restraining Order with Your Name on It

The way technology is now makes it so very easy to track another person’s every online move.  You have close to complete access to where your best friend is hanging out at this very moment by peeping at Foursquare check-ins.  It’s easy to know if your girlfriend is sending smiley faces or hugging the next man just by perusing her wall.  The photos of your little sister going through her scantily clad phase keep popping up all over the place.  The list of things you can monitor goes on and on.  It’s like the Internet is tempting you, even encouraging you to be a stalker.

Too many relationships have been destroyed over what people thought they saw happen on a social network or microblogging site.  It not worth the tension and heartache, especially since often times the way things appear in a single post or photo aren’t quite what they seem.  While you may assume you are staring at a photo of your girlfriend squeezing some other dude, you could really be looking at a shot of her giving her coworker a brief, uneventful farewell.  No need to tint your car windows and wear your sunglasses at night to spy on your girlfriend.

You have to be the one to make a conscious decision not to spend hours checking others’ timelines, walls, boards, check-ins all day, every day.  And when you do come across this info about your significant other, friend, or relative, it is best that you do not try to hold it against them.  This is not information for you to use to make unfounded accusations, because there can be a back story to just about anything you find online.  It is better to take most of these things with a grain of salt.  If you do see a red flag, then raise the topic in a manner that is not accusatory and see if there is a reasonable explanation behind it.

If nothing else, consider that you have better things to do with your time than stalk those you care about.  Sure you can look to see that all is well with them, but don’t use it as a means to track their every move and make them uncomfortable about sharing their experiences.

Chivalry CPR: The Sexy Comeback

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.