Posts Tagged ‘Social Etiquette’

How to Tell Someone You Are Sensitive to Their Fragrance

May 24, 2011

By Juanita Ecker

My husband and I have recently become good friends with a couple whom we met through Joe’s golf outings. The four of us enjoy going out to dinner, but at first I struggled with one issue: fragrance.

The first time we all went out, the wife wore perfume. I noticed it right away as I am scent-sensitive—perfumes, colognes, and other products with a strong smell bother me. When we left to go to dinner, the men sat in the front of the car while the women were in the back seat. 

Sitting side by side, I was overwhelmed by the smell of her perfume! It’s not that it was an unpleasant smell—it was very pretty. Still, I am very sensitive to chemicals and it was uncomfortable, like being around a smoker if you don’t smoke. Even so, I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to offend her. Plus, it was the first time we had met, and I didn’t want to make a bad first impression.

The second and third time we went out to dinner, I was in the exact same position. I began to react to her perfume. My nose ran, I got a headache, and I had a chemical taste in my mouth. I needed to tell her of my predicament! (more…)


Making Introductions Shows Business Savvy

May 11, 2011

By Juanita Ecker

A few weeks ago I attended the Color the Arts Festival in downtown Columbia, SC, a fundraiser for the arts in the local communities. It was a lovely event held in an outdoor courtyard. Local artists could feature artwork for sale and there was a silent auction to raise money for the cause.

As my husband and I were mingling amongst the crowd, I spotted Hannah Horne, a reporter and anchor for WIS TV, NBC’s local affiliate. I watch Hannah and the morning team every day and I wanted to meet her in person. My husband and I went over to say hello and introduced ourselves, mentioning that we were new to South Carolina. She shook our hands and said, “Nice to meet you.” We chatted for a few minutes and another couple came along to join the group. They said hello to Hannah and introduced themselves. Then, to my surprise and delight, Hannah turned to this couple and said, “Have you met Joe and Juanita Ecker?” Wow, what a classy lady! Not only did she remember our names, she took the initiative to make the introductions.

Individuals who introduce others are viewed as people with good business savvy skills—“connectors,” if you will. In the business etiquette seminars that I teach, I always emphasize the proper way to introduce others. It seems like a simple gesture, yet people don’t do it as often as they should. (more…)

Be Nice When Someone Admits a Mistake

April 20, 2011

By Juanita Ecker

My girlfriend shared with me an incident that happened to her recently. She was running some errands and stopped at Bed, Bath and Beyond in Albany, NY. It was a cold, blustery day and the wind was strong. When my friend opened her car door to go into the store, the wind whipped the door and slammed it into the car next to her. The car happened to be a Mercedes.

My friend also drives a very nice car; it is certainly not a junker! She wondered if she should leave a note with her information, or if she should go back into the store to track down the owner of the Mercedes. She decided to do the latter and asked customer service to make an announcement asking for the owner of that make of car and that license plate number to come to the front of the store.

My friend patiently waited while they paged this person. When a woman arrived at the front of the store, my friend explained what happened and that it was an accident. The woman went crazy. “F—! YOU hit my Mercedes? F—! I can’t believe it,” she hollered. She then snidely asked, “Do you have insurance???”

My friend was furious with this woman’s behavior. My friend replied, “Look, I could have just driven away and you would have discovered the dent yourself!” She had tried to do the right thing by admitting her mistake, but the woman’s reaction almost made her regret doing so. (more…)

Respecting Others in a Movie Theater

March 23, 2011

By Juanita Ecker

I used to love going to the movies. Now, I feel like I’m lucky to get through the opening credits without a cellphone going off or having the back of my seat kicked. And then there are those people who decide to talk over the movie, explaining plot lines to each other and making it impossible for the rest of the theater-goers to follow the action. It’s so distracting! Sometimes I wonder if I should skip the hassle and just rent the movie when it comes out on DVD so my husband and I can watch it at home without the aggravation.

To keep the peace, be mindful of these cinema etiquette pointers.

Show up on time. Don’t wait until the lights have gone down to find a seat. Not only does it interrupt the movie, but it means trampling over the poor audience members who actually bothered to show up on time. And for the sake of others (and yourself—why miss a key scene?), go to the bathroom before you take your seat so you don’t have to get up later.

Snack quietly. It’s one thing to munch on crunchy popcorn during the film. It’s another to bust out a four-course meal that you smuggled into your purse. I also find it distracting when people wait until the film has started to open up plastic-wrapped boxes of candy, which are particularly loud. Unwrap them before the show. Also, take care to avoid spills. (more…)

Avoiding Overly Familiar Language

October 27, 2010

By Juanita Ecker

“Here you go, hon!” “Have a great weekend, sweetie!” These sentences may not be unusual coming from a close friend or loved one. But a business associate or total stranger? Now that’s a little close for comfort.

Coming from the South, I’m used to hearing these homespun terms of endearment—sweetie, darling, etc.—from waitresses at quaint little country cafes. It can be grating, but sometimes it’s part of the experience. However, it seems like more and more these overly intimate and affectionate terms are being used in business exchanges, where it’s highly inappropriate. I’m sorry, but a bank teller or boss should not be calling me “sugar” or “hon”! (more…)

When Someone You Know Has Lost a Loved One

October 20, 2010

My next door neighbor, Patricia, recently died of melanoma cancer. My husband and I, as well as other friends, have tried to be there for her husband to help him through the grieving process. However, it can be difficult to know what is appropriate in this time of need. On the one hand, you want to give the person plenty of space and time to mourn. But you also want to show them that they have your love and support, and to hopefully lift their spirits. It’s a delicate balance, but I have some helpful advice on dealing with this difficult situation.

Losing a loved one is a traumatic experience, even if the deceased had been ill for a long time. There is so much to do, and yet rarely is there any energy or ability to see beyond the initial grief. That’s why it’s important for someone in mourning to have friends and family members to support them. 

Ask What You Can Do. In the face of death, day-to-day practicalities get shoved aside. Can you make a meal, or provide babysitting services? Do they need someone to clean the fridge, walk the dog, or tidy up the house? How can you make life a little bit easier for the mourner? (more…)

Dinner Party Etiquette: Food Allergies & Picky Eaters

October 6, 2010

By Juanita Ecker

A young woman that works for me showed up the other day and her face was all blotchy. She shared with me that over the weekend, a friend had cooked her dinner but had forgotten that she is allergic to nuts of any kind. The friend had used a nut butter to cook the meal, thus sending my employee to the emergency room. That’s a horrible experience that no one should have to go through as a guest in someone’s home.

If you like to host social gatherings, it’s important to account for people’s allergies and food preferences. Likewise, those of us with specific food issues should take care to inform our hosts ahead of time to avoid any awkward moments—or worse, a trip to the hospital! Below are a few tips.

Ask ahead of time if there are any food allergies. Your guests may not be able to ingest wheat/gluten, sugar, alcohol, meat, or dairy products. You should also take your guests’ religion into account—for instance, some Jewish people avoid pork or shellfish, while many Muslims eat only halal meat. When I am entertaining, I like to ask my guests, “Is there anything you won’t eat, can’t eat, or don’t eat?” Once I get the go-ahead I can start planning my menu.

Have a variety of foods available. Cousin Barbara is vegan, Uncle Jim can’t handle dairy, and your husband is allergic to strawberries. Does that mean you all have to nibble on tofu? No! Just be sure to offer plenty of options that will appeal to everyone. For example, my friend has a wheat/gluten allergy and when you go to her home she always has crackers that are wheat-free as well as a wide selection of other crackers for people to choose from when we are eating the appetizers. And don’t simply limit your vegan or vegetarian options to a side dish of corn or green beans. Try to have at least a couple of dishes (such as a pasta or gourmet salad) and appetizers so that your veggie-loving guests won’t feel like an afterthought. (more…)

Squashing Your Chances for Getting a Job

August 18, 2010

By Juanita Ecker

A friend of mine recently put an ad in the paper for a receptionist position in her dental practice. She shared with me that some applicants were eliminated very quickly because of actions that left a negative impression.

For instance, people that didn’t show up for a scheduled interview were not given another appointment. Why give someone a second chance when they have already proven that they don’t value your time?

Another individual, after going through the interview process and accepting the job, then took another position somewhere else. To inform the dentist of her change of plans, she sent an e-mail. An e-mail was an inappropriate way to handle the situation; a phone call would have been better. She left my friend in a lurch, and the least she could do was pick up the phone. (more…)

Unspoken Office Rules

July 21, 2010

By Juanita Ecker

I was taking a walk the other day. As I was enjoying my stroll, I noticed two young boys racing on their bicycles. They were laughing and enjoying every moment of their ride. Suddenly they came to an intersection where there is a stop sign, but didn’t even slow down and rode their bikes right through. I thought to myself, “They need to slow down to at least to see if a car is coming.”

Luckily, when you live in a neighborhood with lots of children, there are unspoken rules that the adults follow. We drive slowly and are always on the alert for errant bicyclists and skateboarders that may dart out in front of you. But what are the unspoken rules at work?

“Common courtesy” is a phrase that gets bandied about a lot, but its definition changes from person to person. Still, there are a few “unspoken” codes of conduct that most people can agree on, especially when it comes to the workplace. Are you guilty of breaching any of these office rules?

Use Your Indoor Voice. Have you ever tried to concentrate while a co-worker is talking loudly behind you, or while your cubicle-mate is shouting down the phone? It’s impossible! You needn’t whisper, but if people are wincing, stepping back, or looking up from their desks when you speak, you probably need to turn down the volume.  (more…)

Company Picnic Etiquette

June 16, 2010

By Juanita Ecker

Softball, burgers straight from the grill, dips in the pool… with summer in full bloom, your boss may invite you and your family over for a relaxed barbeque, or there may be a company-sponsored picnic where families are invited. Company picnics and barbeques can be a great way to unwind this summer. Not only are they fun for the family, but they also present opportunities to socialize and bond with your co-workers outside the stuffy confines of the office. Still, this relaxed attitude shouldn’t extend to your manners. A faux pas at a casual outing can still negatively impact how your boss and colleagues see you. Keep your image intact by adhering to these etiquette rules:

Don’t Underdress. Nobody expects you to turn up to a company picnic in a suit or pantyhose, but that doesn’t mean you should turn up looking like you just rolled out of bed. Steer clear of sloppy sweats, holey or worn tees, denim cutoffs or anything inappropriate, such as a busty halter top or short-shorts. For men, jeans and a polo (or a plain tee and cargo shorts) are fine, while women can opt for a tasteful sundress or knee-length day shorts and a cotton tee. (more…)