So you appear well-raised

Category: Etiquette

Merry Everything, Happy Always

        Once again, the holidays are upon us. Overall, it’s a happy time of year. People spend exorbitant amounts of money on presents for those they love. There’s tons of delicious food and you get to see people you haven’t seen all year.

For me, this time of year is a minefield of egregious etiquette violations. All sorts of foolery going on and I’m just doing my small part to put a stop to it. Of course this is not an exhaustive list, but here’s what’s coming to mind right now.

  1. Not RSVPing to parties. Y’all, we’ve talked about this. You show up to an event, not having told them you were coming and you have sent your host into a tizzy! If you and several other people did that, your host is now in the kitchen lamenting the fact that they need to make a little extra to put out, lest they look cheap, running out of food.
  2. Entertaining in a dirty home. So there was this one time I was invited to a Thanksgiving dinner at an ex’s friend’s house. I showed up and the house was in a terrible state of disarray. Cat hair and clothes everywhere. I’m aware that there’s some dummy reading this that might say, “Well, be grateful you were invited.” To that I say, “HUSH!” Accept nothing less than the best! That mess of a home could not have been this person’s best. Give a little bit of a damn when you invite folks to your space. If you don’t want to clean, just don’t have people there.
  3. Showing up empty-handed. If someone invites you to their home or office party, you better show up with something. I don’t mean one of those dried-out, flavorless, store-bought cakes. Or some bottle of wine that you clearly don’t want to drink. Make something. Buy a decent bottle. Show your host that you are glad to be there and want them to enjoy what you’re bringing.
  4. Bah-humbugging your way through happy times. This time of year can be a sore spot for some. Grief. Loneliness. Social anxiety. The prospect of having to put out so much money. It can be a lot. So, personally, this time of year is a little difficult for me. But you know who it’s not difficult for? Little kids. Look at ’em! They are super happy and love everything about the holidays! So when a wave of unhappiness hits me, I remember back when I was a kid and the holiday was magical. Sometimes, you have to reach back to move forward. Be gentle with yourself and others. But please don’t ruin the season for anyone else.
  5. Getting HR-memo drunk.  You know the sort of behavior I’m talking about. The junior associate getting handsy with Brenda from accounting. The guy who has a few to many and tells the marketing department to kiss his whole ass and makes copies of it for their desks. That guy or gal. Holiday drinks are delicious. That much we know. I’m a fan of a well-spiked eggnog myself. So many delicious flavors and warm yummies. But please, know when to switch to seltzer. Office parties are notorious for that one person who imbibes just a little too much. You really don’t want your holiday party hijinks to be the talk of the office, because it will definitely negatively affect you in the end.
  6. Talking about your calories. I mentioned before that the holidays come with lots of delicious food. Eat it. Or don’t. Look, being health conscious is great and I appreciate your efforts. But no one wants your damn light eggnog. That stuff is vile and you know it. And then, no one wants to hear about how you feel so bad because of what you ate or how you’ll basically have to run to hell to burn the calories off. Eat it or don’t. Work out or don’t. But please do shut up about it.
  7. Regifting bad gifts. If its a candle in a scent that’s lovely,  but just not your style of scent, that’s one thing. But passing along something truly horrid is bad manners. Get rid of it. One year, my grandmother (the queen of “What the hell were you thinking?” gifts) gave my mother salt and pepper shakers that were in the shape of deer. They were brighly and hideously colored. They were way past quirky and just ugly. My mother, faced with gift-giving occasions soon after this horrible gift, did not regift. She quietly tucked away those two ugly deer, only to come out when we all need a laugh. The buck stopped there, thank God.

Please, think about your actions this time of year and govern yourselves accordingly. Don’t make the holidays crappy for someone else just because of your carelessness in adhering to the basic rules of decency.

Office Etiquette: Rules Not Mentioned in the Employee Handbook

The high cost of real estate, traffic, and emerging technology have caused lots of jobs to be able to be completed from the comfort of one’s home. But while a large percentage of the workforce can literally work in their pajamas, this morning’s commute tells me that there are still lots of folks that must exit their respective domiciles to earn a paycheck.

If you are one of the unlucky ones, there are some things that can make work more bearable. I’m not talking about trendy office supplies (though, that helps!) or a work husband/wife. I’m talking about etiquette. The unspoken rules by which we should all function in order not to claw each other’s eyes out by happy hour.

Here are some things that I thought were pretty basic, but every office has their offenders. Basically, here’s how not to be THAT guy/gal in the office.

1. Can you hear me now? Ringtones are very 2009. So at most, you have that annoying old-timey ringing or maybe some duck sounds. Either way, not everyone in the office needs to hear every time you get a text from your buddies or you get a random call from Sallie Mae. Put the phone on vibrate. If you’re anything like most people, the phone is still close to you and you can still answer it.

2. Your personal jam session. It should be just that – personal. I get that music makes some of us more productive, but no one else in the office may care to hear Yanni At the Acropolis or the entire works of Weird Al Yankovic. Use headphones or earbuds. And then, even those can be so loud that others can hear them. Keep in mind that what gets you going can be a total production killer for someone else. Be respectful and keep it low.

3. Scent sense. We appreciate that you want to smell good. Because trust me, I’ve been in situations where someone obviously didn’t care about how they smelled. The opposite can be just as offensive though. I love smell-goods – perfumes, soaps, lotions, candles, etc. on my own personal time. An office is typically a small space and people can’t escape your smell if they find it unpleasant. Sometimes it’s a matter of quantity. A little dab’ll do ya, but basting oneself in whatever pop star’s latest and not-that-greatest bottled pet project is just bad form. Go easy on the scent at the office and save it for date night.

4. Your kid is not employed there. So why are you forcing their Girl Scout cookies/wrapping paper/overpriced candy on everyone? Look, I want your kid to win that grand prize of a pencil sharpener as much as I want world peace. Really. However, coming around to my desk or sending me an email to cough up money is just awkward. Leave the order form in a common area and walk away. Don’t guilt anyone into buying stuff from your kid.

5. Funky lunch. Again, the office is a small space, shared by many. Last night’s curry salmon might be delicious. But if I’m not the one eating it, it just smells vile and that smell lingers. I can’t tell you what to eat for lunch, but you could try for less smelly foods if you want to be invited to sit with the cool kids at lunch.

None of these infractions will necessarily get you sent to HR, but you can bet they make people think something of you. So while you won’t get fired, you likely won’t be the favorite come promotion time if you’re a bad office mate.

Hung Up: You’re Not As Important As Your Phone Makes You Think You Are

Remember years ago when cell phones were just for calling people? The phone rang, you picked it up and then you jumped back into the world of the living.

Those days are LONG gone. Sometimes, I wish they’d come back. Hear me out. People are on their phones non-stop. During meetings, kids’ recitals, driving, while walking across the street – all the time and everywhere! Phones are such a wonderful distraction. When I’m on the train and I want to avoid eye contact with a particular crazy person, I’m stuck on my phone. It’s great for that.

I don’t even have to name all the positives of cell phones. We know what great things they do. But let’s get real – you’re probably spending way too much time on yours. There is absolutely no reason we need to be as connected as we are to our phones. The world will keep spinning if we miss a call, or we aren’t available to give play-by-play tweets of the date we’re on.

When I’m out and about, I always judge how good of a time I had by how much I was on my phone. I also use that as a barometer of whether someone else is enjoying themselves. If they are constantly attached to the phone, my guess is that I’m boring them. I cut that outing short, quickly.

Everyone is not a Fortune 500 CEO who has to work 24/7 to make the company function. Most of us are middle managers with modest savings and the ability to cut loose just a little on the weekends – nothing special at all. So no, I don’t believe any of us needs to constantly have our phones in our hands because we don’t do anything all that important to the world. So if you’re constantly connected and missing all that’s going on around you, you’re being rude and you should stop.

Fashionably Late: The Thing That Doesn’t Exist

All my life, I had to fight . . .  to be on time. I come from a household where time was sort of a fluid concept. A request. A suggestion. Not a rule. Someone would tell my mom to be somewhere at 6:00 pm. We might be there 6:30 pm or after. As a result, I grew up thinking this was ok.

Growing up, I just kind of believed I’d get there when I got there. Social things, work, didn’t matter. Whatever time I arrived would be the right time. I’m sure you know that this wasn’t cool with anyone.

Lateness is wrong, plain and simple. No one is so important that they can leave people waiting for them. If you’re told to be there at a specific time, do your damnedest to be there at that time. Sure, there are things that come up that prevent you from being on time, but not all the time.

I had to break myself from this habit. There are so many tools out there to help get you places on time. I use Google Calendar, which is synced with Waze and it tells me when to leave to get somewhere on time. It works 90% of the time.

Lateness communicates to people that you don’t care. Of course, this is likely not the case. You care very much. But the way it comes off doesn’t make you look good. People will doubt you’re taking things seriously and they’ll avoid you. Many great opportunities were lost because of lateness.

Our brains are wired differently, so what works for me may not work for you. But it’s important you make an effort to be places on time. “Fashionably Late” isn’t a thing on a daily basis. Parties? Yes. But when you leave people waiting for you, unable to move forward without your presence, you’re wasting time and being inconsiderate.

Send The Right Message: Why You Always Send A Thank You Note

Recently, a woman at a baby shower was told she didn’t need to send thank you notes to the attendants for their gifts. As I read this, I went from shock to eye-rolling, to the ever-popular pursing of the lips and shaking my head.

So wait. Let me get this right. A group of people has come together to celebrate you or something you’ve done and you don’t thank them beyond that moment?

I say this as I have a stack of thank you notes to send out from a recent birthday fete where I told my friends “no gifts!” but they came through with the goods anyway because they are magical and wonderful.

Back to the matter at hand. Thank you notes are necessary. After a baby shower. After a wedding. After a nice present is given to you. After someone has shown you tremendous grace. Show appreciation and put it in writing. Not in email, either. No. A handwritten note.

I love stationery. Buying it and designing my own. But you can very easily pick up a pack of thank you cards at your local supermarket. They’re with the greeting cards.

A well-thought out thank you card thanks the person for a specific act or gift and genuinely expresses how much you enjoy said thing. GENUINELY. If you didn’t really like it, don’t go overboard.

Kids should get started writing notes of appreciation as soon as they can hold a crayon. Did an aunt get them a nice present? Have them scribble a note to her in a card after you’ve written a note of thanks. It may be literally a scribble, but the receiver will get a kick out of it and you will have shown your child one of the more important parts of etiquette.

My memory is long and petty. I’ll admit it. I remember folks who don’t send notes. I am working hard on extending grace to those people, but it’s hard. It just feels as though they feel entitled to my gift and they are certainly not. The verbal thank you at the time of the giving isn’t enough.

I’ll even bend a little and say a phone call would be nice if one isn’t inclined to send a note. A personalized phone call. Pick up the phone and dial the number. Don’t send a text. Leave a message if you have to. This seems better than saying nothing.  

Evites: The F-Boy of The Invitation World

I’m about to get into something controversial here: Electronic invitations. Personally, I think they can see me in hell and die a slow death. There are a great many of you who don’t feel that way and are using them for everything from weddings to backyard BBQs. Of course, this is just MY opinion and it doesn’t have to be right. So don’t get your panties all in a bunch if you’ve decided to completely eschew the postal system in favor of a web invite.

I personally see electronic invitations as the fuckboy of the invitation world. Sure, they get the job done. You got the info. But is anyone taking you or it seriously? Are they excited about it? Are they even apt to arrive on time?

Electronic invitations have always said to me, “I want to invite many people at one time, but I don’t want to spend the money on printing and stamps, nor do I want to spend time gathering addresses from Whitepages. So I’ll just send this to *insert really high number of people* and attach my registry information.” That could just be my interpretation.

There is something about a nice, addressed envelope. You open it and you know that the sender meant this for you. They thought about you as they were stuffing, sealing, and addressing. Something just feels really nice about that and I love it.

When planning an event, I build in the cost of the stamps to my budget. To do a simple invite on A6 paper will not cost you extra at the post office. I’ve heard people say things like, “Stamps cost too much. I’ll send it electronically.” But you want gifts from these people and you can’t spend $.50 on a stamp.

A paper invite also says to me, “I’ve taken some care with this event and it is NOT to be missed!” Now, we hope that’s true. We hope it’s not foolery and Costco food platters once you arrive. But there’s a glimmer of hope that it won’t suck because your host has sent out a nice, thoughtful invitation.

For more casual events, fine. Go ahead and send the evite. But for your gift-giving occasions, please do take care to send an actual invitation. This is part of the cost of entertaining.

RSVP Or You’ll Regret It

So you’ve been invited somewhere – great! Now, your host wants to know if you’ll be there. Yes, we’re about to talk about RSVPs.

Put simply, you need to do it. If someone takes the time to invite you somewhere, you need to let them know whether you are coming or not and in a timely fashion. There’s typically a date they’d like to know by.

Let’s discuss why you have to do this: Food and space. Your host would like to make sure they have enough of both. Imagine the horror of having food for 20 people, but 50 show up. You’d talk about that host like a dog if you had to fight another guest over a chicken wing. A deathmatch over a morsel of food is never a good look.  

Also, did they invite just YOU or your posse too? If it was just you, then just YOU need to RSVP and show up. They didn’t budget to feed you and your homies, so don’t ask if they can come. Trust that your host has taken the time to be thoughtful enough to invite people with whom you’d like to converse.  

Whether it’s a wedding, dinner party, or a house party – let your host know whether you are coming or not. I think people get confused about the “not coming” part. No matter what, you MUST tell your host SOMETHING. If your host has to track you down and ask you, you are a schmuck. There’s no way around it. You aren’t that important. You aren’t that busy. No one is too busy for good manners. Not me. Not you.

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