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Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


11.06.2018

60 Seconds to Better Emails

I don’t have time to write well.
 
Do you realize how many emails I get a day!

I often have to send a second email to clarify my first message. It’s aggravating.


The comments above, expressed by participants in my writing classes, are fairly common. Many people seem frustrated and complain that they don’t have time to write clearly and professionally. 

No one is perfect, and anyone can make a mistake occasionally, but if you make mistakes frequently, or have a number of them in any one email, your professional standing is likely to suffer, and the consequences could be serious.

Following the three suggestions below will add only seconds to each email, but will help to ensure that you don’t make careless mistakes. This is not a lot of time to invest to enhance your writing – and your reputation.

• Read your documents out loud. And read slow-ly, otherwise you are reading what’s in your head, not what’s on the screen. You are now more likely to notice any missing words, wrong words, misspellings, and wrong tenses of verbs. You will also hear the tone of your message. If the wording sounds harsh to you, it will sound harsh to the reader.

 • Remember my acronym AIL. AIL stands for Address In Last. This tip will ensure that you don’t accidentally email someone before you have finished writing and proofing the message. You can’t send an email without an address. Even when you are replying to a message, it’s a good precaution to delete the recipient’s address, and re-insert it only when you are sure the message is ready to be sent.

 • Double-check the spelling of the person’s name. Many people are insulted if their name is misspelled. And if you offend someone in the first line, they may not read any further. Check for the correct spelling in the person’s signature block, if there is one. Copy and paste the name to make sure you are spelling it correctly. If you are initiating the email, the last thing to do before you hit the send button is to check the “To:” line. People’s first and/or last names are often in their addresses, which allows you to check the spelling of the person’s name against what you wrote in the salutation.  (Additional suggestions about salutations can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic.)

Of course, there is a lot more you can do to improve your writings. But these recommendations alone will catch many of your errors. Isn’t your reputation worth those few moments?

I post regularly on communication and etiquette.  We can connect via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and my website: www.pachter.com

About: Barbara Pachter is an internationally-renowned business etiquette and communications speaker, coach and author of 11 business books. She helps individuals communicate more effectively and enhance their professional presence. Pachter is also adjunct faculty in the School of Business at Rutgers University.

10.21.2018

Someone else’s bad behavior is no excuse for your own

I cannot believe how everyone was shouting in the meeting. No one heard anything and nothing got resolved.

My coworkers post such vile things on their Facebook pages. I want to tell them that they’re all idiots.


My colleague stopped talking to our intern because of the candidate she planned to vote for. 


The recent outbreaks of uncivil behavior in the political arena have impacted our everyday experiences, as the comments above testify. But it's time for people to fight back, politely of course, and assert that being uncivil to one another is not the way we want public figures to behave. Nor is it the way we should behave ourselves.

You can be “polite and powerful” and express yourself without resorting to bad behavior. You don’t have to mirror the impolite actions of others.

If you want things to change, the change starts with you. Let me say that again: The change starts with you. Use these tips to encourage polite behavior in the workplace and in your wider world. (These apply to your social media postings, also.)

1. Don’t attack back. Remember that someone else’s bad behavior is no excuse for your own. I know this may be a hard concept to accept, and even harder to implement—but it’s worth practicing. If somebody says something to offend you, it may feel good to respond with a comment like, “Well, what do you know, you idiot?” But this type of response is not going to build your credibility or accomplish anything.  Plus, it gives the other person power over you, by getting you to say things that most people will regret later. 

2. Disagree agreeably. If you have difficulty with someone, talk to the person. Listen to what he or she has to say. You can evaluate an idea without attacking the person who is promoting it. Explain your reasons. Saying, “I see it differently, and here’s why…” is a lot more productive than screaming at people or calling them names. Or, you can say, “Let’s agree to disagree and move on,” and you don’t discuss that topic.

3. Avoid inflammatory words. Using harsh words such as “stupid,” “ignorant,” and “dumb” only inflames a situation, and this approach is unlikely to lead to a positive resolution. Name calling is just wrong--and childish. Cursing at people is not only mean, it also reflects poorly on the one doing the cursing. (Additional information on word choice and how to respond assertively to aggressive comments can be found in my book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.)

4. Remember that it’s hard to be nasty to people who are nice to you.  Keep “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” in your vocabulary. Greet others when you see them. Share, wait your turn, and be gracious toward others. Don’t interrupt people. Help them when you can. And be considerate when sharing space with others. This includes cleaning up after your meeting and making sure that you return any items you borrowed. These behaviors are common sense, but unfortunately they’re not always common practice.

5. Do something. If you really don’t like something, take action. Don’t complain to others, get involved. Join organizations. Volunteer for causes you support. Start a blog where you assertively (politely and powerfully) express your opinions – but make sure you follow your company guidelines, if you do. 

6. Walk away.  And if you don’t want to do any of the above, you can always avoid hostile or impolite discussions by removing yourself from the conversation or taking a social media break.


Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on business etiquette and communication skills. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141 or joyce@pachter.com.   

10.08.2018

Need to prepare a presentation quickly? Follow these 7 guidelines


I was just given an assignment to present at a community meeting, but I have very little time to prepare. What should I do?

This question was asked by one of my students, and it brings up a communication dilemma – how do you put together a presentation when you don’t have a lot of time to prepare?  This task can baffle the best of us. But there’s no need to panic. Here are some suggestions to put together a presentation quickly:   

1. Think about your audience. Who are they? How much do they already know about your topic? What more do they want to know? If you address the needs and concerns of the people in your audience, they are more likely to listen to you.  

2. Define your objective and the key points quickly. You don’t have time to waste. People often spend too much of what little time they have agonizing over these items. Make a decision and get started. You can now focus on what you want to convey to the audience. (Additional information on structuring your presentation can be found in my book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.) 


3. Consider whether you have any stories to support your key points. Stories bring your presentation to life. Keep them succinct and to the point. Your audience will remember the story, and as a result, they’ll also remember the message in your presentation.


4. Practice out loud. Have at least one practice. You want to hear how the presentation sounds.  


5. Pay attention to your delivery. You want to appear confident and credible – even if you are uncomfortable. Use good posture, and look at people in the audience. Don’t sway. Avoid nervous fiddling, such as playing with a pen or rubber band. Dress slightly better than your audience, and speak loudly enough to be heard. 


6. Don’t discount yourself. Avoid comments that belittle you or your talk. These include such statements as, “I hope I don’t bore you; I didn’t have a lot of time to put this together…” or “I know you didn’t come here just to hear me.”  


7. Anticipate the questions. Once the presentation is together, spend just a couple of minutes thinking about the questions that you may be asked. Decide how you will respond to them. If you do, you are less likely to be caught off guard.

There is a lot more you can – and should – do to prepare for a presentation, but these quick tips will help you prepare an effective presentation when time is short.

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on presentation skills, business writing, professional presence, and etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141. (www.pachter.com)

9.23.2018

Difficulty Meeting Deadlines? 10 Suggestions for Success

Help! I will never meet my deadline. What do I do?

A colleague needed help with a large project. She has a tendency to procrastinate and occasionally misses deadlines. She is not alone. Many people have asked me how to accomplish something when they have limited time, are nervous about doing certain work, or feel overwhelmed by how much they have to do.

Missing a deadline is not an option for me. I believe strongly that if you have a deadline, you meet that deadline! You do what you need to do to accomplish the task. Here’s a list of things that I suggested to my colleague. You can adapt them to your situations:

1. Break the task into smaller sections. When you divide a large task into manageable portions, the project can seem more doable and less overwhelming.

2. Use your calendar and set time aside for your project. When you spell out that you will work on something at specific times, it’s more likely to happen. But be realistic when allocating your time. You want to set yourself up for success – not failure.

3. Let things go. It is important to prioritize – which means you may have to delay less important or less time-sensitive tasks until your project is finished. I always gave up housework when I was working on a book!

4. Take a social media break. It’s amazing how much time people spend on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. A 2016 Nielsen report found that Generation Xers spend almost seven hours a week on social media, and Millennials squander more than six hours each week. Some reports say the average person spends 116 minutes a day on social media. So, you could gain an extra hour – maybe two – each day for your project simply by giving up social media for a while! 

5. Ask for help. Can you delegate to gain some time? Can someone else run your meeting/prepare the slides/analyze the data/pick the kids up from school? This is a lot easier to ask of a colleague, partner, or friend if you have helped others in the past.   

6. Multitask. I am not suggesting working on several things simultaneously as a regular routine, but when it’s crunch time, you need to up your game. Can you eat lunch or take your coffee break at your desk – while you continue to work?  Be creative. When I was on deadline for my etiquette books, I still wanted to spend time with my son. I solved this dilemma by asking him to proof my writings. This allowed him to feel he was an important part of my work, and enabled us to be together in my office. (A side benefit – he has great manners!)

7. Exercise.  Taking 20 minutes to walk, run, or stretch can help you to feel refreshed – and it also helps to dissipate any stress. 

8. Anticipate problems. There will often be unforeseen hurdles — computer problems, equipment failures, or other people missing deadlines that affect your productivity. Think about potential problems ahead of time, and consider ways to overcome or avoid them.

9. Review and be accountable. Take a little time at the end of the day/week to review your progress. Stay positive and acknowledge what you have accomplished. This famous adage may be old but it’s still true: Rome wasn’t built in a day. Adjust your schedule, if necessary, to allocate more time to the project. You could also report to a trusted colleague or friend. My colleague would send me a daily text describing her accomplishments. She believed that this type of accountability helped her stay focused on her task. 

10. Celebrate. When you meet your deadline, it’s time to celebrate. Thank the people who helped you, and enjoy your favorite indulgence. I always found chocolate chip cookies to be a great reward!

Additional suggestions on career success can be found in Pachter’s books, including The Essential of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success. 

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on business etiquette and communication skills. For information, please contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141 or joyce@pachter.com.     

9.11.2018

In the beginning… Salutations set the tone for emails

My name is spelled correctly in my signature block; why do so many people misspell it in the salutation? It really bothers me.

My colleague started one of his emails “Happy Monday to all!!!” He must have had too much caffeine that morning.

Only my good friends call me Bobby – my coworker should use “Robert” or “Bob” in the salutation.


Unfortunately, the salutation on emails provides endless ways to upset your reader, as indicated by the comments above from participants in my writing seminars. And, if you offend someone in the first line, that person may not read any further. 

Here are suggestions from my book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes, on how to start your emails without giving offense: 

1.   Spell the recipient’s name correctly. It may not bother you, but I want to impress upon you that many people are insulted if their name is misspelled. Check for the correct spelling in the person’s signature block. Copy and paste the name to make sure you are spelling it correctly. Checking the “To:” line is also a good idea, as people’s first and/or last names are often in their addresses.

2.   Don’t shorten a person’s name or use a nickname unless you know it is okay. Use the person’s full name (Hi Jennifer) unless you know it is okay to use the shorter version (Jen).

3.   Avoid “Dear Sir/Ms." This salutation tells your reader that you have no idea who that person is. Why then should the reader be interested in what you have to say?  

4.   Use a non-gender-specific, non-sexist term if you don’t know the person’s name. You can use Dear Client, Customer, or Team Member. You can also use Representative, and add it to any company name or department name, such as “Dear Microsoft Representative,” or “Dear Human Resource Representative.” 

5.   Salutations are recommended in emails. Email doesn’t technically require a salutation as it’s considered to be memo format. When email first appeared, many people did not use salutations. Eventually, people starting adding salutations to appear friendlier and to soften the tone of their writings. (After two or three emails have gone back and forth on the same email string, the salutations can be dropped.)  

 There is a hierarchy of greetings, from informal to formal, and you should match the salutation to the relationship you have with the recipient. The hierarchy follows this general format:

   Hi,   /   Hi Anna,   /   Hello,   /   Hello Julianna,   /   Dear Justin,   /   Dear Mr. Jones,

If the person you are writing to is a colleague, “Hi Anna,” should be fine.  If you don’t know the person, or the person has significantly higher rank than you have, you may want to use the more formal greeting: “Dear Justin,” or “Dear Mr. Jones.”

6.   Be cautious with the use of Hey. Hey is a very informal salutation (Hey Daniel,) and generally should not be used in the workplace. Opening with Yo is definitely not okay, no matter how informal your relationship with the recipient. Use Hi or Hello instead.

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on business etiquette and communication skills. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141 or joyce@pachter.com.