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Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


10.15.2017

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.

10.10.2017

Part 2: How You Speak – and Stand – Can Hurt You

As I discussed last week, I recently came across one of my old newsletter articles listing 25 behaviors women exhibit in the workplace that cause them to lose power and visibility. Unfortunately, many women today still practice those behavioral traits, and by doing so they handicap their own careers.

Part one of my blog about these behaviors, which was posted last week, talked about the first 11 items on that list, including how to present yourself in meetings and how to promote your achievements. The comments I received in response, from both men and women, were encouraging, and included such words as “interesting,” “fascinating,” and “good stuff.” The analytics from the posting showed that many people forwarded the blog to colleagues, and others posted it on their Facebook pages or tweeted it to their followers.

I believe that this week’s discussion will be equally helpful. Part two picks up mid-list, and offers suggestions (below) about several other areas in which you can increase your visibility and power, and help your own career.

SPEAK WITH POWER:

12. Don’t say, “I don’t know,” when you do know. These are the three little words that many women use towards the end of their comments that wipe out their credibility. A woman may outline her thoughts on a topic and then say, “Oh, I don’t know,” or “But I don’t know...what do you think?”

13. Watch out for “I think.”  If you say “I think,” you are indicating that you are unsure or don’t know. If that is true, then the use of “I think” is okay. But women have a tendency to use “I think” when they know. One vice president wanted to persuade a client that her company could meet the client’s deadline. During her presentation, she said, “I think we will meet your deadline.” The client went elsewhere.

14. Use direct statements instead of questions. When you use a question instead of a statement, you are giving the other person the opportunity to say “no.” Instead of giving away your power by asking, “Can I add something?” say, “I’d like to add to that.” Instead of asking, “Could you clarify that statement?” say, “I need additional information.” More information on assertiveness can be found in my book, The Power of Positive Confrontation. 

15. Speak loudly. If I could say just one thing to women, after 20 years of helping them to get and maintain the visibility they deserve, it would be: “Speak up!” Women often speak too softly, and make it easy for others to tune them out.

16. Eliminate the giggle. Many women giggle at the end of their sentences, and often don’t realize it. It makes them sound like little girls, and that’s a real power drain. Ask a trusted friend or colleague whether you have this tendency, or try to listen to yourself. One woman found out she had this habit when she heard her twin sister giggling at the end of her sentences.

ESTABLISH RAPPORT WITH OTHERS: 

17. Greet and acknowledge others. As you walk around, say hello to people – the ones you know and those you don’t know. Many employees judge the effectiveness of their managers on whether they greet and acknowledge others.

18. Enter a room confidently. Walk into a room as though you belong there. Keep your head up and your shoulders back. Have a deliberate stride. 

19. Make small talk. I hear lots of reasons from women why they don’t want to make small talk. Some women say it’s not their personality. Others say if they make small talk with men, the men will think they are flirting. Think again! Small talk is an important business tool. It breaks the ice with people, establishes common ground, and allows people to get to know one another better. And you can talk to men without your intentions being misunderstood. Just keep the talk professional and not too personal.

20. Be proactive. Go up to people at professional gatherings. Don’t just wait for people to come to you. Introduce yourself with a line like, “Hello, I’m Barbara Pachter. I’m one of the speakers for the meeting. And you are…?” Shake hands, also.

ESTABLISH YOUR PROFESSIONAL IMAGE: 

21. Pay attention to your body language. Don’t cross your ankles while standing. An amazing number of women still do this. It makes them look awkward and nervous. Stand assertively – no slouching, and feet shoulder-width apart. Don’t wring your hands or play with rubber bands, paperclips, or your hair. If you do, you are telling people you are nervous.

22. Shake hands correctly. Many women weren't taught to shake hands. Others are under the impression that women don’t have to shake hands. Wrong! And a limp handshake is almost worse than no handshake. To shake hands correctly, touch thumb joint to thumb joint. Your grip should be firm but not bone-breaking.

23. Stand up when shaking hands. Many women also were taught that they do not need to stand. I disagree. Women do need to stand, otherwise they are sending the message: “I’m not as important.” You are on more equal footing when you stand up. When I shake hands with the participants in my seminars, only 35% of the women stand; 75% percent of the men stand. 

24. Dress appropriately. A very bright and competent woman was told she wasn’t promoted because of her sexy dressing habits. In a professional situation, you don’t want to wear clothing that’s too low, too short, too sexy, or too anything. Think about the message you are sending when you wear short skirts. You’re not saying, “Look at me because I know what I’m doing.” You’re saying, “Look at me because I have great legs.” Additional information on business and business casual dress can be found in my book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success.

25. Don’t become the “mother.” Your role is not to “take care of” or “baby” others. After a coaching session with me, a woman cleared the table as we were leaving my office. When I asked her why she did this, she said, “I guess I feel like it’s my responsibility to clean up messes.”

Women who want successful careers can, and should, take a look at their own behavior in the workplace to make sure that they aren’t holding themselves back.


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.

10.03.2017

How Business Women Can Handicap Their Careers

Once again, I am teaching my assertiveness class in the School of Business at Rutgers University this semester. Since women make up almost 90 percent of the class, I will highlight the behaviors women exhibit in the workplace that can cause them to lose visibility and power. These verbal and non-verbal actions send the message: “It’s OK to discount me,” “Don’t listen to me,” and “Don’t take me as seriously as that man on the other side of the table.” 

One of my old newsletter articles described 25 promotion-hindering behaviors by women in the workplace. Unfortunately, these behaviors are still happening, and still limiting women’s careers.

Listed below are the first 11 points addressed in that newsletter, updated where necessary for today's workplace. Part two will be posted next week, and will cover the remaining 14 items. These discussions include speaking with power, establishing rapport, and professional image.

IN MEETINGS:

1. Contribute – even if it’s a stretch. Women tell me that contributing in meetings can be difficult, especially if they are of lower rank than the other participants, or the only woman present. Get over it! You need to contribute, or your visibility factor goes to zero. Men tend to contribute more, so their ideas are adopted more often. Be prepared. Before a meeting, consider what you might be asked or what you can contribute. Speak early – ask a question or make an observation or statement. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to build up your nerve to speak. 

2. Don’t ask permission to talk. Women often ask, “May I say something?” Others raise a hand to “request” permission to speak.  One high-level corporate lawyer was shocked when she realized she was the only person in the meeting raising her hand. Instead, say something like, “The question remaining is…” or just start talking to add your point.

3. Interrupt. Interrupting can be an annoying speaking habit, but sometimes it’s vital for women to put aside the niceties to create an opportunity to speak. When interrupting, you can say, “To build on what you are saying…” or “We also need to discuss….” or something similar.

4. Be assertive if interrupted.  When a man interrupts a woman, she often will stop talking. As I described in a previous blog, an article in the Harvard Business Review, Female Supreme Court Justices are interrupted more by male justices and advocates, found that male justices interrupted female justices about three times as often as they interrupted each other during oral arguments. The research also found that “there is no point at which a woman is high-status enough not to be interrupted.” Women have to resist the impulse to give up the floor automatically to men. Don’t ask permission to continue, such as “Can I finish?” Jump right back in with a polite and powerful comment such as, “Hold that thought…,” “I wasn't finished…,” or “I’ll talk about that in just a second….”

5. Stand when appropriate to present your ideas. Women stay seated much too often. Standing is a more powerful position, because it forces others to look up to you.

6. Don’t take notes. A woman told me she was the only person in the room taking notes when others spoke. The men just listened. As a result, she appeared to be the administrative assistant.

7. Know when to stop talking. Women tend to give too much detail. If you go on and on, others will tune you out. Make your point succinctly, and then stop talking!

BECOME A SELF-PROMOTER:

8. Toot your own horn. You don’t want to be obnoxious, but you must learn to speak well of yourself. There are a number of ways to do this. You can apply for awards and enter competitions. You can also post your accomplishments on your social media sites — just don’t mention the same accomplishment over and over. You can also weave your accomplishments into a story or illustration, as if you are offering the information for the other person’s benefit.  For example, when I talk in seminars about how men tend to interrupt more than women during meetings, I mention comments from my seminar participants in Oman, in the Middle East. These remarks add to the discussion, and they also highlight my international experience.

9. Give formal presentations. Giving presentations increases your visibility within your company/department. As a bonus, it can help you become known as an expert.  If public speaking makes you nervous, take a class on presentation skills. Giving effective presentations is a skill that can be mastered, with training and practice. Additional information on presentation skills can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic.

10. Accept compliments. Women often discount themselves when given a compliment.  If someone tells you, “Great job,” don’t say, “Oh, it was nothing,” or “Anyone could have done it.”  Accept that compliment by saying, “Thank you,” and then shut your mouth!

11. Eliminate self-discounting language. Self-discounting words include: kinda, sorta, maybe, perhaps, probably, just, and actually. These are the extra words that, when added to sentences, discount what the speaker is saying.  If you say, “Maybe we have to look at all the possibilities,” others will think, “Well, should we or shouldn't we?” If you say, “It’s kinda a problem and perhaps we should…” the other person could dismiss the whole idea as wishy-washy.


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.

9.25.2017

The ‘Halo Effect’ – When Being Nice Has Benefits

I had the below conversation with my son after he had his car serviced.

Mom, they did a great job on my car,” he told me.

I asked, “Why do you say that?

His reply: “As I was leaving, we talked about new cars and the mechanic told me to have a safe trip home.”   

I thought to myself that my son knows very little about the inner workings of cars, yet because the mechanic was nice and friendly to him, he believed that he had done a good job on his vehicle.

He is not alone in how he judges the quality of someone’s work.

A colleague recently decided to go with one software vendor over another because, as she said, “He was so friendly.” I call this phenomenon the “halo effect” of being nice. 

One of my clients summed it up best when she said: The service you give people will affect their perception of the quality of your work.  (The term “halo effect” was first coined in 1920 by psychologist Edward Thorndike, who concluded that your impression of someone will influence your view of his or her abilities.)

But before you jump to any conclusions, I am not saying that the quality of your work doesn’t matter. It does.

Being nice and friendly will not make up for inferior work. What it will do is encourage people to view you and your work positively. People will enjoy working with you or for you if you are nice to them.  And that is an advantage in everyone’s line of work.

Here are five steps to follow so that others will react to you in a positive way: 

1. Greet people. This is one of my more common tips, yet people still tell me all the time that they feel ignored by others. People believe that they greet others, but I encourage you to monitor yourself over the next couple of weeks and really make sure that you do. You need to say “Hello,” “Hi,” “Good morning,” or offer a similar greeting to people you know and to people you don’t know. The person that you say “hello” to on the way to the meeting may be the person sitting next to you during the meeting, and you will have established minor rapport already.

2. Make some small talk. You don’t need to know people’s life stories, but a little small talk can help establish a connection between people. Use “safe” topics. You can talk about the weather (front-page stories such as hurricanes generally have more appeal), traffic, common experiences, travel, sports (if everyone is interested), entertainment (movies, plays), holiday celebrations, upbeat business news, vacations, current events (cautiously), and the activity you are attending. Additional information on small talk can be found in my book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette.
  
3. Offer to help, when you can. Why not offer to help when you can? If someone (male or female) is struggling with packages or seems overloaded with assignments, assisting that person is a nice thing to do.

4. Speak well of others. You appear gracious when you speak of other people’s accomplishments, not just your own. 

5. Have an exit line. An exit line establishes the ending of the encounter and paves the way for the next meeting. Sample exit lines include, “Nice talking to you,” “Have a great weekend,” or “Have a safe trip home.”

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

(This blog updates a previous one from a few years ago.)

8.28.2017

Imperfect Writing for Perfect Results

I write a couple of sentences and then delete them. Write a few more and delete them. It’s a constant, incredibly annoying process.

I always have to rewrite. Is there something wrong with me?

I was afraid to apply for a new position because it involved a lot of writing. 
 


The comments above, from participants in my writing seminars, illustrate the frustration business people often feel when tackling writing assignments. But it’s not just participants in such classes who suffer from fear of writing. Putting pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard – can be daunting for many people.

I believe that, to a large degree, the frustration comes from people trying to create a perfect piece of writing the first time they sit down to do an assignment, whether it’s a business email or a complicated report. They think that what they type should not need any correcting or rewriting. 
 

They are wrong.

Creating an imperfect piece of writing – a draft – is part of the normal process of writing. Yes, I said normal.

Once you have a draft, you can set about revising it. Most people find it easier to correct their writing than to create the exact wording they want the first time they try. Many well-known people, including professional writers, have expressed their understanding of the importance of writing… and rewriting.

There is no great writing, only great rewriting. – the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter. – author James Michener

I describe the making of a draft as “open writing.” This term is easy to remember, as you basically open yourself up and let the words flow. Here are six guidelines to help you with open writing:

1. Relax. People have a tendency to get nervous and then agonize over their writing assignments. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect… yet. One seminar participant told me that once the pressure was off to create a perfect document on her first attempt, she was able to write. 


2. Put the email address in last. If you are using open writing in an email, you don’t want to send the email before you have revised it, so leave the “To” line blank until you are satisfied with your message. If you are responding to an email, erase the address and add it when you are finished. (Additional suggestions on email can be found in my recent book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes, McGraw Hill, 2017.) 


3. Write the way you speak. Most of us have no difficulty speaking coherently and clearly. When you write the way you speak, you are writing in a conversational tone, which helps you connect with your reader. Another advantage is that this approach often helps you to write quickly.

4. Don't stop writing. No crossing out or back-spacing. You don't want to disrupt the flow of your thoughts. If you find yourself going off in the wrong direction, write yourself out of it. You will rearrange your wording later. Computers make it very easy to cut-and-paste. (This term survives from a time when writers or editors revising drafts written on typewriters would literally cut up their written paragraphs and paste them in the order they preferred. See how much easier we have it!)

5. Set a time limit. When you sit down to write, allocate a certain amount of time. It doesn't need to be a lot of time. In my classes, my writing assignments are only five minutes in duration, but all the participants write between half a page and one and a half pages. That’s a lot of writing in just a few minutes. After my students have finished their open-writing assignments, I tell them that in the past, most of them probably stared at a blank computer screen for longer than five minutes. Now consider how much they’ve been able to write in the same time in class. That is when the light bulb usually goes on for them, and they realize the value of open writing.

6. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar… for now. You will correct your grammar and spelling before you hit the send button or mail that document. For now, you just want to write.

Once you have followed these six steps, you are not done. Let me say that again: You are not done. Now it is time to revise your writings – but now you have something to work on, instead of a blank screen. 


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



(This blog updates a previous one from a few years ago.)
 

8.01.2017

Avoiding the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ Committed by Workers


I had to fire one of my employees because he hadn’t shown any initiative in my fast-paced, creative work environment.

A colleague made this comment to me, and I responded that her employee had committed one of the Workers’ Seven Deadly Sins – the work traits that lead to employees being ignored, not promoted, or even fired.

In today’s highly competitive workplace, you want to be seen as a helpful and vital employee. You want
to stand out, in a positive way. Ask yourself if you exhibit any of the negative traits below, and resolve to eliminate them if you do.

1. Not showing initiative. Are you trying new or better ways to accomplish your work? Be proactive. Is your employer gaining anything extra from you? As my colleague’s employee found out, most employers want you to go above and beyond.

2. Paying little attention to details. Are there mistakes in your work? Notice the little things, proof your writings, and double-check any numbers. There can be consequences if you don’t. One engineer wrote the wrong house number on a work order – and his employees ripped up the wrong driveway.

3. Not offering to help. You come across as a team player when you do offer help. Before she left for the day, one young woman always asked her boss, “Is there anything else I can do for you before I leave?” She quickly rose up the corporate ladder.

4. Not staying current with changes in your profession. You don’t want to be left behind. Continue learning. Stay abreast of any trends in your field. Take advantage of any training your company offers. Stay up-to-date with technology, including changes in social media.

5. Not having a professional demeanor. You want to convey a confident and credible image. Be aware of your verbal and nonverbal communication. Are you speaking too softly or loudly? Are you dressing appropriately for your position? Do you use filler words (“okay,” “all right,” “like”) that take away from your comments? Are you using profanity that destroys your credibility? Additional information on professional presence can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.

6. Not conveying enthusiasm for your job. Show interest in your work. Be eager to get the job done, and done well. Arrive on time, or early. Stay late when necessary, without complaint. Give sincere compliments. Speak well of others, avoid downbeat topics, and stop complaining. Don’t criticize your employer, your boss, customers, or your co-workers on your social media sites.

7. Not being friendly. Nobody likes to work with people who ignore them. Smile. Make an effort to say “hello,” “good morning,” etc. to people you know – and to those you don’t know.
Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, career development, business writing, presentation skills, professional presence, and etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141. (www.pachter.com) 

7.10.2017

Dressing for a presentation? Choose your clothing wisely

I put on my jacket and immediately my shoulders went back and I stood up straight.

I think I need to practice in my suit. I feel more “on” when I do.


These comments, from participants in a recent class on presentation skills, demonstrate that your clothing choices can help you to project confidence and to come across as a credible person – one your audience wants to listen to. Yet attire is one of those little things that presenters often don’t think about, or plan.


You don’t want sloppy or inappropriate clothing to prevent people from really hearing and absorbing your message. Make sure to attend to the following 7 items as you prepare for your next presentation:
 

1. Dress slightly better than your audience. Think about who is going to be in the audience and what they are likely to be wearing, and then choose your clothing accordingly. Dressing slightly better than your audience adds to your credibility. And remember that wearing a jacket will usually elevate your appearance. (Additional information on the hierarchy of clothing can be found in my book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette.

2. Make sure your clothing fits you properly. You can spend a fortune on an item, but if it is too big or too small, it is not going to look good. When you are in front of a group, all eyes are on you, and an ill-fitting item becomes a distraction. If your buttons are pulling, people will notice. If your pants are too short, people may fixate on them. When in doubt, take your clothing to a good tailor.

3. Pay attention to your color choices. Darker colors usually convey a stronger impression than lighter ones. Although lighter colors may not be as powerful, they can be very appropriate, especially in warmer climates. When possible, check the wall color in the meeting room before choosing your attire. You want to stand out from the background. Though most rooms have light-colored walls, that is not always the case. When I was presenting in Las Vegas, I checked the room ahead of time and saw that the stage had been draped in black. I had planned to wear a black suit. With my dark hair and black clothing, I would have looked like a talking head! I wore a suit of a lighter color.

4. Don’t dress provocatively. Low-cut tops that expose cleavage draw attention to your chest, and are not suitable for a presentation (or in the office!). Do not show too much leg, either. Short skirts draw attention to your legs. Is that where you want people to look when you are giving a presentation? The general guideline is that skirts should fall to the top of your knees, or just slightly above. 

5. Don’t ignore your accessories. Accessories can complete the outfit, but they also can become distractions and overpower you or your clothes. Don’t play with your accessories, including twirling rings or fiddling with neckties. Also, take your name tag off when you are making a presentation. It is not a fashion piece.

6. Attend to your grooming. You want people to focus on your presentation, not on distracting details. You don’t want your audience noticing dandruff on your shirt, smudges on your glasses, lipstick on your teeth, or chipped nail polish. These flaws are especially noticeable when you are presenting to a small group. And remember that people notice shoes. Your shoes should be clean, polished, and in good condition.

7. Pay attention to your posture. Stand tall. Keep your shoulders comfortably back. You can be wearing a great outfit, but if you are slouching you are doing a disservice to your clothes. 



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