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Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


5.21.2019

What’s in a title? A lot! Six tips to avoid undermining women


Why are female doctors introduced by first name while men are called ‘Doctor’?

This provocative headline was on a Washington Post article over a year ago that featured two women physicians at the Mayo Clinic who had noticed that their male colleagues were usually introduced at conferences as “Doctor So-and-so.” But the two women and other female doctors were often introduced by their first names, when the person introducing them was a man.

Is this a big deal?  Yes, I believe it is. And it is still happening.   

On a recent weekend I was on a plane where the captain introduced himself to the passengers this way: “This is Captain Jones. And I’m assisted today by Erica.” It seemed clear from his introduction that “Erica” was the first officer on the flight, or the co-pilot. 

How people address you and what you call yourself really do matter. Names – and titles – have power. Names and titles may confer dignity, or take it away. They influence how you are perceived, and whether people take you seriously.

Though unequal introductions may not be on the same level as eliminating sexual harassment or the gender pay-gap, they do constitute a communication concern with negative implications for women. Denying professionals the prestige that a title conveys is a subtle way of undermining them, even if it is unintentional.

Which of these people would you take more seriously, or believe was more competent: “Dr. Tom Jones” or “Sally Smith”? It seems obvious that it would be the person with the title, because that testifies to his training and professionalism.

Both men and women can benefit from the following suggestions about names and titles. They will help you to stop negatively influencing others’ perceptions of women, even inadvertently. These tips also apply when you are writing emails.

1. Use a woman’s title. Some organizations are very informal with names, but if professional titles are typically used in your organization, refer to women by theirs, such as Dr. (Sally) Jones.

2. Be consistent with your use of titles. Use professional titles equally for both men and women. If you are mentioning a man by his title, such as Doctor Jones or Professor Smith, refer to a woman the same way. This is valid whether you are giving a speaker introduction, introducing someone to other people at the office or in social situations, or simply mentioning people in informal discussions.

3. Refer to friends and colleagues by their titles when in business settings. You may have a great relationship with Dr. Jones and use her first name when you are together. When you are with other people, however, you should refer to her by her title. You are recognizing her achievement in front of others. If you do not do this, you are establishing a norm that tells people it’s okay for them to call her by her first name. And that may not be the case. (This also applies to men.)

4. Be consistent with the honorific ‘Mr.’ and ‘Ms.’ This is similar to the second item. If you say or write, “Mr. Williams,” do the same for the woman, “Ms. Jones.” This conveys a level of respect for both parties. You do not want to say something like, “Mr. Williams and Karen went to the meeting.” In an informal setting you might also use first names for both, such as “Tom and Karen went to the meeting.”  

5. Refer to women in the workplace as ‘women.’ Businessmen aren’t referred to as boys; businesswomen shouldn’t be referred to as girls. The words “girls” and “boys” indicate children. I know, I know, you are going to say that it’s intended as a compliment, or it’s a way of expressing camaraderie, as in “girls’ night out” or “the girls I work with in the office.” But ultimately it fosters a less-professional image for women.  

6. Do not refer to a woman by a nickname or shorter form of her first name —unless you are asked to do so. Children are often called by nicknames. And many shortened names do not have the same standing as full names. My name is Barbara. Do not call me “Barb,” and definitely not “Barbie.” This situation can be tricky. Sometimes people, especially high-power people, will use their nicknames to seem friendly and more approachable. Christine Todd Whitman, the first woman governor of New Jersey and former head of the EPA, will often refer to herself as Christie Whitman. (Her current website is www.christiewhitman.com.)

Men also can be influenced by shortened names. According to a story about basketball legend Michael Jordan on the CBS show 60 Minutes some years ago, he went from being called “Mike Jordan” to “Michael Jordan” after he scored the winning basket in the 1982 NCAA championship game.

Start paying attention to your word choices. Though you may not be doing everything mentioned here, you may be surprised at how you refer to women. Additional information on communication can be found in my book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.

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. (bpachter@pachter.com

3.24.2019

6 Tips To Enhance Your Presentation Skills…And Build Your Confidence

"I just spoke to 200 people; I can do anything!”

This comment was from a woman I had coached on presentation skills. She had been nervous about speaking during a fund-raising luncheon for her favorite charity, but felt “on top of the world” after giving the presentation.
                                             
She was experiencing one of the positive consequences of giving an effective speech – her confidence level increased considerably, and she felt good about herself.

This woman was an accomplished professional and needed only a few suggestions to fine-tune her skills. But anyone can benefit from some of the tips that I gave her. Why not try them out before your next presentation? You may be surprised at how good you feel about yourself as a result.   

1. Practice out loud. You want to hear how your presentation sounds. Saying it in your head isn’t good enough. Is it structured logically? Are you using transitions between points? Are the stories complete? Does the presentation make sense? Saying it aloud, and hearing the speech as your audience will hear it, helps to clarify any areas that need work.

2. Mingle before the presentation. When you can, go up to people, shake hands, introduce yourself, and welcome individuals to the presentation. This rapport-building helps people connect with you, and allows you to feel more comfortable with them once you are in front of the group.

3. Ask yourself: Does the audience know I am nervous? If you are not verbally or nonverbally conveying your nervousness to the audience, the people you are addressing will not know. And if the audience doesn’t know you’re nervous, why waste your energy being nervous? Interesting concept… and it has helped a lot of people overcome their nervousness.

4. Look at people. When you make eye contact with members of your audience, you appear confident and in control of the presentation and your audience. Presenters get nervous and tend to avoid looking at the people they are addressing. Make sure you look at everyone. People have a tendency to look only at the people who smile at them (and we do love these people!), but you don’t want to miss connecting with anyone. 
                                       
5. Manage the questions. In the beginning of your talk, let people know when you will be taking questions. You can often direct people to ask questions on a specific topic by saying, “What questions do you have about X?” Repeat each question before you answer it. This gives you a few seconds to compose your thoughts before you speak. You can also rephrase the question to eliminate any negativity in it. 

6. Take the applause. I am sure you have seen speakers who have almost run off the stage at the conclusion of a presentation, or they may say something like, “Whew, glad that is over!” Do not do this. You should acknowledge the applause, then walk off the stage or go back to your seat with your head held high.

Additional suggestions on presentation skills can be found in my book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on presentation skills and communication. For more information contact Joyce Hoff at joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141.



3.03.2019

6 Tips To Remember When Evaluating Feedback

What do these three examples have in common?

• A young woman was told by an instructor that her giggle during her presentation was cute, and fit her personality.

 • A woman’s husband, after she asked him if her skirt was too short for an important business meeting, responded “No, your legs look great. Keep it short!”

 • A young man was told by a colleague to chew gum to help him overcome his nervousness when presenting.

I believe the above business professionals all received feedback that was flawed.

It is important to receive feedback, because it helps us to grow. After numerous years of giving seminars, I still pay attention to the comments I receive from my participants. But how do you decide which suggestions really can help you to grow as a professional, and which ones to ignore? I suggest asking yourself these 6 questions:

1. Who is giving the feedback? Is the person an expert? If so, the feedback is a gift, and I would seriously consider following the person’s suggestions. If the person is not an expert, I would put the comments on the back burner. But remember, when customers make suggestions, it is a good idea to implement them where appropriate.

2. Do you perceive a pattern in the feedback you get? A solitary criticism or observation may be just one person’s opinion, but if you notice a lot of similar comments, chances are there is some truth to the feedback – positive or negative.

3. Have you learned as much as you can about the comment? Engage with the person giving the feedback. You could say, “Tell me more” to gain additional information. Or, you can paraphrase what you have heard. Saying something like, “You’re suggesting that…” and putting the feedback into your own words will ensure that you have grasped the person’s points. The woman who was told it was okay to giggle could have asked, “Are you saying that it will be professional for me to giggle in the business world?” (The answer is no.)

4. Is the feedback emphasizing your sexuality? Workplace feedback should address your competency, not your sexuality. The woman’s husband in my example was flattering his wife, but not taking into consideration her corporate environment. He didn’t understand that “sexy is not a corporate look.” He’s not alone. Based on the attire of some newscasters, or the actors portraying professionals on television shows, it’s not surprising that many people come to believe that it is okay to dress provocatively in business situations. It isn’t.

5. Have you checked with other seasoned and successful professionals? The young man who was told to chew gum did check with another professional, who pointed out that the gum chewing would create another problem – his audience would be distracted. She then gave him other suggestions to overcome his nervousness, such as practicing out loud and telling yourself positive things. (Additional suggestions on presentation skills can be found in my book: The Communication Clinic.

6. Have you done research on your own? Read books on the topic. Read articles on the web. The internet makes it very easy to research any topic. Just make sure the authors of the articles are experts in whatever topic you are researching.

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

2.12.2019

Toot Your Own Horn

The woman was well educated, well groomed, and spoke like a professional. Yet when asked about herself, she did not speak of her accomplishments, and she was very self-deprecating. When asked why, she responded, “I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging.”

Many people don’t talk about or post their accomplishments, or they discount themselves and their achievements with statements like “Oh, what I did was no big deal.” When you put yourself down, you make it easy to others not to take you or your work seriously.

In the business world, you can limit your chances of success when others don’t know what you do or what you have accomplished. Skillful self-promotion is a business strength. You don’t want to sound like a braggart, but you do want to highlight your accomplishments,

Here are eight suggestions for promoting yourself successfully without being off-putting: 

1. Be visible. Get involved at your company. Join any company clubs or activities that interest you. Use the work gym, if there is one. Volunteer for assignments. Offer to make presentations, and volunteer to train others. If possible, write articles for your company publications. Run for office in your professional and community organizations.

2. Enter competitions and apply for awards. A lot of people avoid doing this—they say it’s too self-serving. Yet, winning awards is a way for people who know you, but especially those who don’t know you, to find out about your talents. It builds your credibility. And make sure you promote your successes. For instance, my selection as one of the Best 50 Women in Business in New Jersey by NJBIZ Magazine was highlighted on my website.

3. Post your accomplishments on your social-media sites. However, be careful not to mention the same accomplishment over and over. You can overdo it and make yourself sound like a braggart. There is a balance. You must speak of other things, not just about what you do well. This also can apply to forwarding good news about your team or your work to others via email.

4. Have a prepared self-introduction. You may find yourself in situations in which you have to introduce yourself. Being prepared will allow you to be comfortable speaking about yourself. Make sure you say your first and last name and add a few brief comments about yourself.

5. When asked, do tell. If someone asks you how you are doing at work, it is your opportunity to mention any new accomplishments. Without going into too much detail, tell the person about any recent promotions, unique projects, additional responsibilities, and so on. 

6. Weave your accomplishments into conversation, when appropriate. 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.

7. Use comparisons. I once coached a manager on how to use her experience preparing for the Boston Marathon as a way to answer questions about how she would prepare for a company’s market expansion. The comparisons were legitimate and helpful to her audience – and, of course, the higher-ups were quite impressed by the fact that she ran a marathon.

8. Speak well of others. You appear gracious when you speak of other peoples’ accomplishments, not just your own.


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

1.22.2019

Saying Goodbye: Suggestions for Closing Your Emails

If customers include a closing in their emails, it indicates to me that they are friendly, and so I will do their work first. 

A woman in one of my writing classes made the above comment when we were discussing how to end an email. Others joined in and added that they liked seeing closings in emails they received.

I agree. Emails that simply end without some kind of closing can seem too abrupt. 

During my classes, numerous questions surface about which closing is appropriate in our casual workplace. Deciding what to use can be confusing. When email first appeared in the workplace, salutations or closings were rarely used. Over time, we have added both to our emails. Though there has been some discussion in the media about whether we need to use closings, in my experience, the majority of people want to keep them.

I encourage businesspeople to use closings. Here are my six suggestions:

1. If you start with a salutation, end with a closing. It provides balance to the email. The correct punctuation after the closing is a comma.

2. Match the closing to the salutation. If you use an informal salutation, such as “Hi Amanda” or “Hello Gavin,” use “Regards,” “Best,” “Best regards,” or “Thanks” to close. If you use a more formal salutation, such as “Dear Ms. Jones,” use “Sincerely” or “Sincerely yours.” Only the first word of the closing is capitalized.

3. End with a “closing statement.” Since closings are more relaxed in emails than in letters, you can use a brief statement as your closing, such as “See you at the meeting” or “Thanks for your help.”

4. With no disrespect intended, avoid using ‘Respectfully.’  This very formal closing is usually reserved for government officials and clergy.  Another closing to avoid is “Faithfully yours.” This wording comes from British English, and a woman from India who was in my class said that she was advised very quickly by her boss not to use that closing in the U.S. 

5. Tell people what you want to be called. After the closing, on the next line, type your name the way you want to be addressed. If you want to be called “Mike” instead of “Michael,” you should sign “Mike.” 

6. Once emails become a back-and-forth conversation, you can drop the closing. It begins to sound repetitious and somewhat silly if you have a long string of emails all proclaiming, “Best regards, Mike.” Additional information on emails can be found in my book The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat and Tweet Your Way to Success.

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

1.07.2019

New Year’s Resolutions To Improve Your Communication Skills

It’s that time of year again – the time to make New Year’s resolutions. But instead of just going the traditional route – pledging to join a gym to work off holiday excesses – why not opt to give your career a boost as well? Resolve to improve your communication skills.

Yes, you read that last sentence correctly! How you communicate with others—whether in person, in writing, or online—has a tremendous impact on your career. It affects every aspect of your working life, no matter how good your specialized skills are in your particular field.

For the coming year, make these communication resolutions to enhance your career:

1. Resolve to keep your phone off the table when meeting with someone. Having your phone visible tells the other person, “I am so ready to drop you and connect with someone else.”  It’s important to give people your full attention.

2. Take a presentation skills class. Work on becoming a better presenter. You need to get your point across. And if you do so effectively, not only does your audience gain information, but you look good.

3. Use “reply all” only when it is necessary for everyone on the list to see the email. In my writing classes, many participants say they really dislike receiving unnecessary emails. If you don’t want to receive unwanted emails, you need to stop overusing “reply all,” also.

4. Be smart with social media. Don’t allow social media to hurt your career. If your sites suggest you drink too much, curse a lot, or post nasty comments, people may question whether they want to work with you or hire you.

5. Learn to command the room. You want to stand out -- in a good way. Dress appropriately. Walk into a room as though you belong there. Stand tall. Don’t fidget. Shake hands correctly and make small talk. When nervous, say something positive to yourself. Before she enters a meeting room, one woman I coached says to herself, “I own this meeting!”

6. Offer your opinion. If you don’t speak up in meetings, your boss, colleagues, or clients won’t know what you know. And speak early in the meeting. The longer you wait to talk, the harder it is likely to become.

7. Monitor your volume. Make sure you speak loudly enough to be heard. Many people don’t. Do not underestimate how powerful a strong voice can be – but don’t confuse powerful with shouting. You want your opinions, thoughts and ideas to register with others.

8. Apply for awards. Winning professional or community awards helps to build your credibility, and can be an important way to promote yourself. To be eligible for many awards, other people have to recommend you; for some, however, you can nominate yourself. This is not an obnoxious thing to do. You still have to earn the award.

9. Be friendly and helpful. People want to work with others they know, like and trust. It may seem obvious, but too often people neglect the little things that build relationships. Greet people you know and also those you don’t know. Smile. Say “please” and “thank you.” Help people when you can. Make connections for others, both online and in person.

10. Send thank-you notes. In the New Year, start showing appreciation for the kindness of others. If you receive a gift, visit the home of a boss or colleague, or are a guest at a meal, you must send a note. You also need to send a thank-you note after a job interview.

These 10 potential resolutions provide numerous possibilities for improving your career. There are many more communication suggestions discussed in my book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes (McGraw Hill, 2017).


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

12.16.2018

7 Ways to Avoid Arguments During the Holiday Season

A woman threw a cookbook at her sister-in-law and screamed: “Maybe now you can cook a holiday dinner for us sometime.”

With the holiday season here again, there are lots of opportunities for gift-giving, party-going and joyful celebrating. But, as the above story illustrates, there are also lots of opportunities for conflict.

It’s easy for people to become stressed during the holidays, and as a result to become bothered by or blow up at another person’s behavior. Plus, we tend to have the same conflicts year after year with the same people – conflicts that are never resolved but simply pushed aside until they flare up again.

Here are 7 “polite and powerful” suggestions for handling holiday conflict:

1. Accept what you can influence and what you can’t. When you realize that you don’t have control over everything, it is much easier to accept things that are not within your power to manage. If your father has remarried, he will bring his wife to the New Year’s brunch.

2. Ask yourself: does it really matter? Can you let it go? If you see your great aunt only once a year, can you tolerate her behavior? Yes, I know you are hearing her stories for the tenth time, but listening to her recall a happier time in her life is a kindness to her.


3. Identify the real issue. When you get upset, it can be difficult to zero in on what truly is bothering you. Take time and think about the situation. It is easy to get upset about a current situation that masks a deeper concern. Is the issue that your brother arrives late to the holiday dinner, or that he doesn’t visit your mother in her retirement home?

4. Be clear about what you want from the person. We often get upset with someone, but we don’t always know what we want from the other person. Be specific. If you would like your sister-in-law to contribute to the holiday dinner, you can ask: “Janet, will you please bring a vegetable dish on Sunday?” Additional information on putting your words together for a positive confrontation can be found in my book, The Power of Positive Confrontation.

5. Use polite language. Practice saying the words out loud. Listen to how they sound.  Are they harsh or attacking? Don’t pounce on the other person with statements such as “You’re selfish…” or “You’re such a cheap-skate….” These types of accusations are counterproductive to resolving conflict, and can lead to more conflict.

6. Confront in private. If you do decide to say something, you don’t want others to hear the conversation. It can be embarrassing to the other person and to the people who hear the discussion. By extension, this means no posting any comments about the conversation on any social media sites. Also, make sure you are calm when you initiate this talk. If you are agitated, it is easy to blow up.

7. Listen to the other person’s response. He or she may offer a reasonable alternative point of view, or provide an explanation for the behavior. Perhaps your sister isn’t flying home for the holidays because of financial difficulties she is too embarrassed to discuss.

When you know how to confront politely on the major issues, it is easier to let the little ones go. Enjoy your time with family and friends. Happy holidays! 


Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on assertive communication and conflict. For more information, contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141 or joyce@pachter.com.