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Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


7.08.2018

Someone Else's Bad Behavior Is No Excuse for Your Own

There has been a lot of discussion about uncivil behavior lately, including in the media. For example:
 
-A recent Washington Post article, “When we fight fire with fire: Rudeness can be as contagious as the common cold, research shows,” discussed mounting research that shows rudeness can cause employees to be chronically distracted, less productive, and less creative.  

-CBS This Morning talked about how incivility is rampant in our world today in a segment entitled: “Where's the civility in America? How rude behavior is contagious.”   

Rudeness can be contagious – but it doesn’t have to be!  You don’t have to mirror the impolite actions of others. 

The recent outbreaks of uncivil behavior in the political arena have impacted our everyday experiences. 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.

People can learn to express their differences at work and at home – without resorting to bad behavior. But the change starts with you. Practice these communication tips in person and online to help foster polite behavior in your workplace and world: 

1. Understand that someone else’s bad behavior is no excuse for your own. Don’t attack back. If you respond to someone’s rude comments with your own, you are giving that person power over you – the power to get you to reply as a jerk. You don’t want to do that. I do realize that this is a hard concept to accept. But deep down you know that even though it may feel good temporarily to counter one offensive remark with another, in the long run it damages you. Comebacks along the lines of “Well, what do you know, you idiot?” are not going to build your credibility or enhance your reputation for maturity. 

2. Stay calm. Take a deep breath. Tell yourself you can handle the bad-mannered behavior of others with grace. 

3. Don’t insult people. It can be tempting to say something like, “How do you know so much about things you know nothing about?” But don’t. That’s offensive. Name-calling only inflames a situation. Cursing at people is just mean, and reflects poorly on the one doing the cursing.   

4. Speak up. You don’t have to tolerate the bad behavior of others. Faced with such a situation, many people stay passive and do not say anything, which can encourage additional bad behavior. Some people may respond aggressively. They may yell, shout, scream, ridicule, admonish, or be sarcastic or condescending, which often builds more aggression. 

But there is an alternative to being either passive or aggressive.  

You can respond to others in what I call a “polite and powerful” manner. This means you respond – you speak up – and say something in a civil manner. Make sure you look at the person and speak loudly enough to be heard. Make yourself familiar with some assertive responses, such as those below, so you are ready to use them, when appropriate.  

-Why do you say that?
-Did you mean that comment to be as nasty as it sounds?
-I’m offended by that comment.
-Help me to understand why you say this idea is so stupid.
-What information (or facts or data) do you have to support that position?
-How do you know that to be true? 

One caveat to all this advice: If somebody’s behavior makes you concerned for your physical safety, do whatever you need to do to stay safe, whether it’s leaving the area, calling for help, or some other appropriate action. 

6. Avoid controversial topics. Co-workers, customers, clients, bosses, and vendors may have very strong, and very different, opinions about hot-button topics, such as politics. You don’t want to say something that may alter someone’s opinion of you and affect your working relationships. 

5. Disagree agreeably. If you have difficulty with someone, talk to that person. Listen to what he or she has to say. You can evaluate an idea without attacking the person who is promoting it. Saying “I have difficulty with this because...” or “I see it differently and here’s why...” is a lot more productive than screaming at people or calling them names. Sometimes you may have to “agree to disagree,” and not discuss a particular topic. (Additional information on polite behavior and communication can be found in my books, The Power of Positive Confrontation and The Essentials of Business Etiquette.)  

7. Practice the “It’s hard to be nasty to people who are nice to you” attitude. Courteous behavior will beget courteous behavior. Share, wait your turn, and be gracious toward others. Keep “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” in your vocabulary. Help people. Greet them when you see them. Be considerate when sharing space with others.  

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. 

5.20.2018

An Etiquette Request: Remember to Give Your Name

I have an etiquette request: Please remember to introduce yourself by name after someone has introduced himself or herself to you.

This may seem like a little thing, but it’s important.

Let me explain. Before most of my seminars begin, I shake hands with each participant and say, “Hi, I’m Barbara Pachter, your instructor. Welcome, and enjoy the day.” Many people respond appropriately and will introduce themselves, also.

This kind of etiquette give-and-take paves the way for a connection between the two people, and makes it easier for conversation to begin.

However, there are some participants who don’t give their names. They just shake hands, or shake hands and say “Hi.” An awkward silence usually follows, and I will often jump in and politely ask, “And, you are…?”

When people don’t volunteer their names without prompting, they appear shy, timid or standoffish. As a result, making a connection or starting a conversation can be more difficult.

It’s not just in my seminars that people fail to give their names. People tell me the same thing happens to them when they attend meetings and introduce themselves to the men or women sitting next to them.

Why do people do this?

In my classes, I know that some people are startled when I introduce myself to them. They are not expecting the instructor to practice this protocol. One woman sent me a thank-you note, emphasizing how much she enjoyed meeting me before the seminar started. She hadn’t experienced this with other instructors.

Other people may not give their names because they are preoccupied, or because they simply don’t know they should do so.

Monitor your own behavior. Pay attention when people introduce themselves, and please respond with your full (first and last) name. You may be surprised at what a positive difference it makes in your interactions with others.

Additional information on greetings, introductions and conversation can be found in The Essentials 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 additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141 or joyce@pachter.com.

4.17.2018

Tell Tales: Bring Your Presentation To Life

Consider these experiences:

--During one of our Sunday walks, my husband commented that I was interrupting him. I apologized. Yet a few minutes later, he interrupted me. I asked, with a smile on my face, “How come I am not allowed to interrupt you, but you can interrupt me?” His response: “Is there a right answer to that question?”

--A woman in one of my seminars told me about a delivery man who routinely walked into the office where she worked and greeted the women with "Hi, Hot Mommas.” One of her coworkers told him: “Please don't call me ‘Hot Momma,’ regardless of whether I am or not."  The next day, the man again visited the office and said, "Hi, Hot Mommas" – and then pointed to the woman who had confronted him and added “...except for you.”

My presentations include many stories, and the examples above will find their way into some of my future seminars. Good stories reinforce and/or prove your key points. They create a picture for your audience, bringing to life the information you want to convey and making it much more memorable than a recitation of statistics or data.

Following the steps below will help you to add stories to your presentations:

1. View your experiences as opportunities to find stories. Very few of my seminar participants forget my story of going to the bathroom with my mic on. I use it to illustrate the point that it’s not what happens to you that matters, it is how you handle what happens to you. Every story doesn’t have to be as extreme as my mic incident. You will soon build a reservoir of potential stories if:

• You observe something that illustrates a point in your presentation. 

• Someone says, “That happened to me…” in response to some point you are making. That person’s anecdote can add another voice to your information.

• You reference someone in an article or book, or on a website, who proves your point.

2. Keep a story file. Write down or copy just enough detail of the story material so you will remember what happened. Keep this information in an electronic file or in an old-fashioned manila folder so the story will be readily available.

3. Prepare the story. When you start to put your presentation together, go to your file and choose appropriate examples to support your points. Don’t use people’s names, unless you have their approval or the person is clearly a public figure. Don’t criticize or belittle anyone, and don’t lie – but you can embellish the details a little for dramatic effect or to protect someone’s identity. However, never embellish specific details, such as statistics. Tread lightly with humor.  It can be effective, but it can also bomb badly.

4. Practice. In business presentations, shorter stories generally work best. Once you have chosen a story you want to use, practice saying it out loud, using as few words as necessary to convey your point.

The more you include stories in your presentations, the more comfortable you become using them. Additional information on presentation skills can be found in my book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes. Happy Tales!  

I post regularly on communication and etiquette. We can connect via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or my website: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)  

3.11.2018

Look at the Camera! And 6 Other Tips for Posting Your Headshot

I couldn't make out his face.

She looks completely different from her photo.

I couldn't believe she had sunglasses on her head!


The comments above were made by business professionals about photographs accompanying profiles on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, many businesspeople post photographs of themselves on LinkedIn and other social media sites that detract from their professionalism.

I have written about this before, but it’s a message that bears repeating: Your professional image is conveyed through your photograph. It is part of the first impression you make on others. You should post a photograph that is professionally appropriate, and makes you look like a credible, approachable person – not like someone who just came from the gym.

In another life, I was a professional photographer – the first woman photographer at what was then one of the largest 10 newspapers in the country – so I offer the following as my recommended guidelines for photographs used in any business context:

1. Post a headshot – not an environmental portrait. Many sites ask for a profile photo. A headshot highlights your head/face, and usually shows your shoulders and part of your chest. You are the focus of the picture, and people can see you clearly in this type of shot. An environmental portrait places you in a setting that may relate to your profession, but your face is usually a smaller part of such a photograph. These pictures are often used as additional photos on a website, but are not recommended for headshot postings.

2. Look at the camera and keep your head straight. You should be looking directly at the person who is viewing your photo. Many women have a tendency to tilt their heads. Why? I don’t know. But don’t do it. You look less self-assured when you do.

3. Use a clear, uncluttered and well-lit setting. Don’t let the background overpower your image. You should be the point of the photo and people should be able to see you plainly. Check that there aren’t any dark shadows obscuring your face.

4. Make sure your face is in focus. The background may be slightly out of focus, but your features need to be sharply defined, not blurred. Let people see your eyes. Wearing dark glasses hides them. Have a pleasant facial expression. If you are frowning or scowling, why would I want to hire or work with you?

5. Wear appropriate professional or business-casual attire. Appear as you usually would in a business situation. This may mean that you are freshly shaven, or wearing make-up and jewelry. Do not let your accessories (earrings, necklace, glasses) overwhelm your headshot. Additional information on business dress can be found in my book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success (McGraw-Hill).

6. Choose a recent photo that flatters you. Sounds obvious, but people don’t always pay attention to their choices. This does not mean you need a glamour shot, but you should look like a competent professional in the photograph. If your photo is more than 8 to 10 years old, people may be very surprised when they meet you.

7. Hire a professional photographer. If all of this seems overwhelming, hire someone who takes photos for a living. It’s worth the investment.

Below is my new corporate headshot taken by a professional photographer, Joey Del Palazzo. Let me know what you think.

I post regularly on communication and etiquette. We can connect via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or my website: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. (bpachter@pachter.com)  

2.18.2018

6 Tips To Encourage Questions From Your Audience



How do I get people in my audience to ask questions?
 
A vice president of a major healthcare company asked me this question during one of our coaching sessions on presentation skills.

No one had ever asked me that before!

Often presenters want to avoid anything to do with the Q&A segment of a presentation, but he wanted questions so he would know whether his audience had grasped his concepts. This desire for feedback is just one reason to encourage questions. There are others.

For example, you seem more approachable as a speaker when you take questions. Plus, how you answer the questions, and participate in any discussion that follows, can help explain and/or enhance your ideas and clarify any misunderstandings. In addition, the types of questions asked may let you know your participants’ opinions of your suggestions.

Try these 6 suggestions to encourage people to ask questions:

1. Let the audience know when you will be taking questions. Don’t assume your audience knows; tell them at the beginning of your talk. In a more informal talk or training session, participants may be encouraged to ask questions throughout. (“I’m open for questions throughout my presentation.”). Or, if the presenter doesn’t want to interrupt the flow, he or she can ask the audience: “Please save your questions until the end of my talk.”

2. Non-verbally encourage questions. Keep your body language open, and don’t cross your arms. Look at your audience. Move towards audience members when you can. Pause after you ask for questions – don’t rush to start talking. This gives the participants a few seconds to formulate their ideas. Additional information on nonverbal communication can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.

3. Use an open-ended question. If you say to your audience, “What questions do you have?,” you are telling participants you assume that they have questions and, as a result, they’re more likely to speak up. If you say, “Do you have any questions?,” it is easy for people to say “No.” 

4. Request questions on a specific topic. You can expand on the above open-ended question and pinpoint a particular area of your presentation. For example, if you have discussed the budget, you can ask, “What questions do you have about the new budget items?” Also, asking about something you just discussed can help you transition from one part of your talk to another.

5. Have participants write their questions and submit them beforehand. This can be effective with large audiences or audiences at remote locations. You can answer some of the questions during your presentation, or refer to them at the end.

6. Be prepared with your own first question. When you ask for questions and no one speaks up, you can offer one of your own by saying, “A question I am often asked is… .” Hearing you answer a question often makes audience members feel more comfortable asking questions of their own. Or, you might consider coordinating with a participant before your presentation, and arrange for that person to get things started by asking a specific question.

This blog addresses how to encourage questions from your audience. There’s a lot more to discuss about handling questions, including how to prepare for difficult ones. But that’s a blog for another day.   

I post regularly on communication and etiquette. We can connect via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or my website: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. (bpachter@pachter.com)  

2.04.2018

Don’t Whine About Your Job. Do Something!

My coworker hates her job. She keeps complaining to me. I have tried to talk to her about what she could do, but she is not listening.
 
My husband keeps threatening to quit his job. He only comments negatively about his job and the people who work with him. I wish he would just do something.

My friend was having difficulty with her schedule, but she didn’t go to her boss to discuss alternatives. She just quit. When I had a problem, my boss adjusted my schedule. My friend’s might have been adjusted, too, if she had said something.


As these comments from participants in my seminars indicate, tackling problems that affect our work lives can be difficult.

When some people become dissatisfied with their work, they do nothing. Perhaps they don’t know how to proceed, or maybe they don’t believe there is anything they can do to improve the situation. Usually, the only action they take is to whine about their bosses, their colleagues, or the work. 

Unfortunately, complaining doesn’t accomplish anything – except having your friends, colleagues and others stay clear of you.

Some, on the other hand, get so frustrated that they impulsively quit their jobs without having another lined up, or without even a plan for the future.
 
Both reactions can affect your career negatively. However, there is an alternative that can help people evaluate their work situations. Answering the following four questions encourages people to take action and decide their next steps. 

1. Ask yourself, what is the real issue? It is easy to say, “I hate my job,” but it is important to identify why. What is the real issue that is causing you to be unhappy? Be honest and be specific. Is it the type of work you do, or just one aspect of the job? Is it the commute, the money, your boss, the people you work with, or any number of other causes? One man I coached liked most of the facets of his job, but wanted to quit because he had to make frequent presentations. Another realized that her new position involved using unfamiliar technology, which made her feel uncomfortable and unqualified.  

2. Can you solve the problem? Now that you have identified the issue, is there something that can be done? Is there a realistic solution? If so, what do you have to lose by asking for it? Make the case for your suggestion, including any benefits to your department or to the company. One woman realized that she liked her job, but it was the commute that was driving her crazy. She asked her boss if she could work from home two days a week. Once she assured her boss that her productivity wouldn’t be affected, she was successful in having her schedule changed. Remember that if you don’t speak up, chances are nothing will change. 

3. Are there advantages to this job? If you can’t solve the problem, think about what you are gaining from the position.  Don’t just quickly say, “Nothing.” Here are four possible things to consider: 

--Is the job a stepping stone?  Will you need the skills you gain from this position to qualify for a job on the next rung of the ladder? One of my early jobs involved working for a horrible boss. Yet I stayed until I had gained the experience I needed, and then I left.   

--Is there any education or training perk to which you have access? Some companies will fund part or all of your ongoing education. This can be a major benefit for many people. 

--Who are you meeting? Does the job allow you to interact with people and build your network? If so, it is possible that by having a strong network, additional job opportunities will come your way.

--Can you learn to manage your boss? Learning to work with difficult people is an important skill that almost certainly will be beneficial to you at some point in your career.

4. Is it time to start a job search? Depending on how you answer the above questions, you may decide that it is time to start looking for a new position. You may even decide to change careers. Any number of alternatives may now be available to you. This doesn’t mean you just quit your job. Generally, it is best to look for a new job (or career) while you are still working at the old one. Information on conducting a thorough job search can be found in my recent book The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.   

Whether you decide to stay at your current job or to look for a new one, feel good about your choice. You are doing something: You have taken charge of your career.



I post regularly on communication and etiquette. We can connect via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or my website: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. (bpachter@pachter.com) 

1.21.2018

I'm sorry, I can't apologize

A colleague missed an appointment with a vendor. She called the vendor to apologize. Thinking about the conversation later, she realized that she had said “I’m sorry” numerous times. She called me to ask if you can say “I’m sorry” too much.

Surprisingly, I said “Yes.” Since I teach etiquette, I would never tell anyone to be rude. If you trip someone, spill coffee (or anything else) on someone, or inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings, it is appropriate to say “I’m sorry.” If you work in customer service, saying you are sorry may be part of your job description. However, my friend touched on one of several areas where people (often women, but men as well) overuse “I’m sorry,” and, as a result, hurt their professional image.

Consider the following points, and ask yourself if you do any of these:

1. Repeat “I’m sorry” numerous times. If you say “I’m sorry,” say it only once. Are you any sorrier the sixth time than you were the first time? Of course not. A long time ago, I was a “serial apologizer.” I would repeat “I’m sorry” so often that my friends joked that on my gravestone they would put, “I’m sorry, I can’t apologize.”

2. Put yourself down. Using such phrases as “I’m sorry to bother you” or “I’m sorry to disturb you” can bring into question your self-esteem. Why are you a “bother”? Your work is valuable, also. Instead of apologizing, you can say assertively, “Excuse me. Do you have a minute?”

3. Take responsibility for something that isn’t your fault. If you say “I’m sorry,” you are implying that you are the one to blame. A man returned from lunch and said, “It’s raining outside.” His colleague responded, “I’m sorry,” as if the rain were her responsibility. If she wanted to say something, she could have made a neutral comment, such as “I hear the rain will continue all day.” In other situations, you can explain. Instead of, “I’m sorry I missed the meeting,” one manager said, “I had every intention of joining you, but my day took a different turn.” She then explained that she had been involved in a minor car accident. (Note that this was not a fabricated excuse, but the actual reason she had missed the meeting.)

4. Say “I’m sorry” when it is your fault. This occurs when you have done something that you shouldn’t have done, such as giving out the wrong information. Many of my seminar participants struggle with this issue.

Some believe strongly that saying “I’m sorry” is the polite thing to do. I like the way my husband, the lawyer, defends this stance. He believes that if you cause someone “adverse consequences,” you should say “I’m sorry.”

Others believe strongly that you need only acknowledge the mistake, and that it is not necessary to apologize. (Leroy Jethro Gibbs, the lead character of the popular TV show NCIS, has a series of rules to live by, one of which is, “Never apologize. It's a sign of weakness.”)

One CEO told me that when his employees say “I’m sorry,” he thinks they are asking him for forgiveness. He would much rather they admit the problem and tell him how they plan to fix it. Consider these two responses: “I’m so sorry I messed up,” or, “You are right. I made a mistake. It won’t happen again.” (Additional tips on word choice can be found in my book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.)     

I’m sorry (no, I’m not!) if you don’t like either of those choices. There is another alternative. According to author Rachel Vincent: “Chocolate says ‘I’m sorry’ so much better than words.”

I post regularly on communication and etiquette. We can connect via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or my website: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. (bpachter@pachter.com)