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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Dining Error Continuum: What Type of Dining Errors Are You Making?

Do you find it stressful when you are required to attend a business meeting that includes dining? Are you concerned that your manners will cause you embarrassment in front of your boss, customer or potential employer?

You are not alone.

A participant became upset during a class I teach on dining etiquette, believing that he had made a faux pas. I had corrected the placement of his knife – the blade of his knife had been facing away from his plate instead of towards it. Before I could calm him down, another diner said, “Oh, don’t worry. It’s just a misdemeanor!”

I thought, “He’s right.” There is a continuum of severity with dining errors, from serious mistakes to minor ones. And when people understand that not every error has major consequences, it can help people relax a little when dining out for business.

A fatal flaw is a serious breach of dining etiquette that is easily noticed by others and can cause you to lose business, a relationship or a job offer. These mistakes include getting drunk before or during the meal, holding your fork like a pitchfork, or talking with your mouth full. One man I heard about lost a $30-million contract because he licked his knife during a meal with a potential client.

A minor gaffe is a less serious breach of dining etiquette that may or may not be noticed by others. If noticed, it is unlikely that it will be held against you unless you commit a number of minor gaffes during the meal. These gaffes include using your neighbor’s bread plate, putting on lipstick at the table, or eating soup by dipping your spoon into the bowl and moving it towards you instead of away from you.

Of course, what seems a minor gaffe to one person may be a fatal flaw to another. There are stories of a famous businessman – some say Henry Ford, others claim J.C. Penney – who decided not to hire someone because he salted his food before tasting it. Ford/Penney, so the story goes, thought this indicated that the man made assumptions without knowing all the facts.

You want to come across as a polished professional when you are dining for business. Learning as much as you can about dining etiquette makes you less likely to make fatal flaws, and more likely to navigate a business meal with success.

Additional information on dining 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 dining, professional presence, etiquette and communication. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at or 856.751.6141.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Do You Want to be Noticed? The Power of Presence

I recently coached a woman who had flown in from Jamaica to meet with me about how she presented herself within her company. A couple of weeks after she returned home, she shared a story that highlights how her professional presence had improved.

“When I returned to work, I received many compliments on one of my outfits. I had worn that clothing to work 10 times in the past and no one had complimented me about it. No one! I believe what caused this difference was that after coaching, I was projecting myself with confidence and making my presence known!”

I was delighted, and my first thought was, what a great story to illustrate the power of that hard-to-define something we call presence.

What made the difference for her? There could be many things contributing, as Cary Grant, a former Hollywood leading man, once observed: “It takes 500 small details to add up to one favorable impression.” But I believe the following five items that we discussed were very important.  They gave her more self-confidence and increased her presence, resulting in others taking note of her – and her clothing – more favorably:

 1. Good posture. When you stand tall, you are more apt to be noticed.  It has little to do with how tall you actually are. You can stand tall regardless of your height.

2. Eye contact. When you look at people and make eye contact, they are more likely to engage with you. Many of us have a tendency to look away in an uncomfortable situation. By doing this, you are telling the other person that you are nervous. You don’t want to do that. Force yourself to look at the person – though you can occasionally glance away.    

3. Volume. You can usually add power to your presence by adding volume. When you speak loudly enough to be heard clearly, people are less likely to ignore your ideas.  Speaking too softly was a big area of concern for the business woman from Jamaica.

4. Offer your opinion. If you don’t express your opinion in meetings, people don’t know what you think. Preparing ahead of time for a meeting can help you to speak up with confidence.  Make sure you speak early in the meeting. The longer you wait to speak, the harder it becomes.

5. Confront others. Learning to confront others in what I call a “polite and powerful” manner allows you to speak up, express what’s bothering you, and feel good about it. Additional information on conflict can be found in my book, The Power of Positive Confrontation: The Skills You Need to Handle Conflicts at Work, at Home, Online, and In Life. 

Which of these items do you need to add to your image to help you experience the power of presence? 
Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on professional presence, etiquette and communication. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at or 856.751.6141.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Ways to Handle ‘Know-it-alls’ Without Insult

There is one guy in my office who is driving me crazy. He is always offering his opinion about my work, and believes his way is the right way. What do I do?  I want to respond, but I like him and don’t want to offend him.

“Know-it-alls.” There is one in every office. Clearly, the woman in my seminar who made the above comment was growing increasingly irritated by her colleague’s unsolicited input.  And when that happens, it can be tempting to say something like: How do you know so much about things you know nothing about?

But don’t.

Though that line may be funny, it also may be considered insulting. I suggest trying one of the alternative approaches below, which let these opinionated people know that their comments are not the final word – but don’t alienate them. You will speak up in a “polite and powerful” manner, and, as a result, feel good that you responded. These approaches include:

1. Asking the person to explain his or her opinion by saying something like:
-What information (or facts or data) do you have to support that position?
-Why are you saying that?

2. Acknowledging the difference in opinions by using lines like: 
-I have a different viewpoint about it.
-I have a different opinion, and here’s why.
-My research/information supports a different position. Let’s compare notes.

Regardless of the approach you choose, make sure you speak loudly enough to be heard, look the person in the eye, and do not have a negative tone in your voice.

Also recognize that both approaches may lead to a discussion. Be open to hearing other points of view. Sometimes even “know-it-alls” can be right.

Additional information on business communication 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 communication. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at or 856..751.6141.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

6 Reasons You Make Mistakes in Email, and One Simple Solution

During a recent business-writing class, a young woman told me, “I don’t proof my emails until after I hit send. I just want the email off my desk. It’s too nerving-racking otherwise.”

I was startled. After I thought about her comment for a moment, however, I realized that she was not unique in this behavior.  Others in my writing classes have expressed similar sentiments, though they may not have phrased them quite so bluntly. “Proofing after sending” is a pointless exercise, but it’s only one of the reasons that people have mistakes in their writings that could be fixed easily. 

Others include these five:

1. Forgetting that you are writing an email, not a text. After a job interview, one woman wrote her thank-you note on her phone, but at some point she forgot it was an email and used text shortcuts. She was later told that she didn’t get the job as a result. In business, you generally do not want to use text shortcuts in email.

2. Typing and walking. If you don’t want to run into walls, people or traffic, you need to concentrate on your surroundings when walking. It is difficult to look where you are walking and type an email at the same time, so it’s tempting to skip any proofing.

3. Not paying attention to spelling and grammar suggestions provided when writing email. Spell-checkers and grammar guides available on your computer or phone do not replace your good brain, but they may catch many of your errors.

 4. Ignoring the corrections made by autocorrect. One man meant to say “Sorry for the inconvenience,” but autocorrect changed the sentence to “Sorry for the incontinence.” Big difference!

5. Not realizing the impact mistakes can have on your career or reputation. Just about everyone makes mistakes occasionally, but if your emails routinely contain errors, your reputation will suffer, and the professional consequences could be serious. One young man wrote to me that his project was taken away from him because he consistently had typos on his posts. He was shocked that the quality of his writing mattered.

One simple solution
To catch your errors, you should read your message out loud syll-a-ble by syll-a-ble. If you read the words slowly, you are more likely to notice any missing words, wrong words, misspellings and wrong tenses of verbs. The reading should be done slow-ly, so you really pay attention to each individual word. If you speak quickly, you may get caught up in the meaning of your words, and can miss the mistakes.  As one engineer in my class said, “Unless I read slowly, I am reading what is in my head, not what’s on the screen.”

This suggestion will add only seconds to the time you spend on an email. Isn’t your reputation worth those few moments? I think so. There are, of course, numerous additional ways to proofread, but this one suggestion will help you to catch many of your errors.

Additional information on business writing 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. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at or 856..751.6141.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

6 Etiquette Rules for the Sidewalk…and Other Walkways

Etiquette rules for the sidewalk? Sounds strange, doesn’t it – but I’ll explain.

Recently, during my morning walk, I saw a woman with her friend heading towards me.  As we passed, the woman who was dominating most of the sidewalk failed to move over, and as a result jammed into my shoulder. Ouch!

I have heard similar stories from employees about navigating the hallways at work.

Sharing public space, whether it’s on sidewalks or in hallways, is a common cause of conflict, and an ongoing concern for pedestrians and office workers alike.

The New York Times wrote about this problem some years ago, and recently The Village Voice ran a tongue-in-cheek article about the (fake) New York Department of Pedestrian Etiquette, which would require all pedestrians to receive etiquette training for navigating the city’s walkways.

I don’t think most people who crowd colleagues or fellow pedestrians are deliberately trying to be rude – they’re often unaware of their behavior and how it affects others. Yet, if we want things to change, the change starts with us. The New York City etiquette training is not real, of course. But fortunately you don’t need official training to learn to negotiate common spaces politely. You simply need to follow these 6 guidelines:

1. Make room for others. If you are walking with other people and taking up most or all of the sidewalk/hallway, it is your responsibility to make room for any other person coming towards you.  In doing so, don’t wait until the last moment. Move over before you bump into someone.
2. Pay attention to your surroundings. When you stop to chat with people, don’t block the sidewalk/hallway. You should move to one side so others can pass. People shouldn’t have to walk around you or push past you.

3. Don’t walk and text on the phone. One professor said that students on their phones constantly bump into her in her school’s narrow hallways. She noted that when texting, her students become oblivious of others. And it’s not just students: One woman in Florida walked into the path of a freight train while texting! Amazingly, she survived. 

4. Don’t cut too closely when passing someone. Doing so can be startling to the person you are cutting in front of – and the heels of your shoes may be stepped on.

5. Greet people. If you make eye contact with someone, acknowledge them with a “hello” or “good morning,” a smile or a nod of the head. When you do so, you are letting them into your space and you are less likely to bump into them. Remember, you don’t need to know someone to say hello.

6. Don’t stop suddenly. People will bump into you.

Additional information on sharing space with others, and other common causes of conflict, can be found in my book, The Power of Positive Confrontation: The Skills You Need To Handle Conflicts at Work, at Home, Online, and in Life.

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on etiquette and communication. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at or 856.751.6141.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Be a Gracious Guest: 10 Ways to Avoid Making Dining Blunders

People can get nervous when dining for business. And for good reason. You don’t want to lose a deal or a job offer based on your dining manners. Yet, so often I hear about blunders that professionals make at business meals. Consider the following:

•  The manager who didn’t have a napkin at his place setting. Instead of asking for a napkin, he tucked the tablecloth into his pants. You guessed it – when he left the table, he pulled the cloth, and the dishes, off the table.

• The new associate who went out to dinner with her boss and a prospective client. At the table, she took her gum out of her mouth and put it underneath her dinner plate. She was no longer asked to attend dinner meetings.

Follow these suggestions to conduct yourself with poise and finesse when dining: 

1. Understand the purpose of a business meal. Remember that dining out with customers, clients, bosses, or prospective employers is a business-social activity. You may need to eat, but you are not there for the food. You are there for business.

 2. Don’t be late. Plan to arrive a little early. Greet your host and shake hands correctly.

 3. Don’t order messy meals. This includes spaghetti, lobster, and French onion soup. My mantra is: Order what you know how to eat, what you like to eat, and what is easy to eat. A business meal is not the time to experiment with new, unusual dishes.

 4. Check the menu ahead of time, if you have dietary restrictions. Many restaurants list their menus on their websites. If you are concerned about the ingredients in a particular dish, call the restaurant and ask how that food is prepared.  You’ll appear finicky if you spend a lot of time at the table trying to decide what to order.

 5. Order something in the mid-price range. If you order the most expensive item on the menu, you look like you are taking advantage of your host. If your host makes recommendations, you can order any of those items.

 6. Practice good table manners. Hold your knife and fork correctly. Understand place settings.  Have good posture at the table. Do not talk with your mouth full, and do not use the napkin as a Kleenex. And no grooming at the table – excuse yourself and go to the rest room.

7. Engage in conversation. Your host did not invite you just to see if you slurp your soup. It’s an opportunity for that person to get to know you. Are you someone he or she will be comfortable working with? Are you an upbeat person? Are you self-assured, with social graces? Finding areas of common interest can help establish rapport. Are you both into playing golf, traveling, or watching your kids play soccer?   

8. Don’t drink too much. You don’t have to drink, but you may want to enjoy a glass of wine during dinner when you are at a nice restaurant with your host. Stay sober.

9. Understand the bill-paying process. It is the host’s responsibility to handle the check. As a guest, do not offer to split the bill or pay the tip. Make sure you thank your host at the table, and then later send a thank-you note. 

10. Follow up with any promises you have made. You illustrate your reliability when you do.

Additional information on business dining can be found in my previous blog, Don’t Take Your Neighbor’s Bread and Other Dining Suggestions, and my latest etiquette book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success. 

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on business dining. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at or 856..751.6141.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

7 Tips for Young Women in the Workplace

There has been a lot of interest lately centered on helping women succeed in the workplace.  Among the more high-profile endeavors: MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski seeks to empower women on her “Know Your Value” national tour, based on her book of the same name.  And Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, through her book, Lean In, and related website, encourages young girls and women to “lean in” to their ambitions and to speak up so their voices are heard.

I applaud these efforts and others, as many of the career-limiting factors that I began speaking about more than 20 years ago are still evident today, and affecting a new generation of young women.

Consider these young women:

• A newly appointed vice president who said that she had never thought about becoming a CEO until her mentor told her, “You could be running this place in a few years.”

• An unmarried college student who decided not to become a physician (her career choice for many years) because she wanted to “have a life.” She hoped to marry and have children, and decided that she couldn’t have a successful family life and a career as a physician.

• The young woman who became all-but-invisible in her office because she rarely voiced her opinion.  On the rare occasion when she did say something, she spoke so softly that no one heard her.

• The (formerly) successful businesswoman who said, “My husband does very well. I don’t have to work.” Yet she was bored at home and missed the challenges she had encountered at work.

Though these examples touch on very different scenarios, they highlight how women can hobble themselves and restrict their careers through their own actions. Before women can take control of their lives and their careers, they have to recognize what they are doing to handicap themselves. Here are my suggestions:

1. Don’t set limits on yourself. Be open to opportunities. Aim high. More and more women are advancing in the workplace. You can be one of them. The vice president cited above noted that once her mentor expressed the possibility of her advancement, she began thinking that she could become the CEO of her company.

2. Don’t limit your options based on an unknown future. No one knows what the future will hold. There always will be obstacles, regardless of your choices. If you are smart enough to advance, you will be smart enough to find solutions. I know a number of career women, including physicians, who successfully balance having children and a career.

3. Appreciate history. Learn about the struggles of women in the past. Had it not been for the efforts of women before you, many of the opportunities that you have today wouldn’t exist. I wouldn’t have been hired by the Philadelphia Bulletin in the late 1970s as that newspaper’s first female photojournalist (my first profession) had it not been for the women of the New York Times who fought for parity in the newsroom. A Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, the late Nan Robertson, wrote about the lawsuit in her book, The Girls in the Balcony.  Oprah Winfrey said, “I have crossed over on the backs of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman and Fannie Lou Hamer and Madam C.J. Walker. Because of them I can now live the dream. I am the seed of the free, and I know it. I intend to bear great fruit.”

4. Learn from others. Have role models and mentors. What have they done that you can incorporate into your career? A woman in one of my seminars had four young sons, worked full time, and still found the time to earn her MBA. To help manage family and career, she had a to-do list that included weekly family meetings to discuss the upcoming week’s activities.

5. Support and encourage your friends and colleagues. Madeline Albright, first woman U.S. Secretary of State, said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” Sometimes, telling a colleague that “You can do it!” will encourage her to go back to school. Helping a friend out when she needs an emergency babysitter may allow her to attend her night class. Remember, there’s truth to the saying, “what goes around, comes around.”

6. Pick the father of your children wisely. Once you have children, life gets more complicated. You will want someone who is a partner in every sense, someone who supports you and your career.

7. Present yourself assertively. Learn what you are doing, verbally and nonverbally, that could be detracting from your power. Speak up and let people know your opinions. Ask for what you want. There are numerous classes and books available that can teach you to present yourself assertively, including my free Special Report: 5 “Power” Essentials Every Working Woman Needs to Know, and my book, The Power of Positive Confrontation.

There is not one perfect career path for everyone, but you want to be in control of your career. Explore your options, and think about what you really want. Why not go for it? You may be surprised at how successful you will be!

Pachter & Associates provides women's seminars and coaching for business women. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at or 856..751.6141.