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Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


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.

12.09.2018

Do You Talk Too Much? Let Me Count the Ways!

You talk too much, You worry me to death, You talk too much, You even worry my pet…

The above lyrics, from the song You Talk Too Much by Joe Jones, sum up a communication distraction that many people have in the workplace – not expressing themselves succinctly.

If you over-talk, you may limit your opportunities for advancement. Other consequences are that people may not want to work for you, or do business with you. 

Talking too much is not limited to individuals in any one profession. I have coached IT directors, chief financial officers, sales directors, and marketing managers who needed to learn how to express themselves in fewer words.

But you can’t eliminate what you don’t know you are doing. Pay attention to how you communicate. Do any of the following examples of over-talking apply to you?

1. Giving too much information. During a meeting, a supervisor was asked where he had bought his watch. Instead of saying something like, “At a great local store when I was on vacation in San Francisco,” he went into a five-minute monologue about searching six different stores to find the perfect watch. If people need more detail, they will ask you. One IT director eliminated a lot of the detail in his emails, but added a closing sentence: “If you need additional information, just let me know.” So far, no one has asked!

2. Using too many words. Instead of “Let’s get together next week,” the person might say, “I was just thinking that, you know, if you have some time and are not busy, we ought to get together next week.” Say what you need to say in as few words as necessary.

3. Repeating the same thing over and over. Make your comments, and then shut your mouth! Repeating your points can annoy others.  

4. Repeating what someone said in different words. Some repetition can confirm to the other person that you have heard what he or she has said. But in a group meeting, too much repetition can be viewed as one-upmanship – the need to let everyone know that you also knew that information.

5. Offering your opinion when it’s not necessary. This can happen if you don’t read the cues from other meeting participants that no more discussion is needed; or if you insist on offering additional points at the end of a meeting when everyone else is ready to leave. 

 6. Correcting when it’s not necessary. Do you feel compelled to point out small mistakes in other people’s information? You can come off as a nit-picker when you correct things of little consequence.

Once you realize that you’re an over-talker, you can work to eliminate this habit.

Ask a trusted colleague or coach to help. This person can point out when you are talking too much. You can also use your voicemail system. Listen to how you describe something on the messages you leave for others. If you are too wordy, redo the message. Or, come up with a unique solution that works for you. One manager puts the initials KIS at the top of his papers to remind himself to Keep It Short when he speaks at meetings.

Additional information on annoying communication habits can be found in my books, The Communication Clinic and The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success.

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

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.