Home | Seminars | Train-the-Trainer | Coaching | Keynotes | The Team | Buy Books & More | Client List | In the Media

Monday, April 13, 2015

Offended by a Comment? Try 3 Simple but Powerful Responses

A young woman quit her job after her boss made a disparaging remark about her. She didn’t confront him about the comment, but sent an email to her boss and her coworkers that contained a series of photographs of herself holding a dry eraser board. In each photo, the board displayed a different negative comment about her boss.

Many people in my seminars have told me similar stories about their clever ways of quitting a job or ending a relationship after they were offended by comments made by bosses, friends, or coworkers.

Using such a novel approach to resign from a job or to end a relationship may or may not be clever … but it is definitely passive. You are failing to act in your own best interest by not confronting the person. You can learn to be assertive and respond to offensive comments without attacking the person.

Try using one of the following comments when someone makes a distasteful remark. You may be surprised at the response:

 -Why are you saying that?

 -Help me to understand what you mean by … stupid/silly/dumb/whatever disparaging word was used.

 -I’m offended by your comment.

It is possible that the person will feel some remorse. I once asked a colleague, “Why are you saying that?” after he made a negative comment about another colleague. He thought for a second and then responded, “I guess I’m just being a jerk.” And that was the end of that.

If you confront someone directly, that person may stop making negative comments, or may regard you differently. Your relationship with the person may improve.

Of course, there is the chance that nothing you say will make a difference. But, as I discuss in my book The Power of Positive Confrontation, what do you have to lose by trying?

Unfortunately, many people will never know.  They quit their jobs or end relationships before they find out what might have happened.

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on conflict, assertive communication and business etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141856.751.6141 or

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Public-Speaking Challenge: Someone Is Sleeping During Your Talk!

What do you do when someone falls asleep during your presentation?

My first thought after being asked that question during a presentation-skills seminar was to recall the scene in the romantic-comedy film, Larry Crowne, where Julia Roberts throws an eraser at her sleeping student.

My second thought was, “You can’t do that in the business world!” However, since I have been asked about sleeping/daydreaming participants a number of times over the last few years, here are some alternative suggestions:

1. Don’t take it personally; sometimes people just need to sleep. A number of years ago, I had a woman sleeping in the first row of my seminar. I admit that it was a little unnerving. But she came up to me at break and said, “I am loving your seminar, but I had a migraine this morning and took my medicine, and I know at times it makes me drowsy. But I’m learning so much I want to stay, and I wanted you to know that.” I responded with a gracious, and heartfelt, “Thank you!”

2. Ask yourself: Are you making it too easy for people to doze off? Are you speaking in a monotone? Too softly? Is the room too hot? Too dark? Are your slides difficult to read? If any of these scenarios describe your presentation, some of your audience may fall asleep.

3. Walk around or near the sleeper. When you walk around your room, your activity may wake the person. Sometimes a participant sitting next to the dozing person will tap the sleeper.

4. Have you added any stories? Do not just hand out a collection of related data. Adding stories that support your information can enliven your presentation and keep your audience’s attention. To highlight the importance of the speaker’s making eye contact with the audience, I often tell the story of a judge instructing a witness to remove his dark glasses so the jury could see his eyes.

5. Call a break or have the group do an exercise. These options usually are possible during an informal presentation. Make sure you talk to the sleeper during this time to engage him or her. Additional information on presentation skills can be found in my book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat and Tweet Your Way to Success.

6. Ask the person a question. This can be risky. Do this very cautiously because you do not want to put someone on the spot. But if a person is just beginning to nod off or daydream, you may want to try it. Say the person’s name and then ask a question or ask for a comment, such as “Tom, you are the expert on budgeting; would you please add your comments on _____________.”

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on presentation skills, assertive communication and business etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141 or

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

4 Points to Consider About Saying ‘I’m Sorry’

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.”           

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.”

Additional tips on effective communication and word choice can be found in my book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success.

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on communication, assertiveness, business etiquette and presentation skills. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141 or

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ Committed by Workers

A colleague told me that she had to fire one of her employees because he hadn’t shown any initiative in her fast-paced, creative work environment. I thought for a second and responded that he had committed one of the Workers’ Seven Deadly Sins – the work traits that cause employees to be ignored, not promoted, or even fired.  

In today’s workplace, you want to be seen as a valuable and vital employee. You want to become someone with whom others want to work.

Ask yourself if you exhibit any of the following traits, and resolve to eliminate them if you do.

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

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

3. Not conveying enthusiasm for your job. Show interest in your work. Be eager to get the job done. Arrive on time, or early. Stay late when necessary. Avoid downbeat topics and stop complaining. Don’t criticize your employer, boss or co-workers on your social-media sites. If you are unhappy with your position, take action to change it – whether by talking to your boss, moving to a different department, or taking a position with a different company. The job market has improved, and according to a recent MarketWatch article, job openings are at a 14-year high.

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

5. Not offering to help. You need to do your work, but whenever possible you also should offer to help others. You come across as a team player when you do – somebody others want to work with. Plus, you learn new skills and meet new people. Added benefits!

6. Not having a professional demeanor. You want to convey a confident and credible image. Be aware of your verbal and nonverbal communication. Are you speaking too softly or too loudly? Are you dressing appropriately for your position? Do you use filler words (“okay,” “all right,” “like”) that take away from your comments? Additional information on professional presence can be found in my book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat and Tweet Your Way to Success.

7. Not connecting with others. People don’t like to work with colleagues who ignore them. Be friendly. Smile. Make an effort to say “hello,” “good morning,” and so on, not only to people you know, but also to those you don’t know. Engage in a little small talk with others.

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on career development, business etiquette and communication skills. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141 or

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Is Your Diction Affecting Your Professional Image?

A participant in a communication seminar told me about her experience in another training session, where the instructor used the phrase “All’s you gotta do.” After she heard that phrase, she stopped listening.

In the example above, the instructor’s use of language detracted from his message. 

I also have heard many people use substandard language that takes away from their professionalism. It may not be fair, but people often judge others on the quality of their diction. They may make negative assumptions about someone’s intelligence or education, based on that person’s word choice.

Consider the following phrases expressed during business conversations: 

-- Are youse finished with the project? Use just you. The word you is both singular and plural in the English language.

-- I'm gonna get it for you. Use I’m going to or I am going to.

-- Didja get to the meeting on time? Use did you.

-- All’s you gotta do. According to an article a number of years ago in the New York Times, all’s in this context started off as a contraction of all as, but generally it is considered a substandard word today. Instead of all’s, use all, and instead of gotta, use have to, so the phrase becomes All you have to do. 

-- Are you going with dem? Dem is not a word. Use them.

-- I attended the meetin. Make sure you pronounce the endings of your words. Say meeting.

And my favorite, although these words were said in a non-business setting: 

-- Jeet? No, didja? This should be expressed as: Did you eat? No, did you?

Sometimes, we may pick up the use of these nonstandard words from their use in marketing or creative fields. Think about the song I Gotta Feeling from the Black Eyed Peas, and its well-known line: I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night. Though I like the song, I would not encourage the use of gotta and gonna when speaking to others.

Monitor the way you speak. Do you use any of the above expressions? Years ago, I found out I was using gonna, and didn’t realize it until someone pointed it out to me.

Additional information on projecting a professional image can be found in my book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success (McGraw Hill).

Pachter’s communication seminars and coaching sessions also empower professionals to use language to their advantage. Contact Joyce Hoff at or 856.751.6141 for more information.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

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 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

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

He’s Still Talking! The Secrets to Managing Time When Presenting

Last week’s blog talked about how anyone giving a presentation could encourage questions from the audience. Participants in my presentation skills classes or coaching sessions also have a lot of interest in learning how to judge the timing of their presentations. I often hear comments along these lines:

My speech went over time. They hated me!

I panicked when I was told to add 20 minutes to my talk!

There seem to be two major concerns:

• How do you correctly calculate how long your talk will take? Many people misjudge their timing, and either go over their allotted time, or run out of things to say.

• How do you quickly adjust the length of your talk? What do you do if you are told, shortly before you are to begin, that you have either more time, or less, than you had anticipated?

Here are four suggestions that can help you address the problems of timing:

1. Prepare properly. If you have prepared what you want to say, you are less likely to ramble, which adds additional time to your talk, and you are less likely to forget material, which would shorten your presentation. In my training classes, participants use my Speech Organizer, which provides a visual representation of the parts of a speech, to structure their presentations and plan what they want to say.

2. Time yourself. Practice giving your presentation so you will know how much time your talk will take. Make it realistic. This needs to be done a couple of times so that you become comfortable with your material and your pacing. Timing your talk won’t be helpful if you are racing through it or stumbling over sections during your presentation.  

3. Know what to add or delete. Part of your preparation is anticipating time concerns, and knowing what material you can easily add to or eliminate from your talk. To add extra material, have at the ready additional research, statistics or stories that highlight your key points. The opposite approach is effective when you need to shorten your remarks. Know ahead of time what material is not crucial for your key points, and don’t discuss those items. Speaking faster is not a substitute for the elimination of material.

4. Get a signal. Arrange to have someone in your audience give you an unobtrusive signal to alert you that you have only a certain amount of time left.

If you like this post, check out the highly-acclaimed book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success (McGraw Hill). Additional information on presentation skills, effective communication, and etiquette can be found in this book.

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on presentation skills. Contact Joyce Hoff at or 856.751.6141.

 --An earlier version of this blog appeared almost two years ago. However, there were so many questions prompted by last week’s blog on presentation skills that I decided to update and reprise this one, which is one of my most popular blogs.