Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Effective Etiquette, Tools & Strategies to Attain and Retain Your Professional Best

Whether it be a simple business call , as a speaker for a large group, or when simply dining with friends, that personal aura surrounding you when you are confident of your manners and actions, is a powerful tool in making your way successfully to the top in life and in business.  

The following are proven  techniques and skills that will allow you to smoothly navigate your way through even the most demanding of social and business situations.

Watch your posture and body language: Bill Clinton used this quite a bit, but other countries may have taken it wrong. 'Thumbs up' translates as the foulest of gesticular insults in many countries. The most straightforward interpretation being "Up yours, buddy!" In Brazil, a 'thumbs up' can be used as one way of expressing 'thanks'. In Japan, the 'thumbs up' in sign language, indicates a man, or male gender. (An extended 'pinky' finger indicates female, or a woman)
  1. Be on time, and from the moment you arrive at your destination, or receive business callers or guests, keep your posture open and relaxed.  
  2. Do not “body wrap”.  Body language and meanings of gestures can vary throughout the world and can be misinterpreted easily.  According to authorities on kinesics (the science of nonverbal language), what a person is saying verbally can be loudly contradicted by the person’s own body language.
  3. This is also true for hand gestures.  Use gestures with your hands sparingly. They can accentuate your message when done correctly, but they can also distract and detract from your message, if overdone. 
  4. When entering a room, especially if nervous, stand tall and pause slightly at the door.  Then slightly pause again before taking your seat. Oddly, the more time to pause you take, the more status others will attribute to you.  You are creating an air of importance. One caveat; Go much longer than a momentary pause, and others may see you as weak or hesitant.                 
  5. Do not let your emotions or fears allow your body to reveal themselves through desperate or  aggressive posturing.  Display assertiveness instead, by slightly leaning in toward a person to show you are listening attentively.  Then move back slightly when you are speaking, so as not to appear aggressive.
  6. Ask where you should sit before sitting down.  Survey the room casually to know who you will ultimately need to impress.  If you are in a boardroom for example, look to see who is sitting where. If you are in any type of negotiations, you will want to know who sits in the “Power Seats”.  Seated at the head of the table is the person holding the most power.  Second in power is generally to that person’s left or right hand sides.  The only other real seat of power,  is at the opposite end of the table.  
  7. When dining socially at a formal dinner in the U. S., the seats of power in a couple’s home, for example, are the opposite ends of the table.  To the right of the host and hostess are the guests of honor.  To the left of the host and hostess, are those who are the second in importance. 
  8. Never directly point to someone or at someone.  If you need to recognize someone or gesture toward an object in the room to make a point, lay the palm of your hand out facing upward and gesture by stretching your hand out in the direction of the object or person you are mentioning. 
  9. Make sure you introduce yourself to all others around you who you do not already know.  Reintroduce yourself to persons who may have forgotten your name or meeting you before.  
  10. Have business cards ready to give to people you meet.  Always ask for one in return. 
  11. If giving a presentation of some sort, request the lighting be altered  if needed.  Excess noise reduction is also a must.  To be fighting for everyone’s eyes and ears is difficult even for the most experienced of professionals.
  12. Stick to a highly structured and “safe” agenda for any talk or speech you are giving. Avoid being trapped into speaking on something you are not ready to speak about, comfortable in speaking about, or something you are not knowledgeable about to a professional degree.  Do not try to “wing it”.  Unless you are an Oscar winning actor, your chances for success are slim.
  13. Be prepared to back up anything you say publicly or even privately.  When you have inevitably been given the status of "Expert" or  “Executive” you will find that even  the most private remarks of yours will be quoted.
  14. When in doubt, before you speak on sensitive issues or giving your personal opinion, you can drop the line, “This is strictly off the record...” or   “Speaking off the record for a moment...”  Said with a smile and conviction, the person you are speaking with will hopefully understand it isn’t to be repeated.  Beware; Your comments may still be quoted or repeated. Or even misused.  
  15. Remember... You can always politely choose not to comment or give your thoughts.  Saying something to the effect of "That's really none of your business!" is not a polite, nor well mannered way, to express your decision not to answer a particular question.  That is saying aloud that the question was rude or the person asking the question is rude. Your being rude would only demean you both. Politely say something to the effect of, "I am sorry, but I am not comfortable discussing such a personal subject at the moment." and change the subject immediately, or as quickly as possible.
  16. Tuck your chin downward, and keep your posture erect, to maintain eye contact on a level basis or lower.  Do not throw your head back, or over exaggerate in any way physically, to emphasize a point. 
  17. Do not “play” with bracelets, necklaces, ties,  earrings, accessories or items of clothing.  It will distract your listeners from your talk.  If nervous, make any movements out of  your audience’s  eyesight; bouncing knees, fiddling with items in your hands, etc... 
  18. Make your statements assertive as opposed to aggressive or passive.  For example: “I truly believe this is the correct choice.”  Not the passive; "I really hope you will agree with me."  Or the aggressive; “This is only choice for me and it should be for you too, if you're smart!”  Avoid the 'Wishy-washy'; “Maybe we should look at some other choices... I don’t know...  But for right now this is what I think...” That doesn’t work well in any  in any situation unless you want to be perceived as someone who has no real opinion. 
  19. On that note; Never use false sincerity or false personal statements as a gimmick to make a sale, win friends, or in an attempt to get your point across.  Phony testimonials, fake clients, and misleading statements can be more transparent that you think.  Aside from that, it is the most unethical and impolite of all business habits that some companies and business people engage in.  Listeners will see through you faster than you think and will leave them questioning your abilities, product or services.
  20. Unless your business is politics, refrain from discussing personal political opinion.  The display of political pins, buttons, or even bumper stickers on your car, etc... can kill your business and social ties 50% of the time.  If cornered by someone with little social savvy, who demands to know your affiliations,  use caution when giving an answer.  This same person was most likely a school yard bully in younger years, and may require “creative” or evasive answers.   Do not invite emotions or passions in to your business negotiations or social relations unless the politics are more important to you than the relationships themselves. 
  21. Control listeners with a brief pause if members of the group are whispering or otherwise causing a disturbance.  That pause will be heard loudly and generally will get the attention of the offenders. 
  22. Let listeners absorb what you’ve said before moving from one point to another.  Use a momentary pause or two to look around the room and make eye contact with several people before saying something like, “The next  point I’d like to mention... ” or “Another matter that needs to be discussed is...” 
  23. The average attention span for a speaker to an audience or group is only 20 minutes. (video or photo presentations- 8 minutes)  Attention drops considerably after the first 20 minutes and significantly more after 30 minutes.  Get key points across within the first 10 - 15 minutes to make your talk or presentation more memorable.  
  24. Try to sound natural.  Do not use tired phrases or jokes unless they are truly spontaneous or suddenly timely again.  “Culture speak”, or phrases and terms heard continually in popular songs, television commercials and advertising jingles are also best left out of professional conversation and presentations. 
  25. Archaic phrases, words and references may make you sound well- educated among some groups, however, they may also confuse your audience and throw off the effectiveness of your speech, or presentation, entirely.  Speaking plainly and simply will get you heard.
  26. Avoid using slang, buzz words or “ethnic speak” that you think might endear you to a specific group.  It can cause numerous problems, create misunderstandings and leave others with an impression of you that is unflattering.   One needs a big personality to pull that kind of speech off.
  27. When you are the one listening, try to recognize the needs and desires of those speaking.  Experts believe that a person’s conversation can have 2 or 3 differing levels of interpretation.  Do not assume you know someone is in agreement with you.  You can hear, “That’s a good idea...” and think the person agrees with you, when actually, he just thinks it’s a good idea, but not a good plan. 
  28. In mainstream American culture, nodding one’s head signifies agreement with someone.  Nodding one’s head, in many other cultures, only means the person understands you, not that that he or she agrees with you.  
  29. Just as you watch your own body language, watch those around you. What signals are you getting? If you are unsure of what people are saying to you, based on their physical posturing or behavior, do not be hesitant to ask them to elaborate.   
  30. Use personal stories and anecdotes sparingly.  If you frequently speak to the same people, chances are you’ve told the story previously.  
  31. Leave personal problems at home.  Don’t bring them to the office, meetings or your job or any public speaking events.  Everyone has bad days now and then.  You are not the rare person who experiences stress.  When you are in a place of business, keep a businesslike demeanor.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

Colonial New Zealand, History and Etiquette

   Seek and Ye Shall Find; 

Helpful Treasures on the Shelves of My School Library

by Guest Blogger, New Zealand's Newest Etiquette Enthusiast, Corey Peterson

At school, I had finished my assessment task a while before the rest of the class, so I had some free time to do as I pleased. After searching the school library for books on etiquette, manners and silverware, I found they had a book by Debrett’s titled ‘Etiquette & Modern Manners.’  I was even more surprised to find, that I was able to take it out of the library.  My school library has many books that are to be read only there,  most of which are to my taste. I began reading this book in my last class of the day.  I started with the section on ‘Table Manners’ and was shocked at how complex it was for women of the upper-class to play hostess.

The seating plans seemed complicated. A woman had to make sure that everyone was seated in their position, according to where they stood in society, i.e. Dukes over Lords, Lords over Barons, etc... Then the way everyone had to sit with a conversational partner. The list went on! It was just as hard for the servants; the order of serving, the process of decanting of vintage wines, how to handle the port, the champagne. Pouring of wines and champagnes from the bottle, and so on. 

I have always had an interest for titled families and their homes.  My favourite is Highclere Castle, the real life Downton Abbey building, as shown at the beginning of the show.  I am interested as well, in the servants the large houses had.  I even used what I had learned to give a speech at school. The theme of the speech was "Life in Service, pre-WWI Great Britain. I also did my formal writing on the same topic. The book is gold in my eyes, but obviously others don’t share my enthusiasm.  The book hadn’t been taken out in years! I have decided, I want my own copy as it is so rich in information. 
What happened to European women after they arrived in the raw New Zealand colony? From period letters, diaries and cookbooks the story of these early colonists emerges, while recounting struggles to find housing, food and fields. How they kept food fresh without refrigeration, how illnesses were treated without antibiotics and how entertainment was found, without radio, television or movies.
I had another look, but this time I found a book, called ‘Colonial Fare,’ written by Jill Brewis. Inside are quotes, recipes, stories and tips for making everyday processes easier for Colonial New Zealand housewife. New Zealand was only colonised in 1840, making us a very young country. 

Between the period of 1840’s until around 1870, was when New Zealand had the biggest surge of English migrants. All were searching for the same thing; a new, better life.  Most of those who came, were disappointed with what they found, and many longed to return to their homeland. But many also stayed, persevered and began to shape New Zealand into almost, but not quite, a newer version of England.

 One example is the Karangahake Gorge. The early settlers carved a roadway for their horse and carts through the rough terrain, with many deaths and many injuries, alongside the mighty river. The road was the foundation of the road there today, and in some parts you can still see the scars. Karangahake was also a booming mining town, with many tunnels and shafts, a few of which are still open to the general public, free of charge. Sadly, the boom died as quickly as it started, leaving the township empty of work and a ghost town. 

The book is fascinating, with ‘Etiquette for Women’ as a chapter. The Girls’ Mutual Improvement Society was set up and had a strict list of rules and manners.  If a member was not following this code of protocol, the member would have been expelled.  The code included rules like these;
  • “Never take your pet dog on a call. Children, also, should be left at home.”
  • “Your gloves should always be of kid; silk or cotton gloves are very vulgar.”
  • “When a lady is crossing a muddy street she should gather her dress in her right hand, and draw it to the right side.”
  • “To wear a bonnet fit for a carriage when not in one is the extreme of bad taste.” 
  •  “It is always silly to try to be witty.”

This dress code would have been hard to follow over the years, as getting many different bonnets, or materials sent to one in New Zealand from either England or America, was extremely costly, time consuming and was seen as a non-essential by many husbands.  If a woman ordered 25 yards of light, violet silk from a London shop, it could take
Advertisement of The New Zealand Company 1837-1858
up to nine months to arrive.  Out of that nine months, the ship had to sail to New Zealand, pick up the mail bound for England with the order, sail back to England and then be delivered to the recipient there.  Then it had to sail back for New Zealand, deliver the product to the postman and then the postman would have to deliver the silk to the buyer. By the time it arrived, the colour might have gone out of fashion.  Or the product you received, may not be to your liking, wasting your time and your hard earned money.

Women were lucky if their husbands allowed for them to send away for fabrics from England, as it was hard to earn enough money to live.  Given the price of importing livestock, seed and other goods from the two main exporters, America and England, early colonists had to be cost conscious. 

Colonists had the cost of a plot of land.  Most settlers bought their land sight unseen.  Unethical sellers sold land many times, as being "flat" or fertile", when most of New Zealand was hilly and rocky.  This led to many settlers finding out that they couldn’t live off the land.  Even if they could, it would have taken more time than anticipated to prepare that land.  

My third-great grandparents arrived from England in the early 1870’s.  On their voyage, they lost a son to extreme seasickness and malnourishment.  After they arrived, they settled in Blenheim, which is in the South Island of New Zealand. The house they lived in was very small and was made mainly by roughly cut planks of wood. They had about 12 children here in New Zealand, with my third-great grandfather leaving behind his two eldest. 

Life was hard for them, but they had an advantage, as many of the children were male. This meant they had a labour force.  The colonial families, and in particular the women, were very resourceful and hardworking. Women tried to keep the traditions of England in a land far, far away. For that, and all their work, they get my respect.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

A 14 Year Old's Experience Learning Manners and Etiquette

From Guest Blogger 14 year old Corey Peterson in New Zealand

I thought learning etiquette would be a piece of cake.  I thought I would be able to pick them up, no sweat. But then when I started, it was completely different to what I had expected! There are so many utensils, manners, rules and proper ways of doing every day things.

 One of the hardest for me is sitting up straight. I tend to slouch, because I forget to sit up or I am sitting up and it becomes painful. I know if I keep slouching, it won’t be good for my back, so I am trying a thousand times harder to break the habit and correct my bad posture. I tend to walk with quite a straight back, so that bit is not as hard. I have been asked a few times in class why I am sitting like "a formal idiot" and I always tell them that I am trying to be a gentleman, as I don’t want to be a boy my whole life! Other teens these days can be pretty cruel, but I am not letting that stop me. I believe that etiquette will help me to be well-mannered in life.
A grouping of Maura Graber's 'knorks', antique and modern, from left to right- A pie fork, a cake or pastry fork, a modern 'one-handed eating tool' with the reverse side showing above it, a pickle fork and a modern cheese or fruit 'knork'.
What particularly interests me, is formal and informal gatherings, like teas (though they are mainly for women, I still have an interest) and formal dinners. I am intrigued by all the utensils, table manners, rules etc...  I love the historic side of it more than anything.  (One reason that I became such a fan of Downton Abbey).  If you had asked me what it was that Maura Graber calls a 'knork' last month, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Now, I know that a 'knork' is any fork and knife combination utensil, all in one.  They are normally used to eat cake or pie.  A 'knork' was also was used from 1797 on, by Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson after he was attacked fighting in the Napoleonic Wars, resulting in the loss of his right arm.
In 1793, Nelson was given command of the British naval ship, Agamemnon.  He served in the Mediterranean, helped capture Corsica and saw battle at Calvi. He lost his right arm at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 1797. He subsequently used, what came to be known as, a 'Nelson Fork' as shown below.
A Nelson Fork
 I would like to thank Maura for helping me start my dining history business, "The What’lery of Cutlery", and for everything she has done to help me! I have learnt many things from our Skype calls as well as her well written book.  I learn something new every day from Maura, from how to find historical newspaper articles, to how to get more precise matches on Google, and of course, dining history! I love public speaking, meeting people and showing people things.  I now have an advantage, as what I am doing is unique here in New Zealand, so I have my own niche market. As Maura has told me, "People become more interested when you mention the history of the utensil." I hope to use this to aid me in my goals. 

I was talking to a relief teacher the other day and he asked me why all my work in this class [digital media, which involves work on the computer with colour, patterns, layouts etc] looked formal, or very elegant. I told him I have a love for the ways of the old and that the colours work excellently together, better than those of newer, modern colours.  As he was going through my folder, he came across the business cards I have been working all so very hard on.  He asked me what I meant by "utensils and dining history" on the cards. I explained that I am learning from a very knowledgeable lady about flatware, their uses, and the history behind them of how people once dined.  He asked me to tell him about an unusual utensil, so I told him about the Dutch mango fork. 
Mangoes are the 'most eaten' fruit worldwide, with over 2,000 varieties. Above- A selection of mango forks, from left to right- Dutch-made fork, French-made fork, 2nd Dutch-made fork, Mexican-made fork, British-made fork & 3rd Dutch-made fork.  All for holding a mango steady, to cut into with a fruit knife or fruit spoon.
I explained the forks appearance, with one long prong in the center and two shorter ones on the outside. I explained that you can push the longer prong through the pip, and then the shorter prongs hold the mango in place, enabling you to cut the mango to eat.  He was fascinated and he said that with my determination, I could change the world.  I have told a few other people about what I am learning too, and most have been interested. A very small minority though have told me that I am ‘boring’ and too much of a ‘traditionalist’. 

Some have said it is great I'm teaching the new generation the use of utensils, others have said that it is a waste of time as no one has any use for these utensils. I tell them that knowing about the utensils doesn’t mean you have to use them, but it does teach someone something. The fact that most people are interested though, means people do want to know the history behind forks and how they came to be used for everything people eat around the world.  

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Remembering Princess Diana with A Cup of Tea on the RMS Queen Mary

Diana, the late-Princess of Wales, is in that small and select group of cultural icons whose senseless death made people stop in their tracks.  Seeing memorabilia and former dresses of hers at the "Diana: Legacy of a Princess" exhibit on the RMS Queen Mary, is a fitting and timely way to contemplate her life, her charitable works, and sons she left behind.  

I returned to the exhibit with my sister in-law, Peggy, last Wednesday.  We visited the tearoom, which I can only rave about, and revisited the exhibit that we had gone to see in mid-June.
Peggy is a royal gem in my family

  Since I have known her, Peggy has been an anglophile.  She and my older brother Kevin were engaged and married around the same time Diana and Charles were capturing the attention of romantics worldwide. She was a fan of the late-Princess Diana from the start.
The exhibit is chock full of memorabilia and even dresses of Diana's
When we learned that a royal exhibition, "Diana: Legacy of a Princess" was to open at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, we were both anxious to visit the exhibition and sample the treats in the tea room.  We planned a date to go, but Peggy and my big-brother Kevin extended a truly gracious invitation to go to the black tie gala evening and preview of the exhibit, the night before its opening.  Not having a chance to see everything that night, Sean Maddock, the Executive Director and CEO of the Queen Mary, invited us to come back and spend more time at the exhibit.
Scrumptious tea sandwiches are included in "The Windsor Tea" fare.  Having reviewed my share of tea rooms over the years, and not being a tea drinker, the food is what I usually what I focus on.  The tea fare on the RMS Queen Mary, is anything but your standard tea room food.  This was a treat for the taste buds and the tummy!     

Delicious scones with Devonshire clotted cream, lemon curd and locally homemade raspberry jam are, of course, included on the tiered stand.  The sandwiches included for the $32.00 per person price are most unique.  They set this tea fare apart from all others I have sampled and are of the sandwiches are quite memorable.

The tea sandwiches are as follows: 
Canary melon and prosciutto, with pomegranate cream, on artisan bread and fresh mint.
House cured Alaskan salmon and English cucumber, with aioli on rye bread, topped with caviar.  A personal favorite!
Shredded chicken and dried mango, tossed in a light curry aioli, atop wheat bread and A sweet shrimp with heart of palm and herb dressing on sourdough bread.

And another personal favorite; The deviled egg salad and micro dijon greens, atop pumpernickel bread.
Jesse knew just what we would each like...  Thanks, Jesse!
When Peggy and I sat down at our table, overlooking the water, I discovered Peggy is not a big tea drinker either!  We laughed and agreed our daughters, both avid tea drinkers, would know just what to order.  Fortunately, we had Jesse as our waiter, and I must say, he was able to guide us to the right tea for our individual tastes.  I had the spicy fruit tea and it suited the scones, sandwiches and desserts quite well.
A superb selection of desserts await your presence
The tiered server of petit fours boasted a chocolate lover's dream of flavors; black and white mocha cakes, petite eclairs, and raspberry chocolate tortes, alongside California fruit tartlets and lemon meringue tartlets.  All were excellent and not too mind-numbingly sweet, as many desserts can be.
I particularly enjoyed the setting.  The ship itself is a wonderful example of the of the 1930s Art Deco movement, and the tea room matches that elegantly.  There are none of the fussy florals or chintz that one tends to see in tea rooms.  The the understated U.K. Steelite tableware complements the room perfectly. 
Big brother Kevin, and his wife Peggy, took me to the Black Tie Gala as a birthday gift.  The event was the night before the opening of the exhibit.
Loved the 'Family Tree', though we'd not expected to see Camilla lurking about at this exhibit"Diana : Legacy of a Princess" -  Camilla is now a part of "Diana's Legacy"? I think not!

I am glad we took a lot of photos at the preview of the exhibit, as upon our return, we were not allowed to take any.
My big brother Kevin and wife Peggy- The empty case behind them now has a mannequin clothed in a 'Diana' dress

Though we had a short amount of time that first trip, we did take photos.
Who invited this 'party-crasher' back?
So many things to see in the exhibit, do plan plenty of time
Our black tie event table


Tea Etiquette  

Keep that “Pinky” finger curled! 

Many people think that one’s pinky finger should be extended when one is drinking from a cup.  This is not considered proper today by most manners experts.  It is what is commonly known as an “affectation”, learned in the 1400s & 1500s when the poor servants of the wealthy landowners and royalty in Europe, watched how their “Lords and Ladies” dined.  They believe the servants picked up the habit of keeping a finger extended while drinking and dining.  

Only the wealthy could afford salt and exotic spices, like nutmeg, at their tables. Foods were  eaten with one’s hands and a knife.  Utensils were not used at many tables then.  When dining, these wealthy people would keep the “pinky” finger extended when scooping up foods so that they could keep grease off of that finger.  That finger could then be dipped into the salt or spices needed to season their foods.  This kept grease and food particles out of the dishes holding the spices.

Others  think it started when tea and handle-less cups from China
became popular in Europe.  They believe tea drinkers would keep the pinky out because the cup was to hot to hold.  However, the Chinese have never extended fingers in that manner, nor have the Japanese, so why would the British?  The cups Chinese use, still do not have handles to this day.  These cups are held in the palm of the hand.  Old artwork from the time, proves this as well. 
Today, most experts agree;  The proper way to hold a tea cup is with  one or two fingers of the right hand put through the hole of the cup handle, while balancing the cup with your thumb on the top of the handle. Your other fingers should be curled beneath the handle.