I was at Home Depot with my husband recently and I left him alone in the gardening department for 5 minutes so I could go look at a new pot for our garden. When I came back, he was having an in-depth conversation with his new best friend, some random person he had just met. My husband is a bit of an extrovert and loves to chat it up with people where ever he goes. I, on the other hand, am more reserved, maybe a bit of an introvert. Are you like this too? Reserved, maybe an introvert?
I know HOW to have conversations with people, it just doesn’t come as naturally to me as it does my husband. Over the years I’ve developed skills to help with the art of conversation and small talk and I’m going to share them with you.
By the end of this blog post you will have the tools to be a better conversationalist. This is important because it will help you be more confident and poised in social as well as business situations.
Many of us feel nervous or awkward walking up to someone to make an introduction. Here's a trick you can use to help you feel less self-conscious as you approach someone. Act as if you are the host with a focus on the other person’s comfort. This takes the focus off of you and your nerves.
How you introduce yourself will depend on the type of event or situation. Providing context in an introduction opens it up for a conversation. Here’s what I mean:
Forgot a name
I wish we all walked through life wearing name tags. It would make it so much easier to call someone by their name. Here are some ways to help remember the name of someone you have just met.
When we meet people in North America, we extend our right hand as a greeting. Keep in mind that not all cultures practice this tradition so be aware of that as you meet people. Also, Covid changed how we think about handshakes. Watch for these cues to see if they are comfortable shaking hands:
It’s good to have some conversation starters in mind before you go to an event. These will be slightly different for a business event vs. a social event. When you start with some basics the conversation will flow from there.
Ideas for a business event:
Follow Up Questions
There’s a saying that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. The key to being a good conversationalist is being a good listener. Here are some phrases you can use that will make you come off as a great conversationalist with very little effort on your part. Remember, these only work if you’re actually listening. When someone is talking, you can respond with follow up questions like:
Some would say small talk is silly or unnecessary but it’s actually one of the building blocks to a more meaningful conversation. You’re not going to jump into a serious conversation as soon as you meet someone. Having some topics in mind will allow the conversation to flow easily.
One of the keys to small talk is to be informed about current events and things going on in your community. A few ideas to discuss are sports, the arts, a new restaurant in town or ask them if they've traveled recently. Also, people love to talk about themselves, so ask them questions.
Keep in mind that there are certain topics to avoid. Avoid talking about personal issues such as finances, health, family or personal relationships. Save those topics for close friends. Steer clear of discussing religion or politics. People typically hold strong positions on these topics and you’re not going to change their mind. Plus, you run the risk of offending them. Also, refrain from discussing money. This includes salaries as well as the cost of things. Not everyone is comfortable talking about this, so save those topics for your closest friends.
Ending A Conversation
There is a bit of an art to ending a conversation. To avoid monopolizing someone’s time at an event you should be mindful of the amount of time you are spending with them. If you’re not one to think on your feet, have phrases in the back of your mind ready to go. Here are some suggestions for ending a conversation:
As you can see, there's a bit of a theme here to be a good conversationalist: Preparation. By having simple topics and phrases in mind for each part of a conversation you will be more confident and poised even if you’re just at Home Depot chatting it up with a fellow shopper.
Etiquette plays a crucial role in creating a productive and respectful meeting environment. Here are some guidelines to follow for a successful meeting:
When asked to RSVP to a meeting, do it promptly. It will allow the organizer to know who will be attending. Plus, it will give them an opportunity to reschedule, if not enough people can attend.
Arrive on time. Being late disrupts the flow of the meeting and shows a lack of respect for others' time.
How long should you wait for someone who is late for a meeting?
It can vary based on the type of meeting, the person and your schedule. If it’s 10 minutes into the meeting time and they haven’t arrived, I suggest a call or text to them to confirm that the meeting is still on. For a business meeting, I would probably request to reschedule if they haven’t arrived after 15-20 minutes. I suggest confirming meetings the day before as a reminder for all involved.
Late for a meeting
If you’re running late for a meeting, let the person who you are scheduled to meet with know as soon as possible. If you will be more than 15 minutes late, ask them if they would prefer to reschedule the meeting.
Preparation for a meeting
Review the agenda and any relevant materials beforehand so you can actively contribute to the discussion.
If it’s appropriate, take notes during the meeting to capture key points, action items, and decisions. Bring something to take notes with. This can be an iPad, laptop or good old paper and pen. To give your notepad a polished and professional look carry it in a portfolio folder. Avoid taking notes on your phone because this can give the impression that you are scrolling through social media or checking emails.
Presenting at a meeting
Confirm how much time you will have for your report or presentation and that you are on the meeting agenda. Prepare well in advance, so you’re not scrambling to put it all together last minute.
If using electronics for your presentation (e.g., Power Point, videos, etc.), arrive early to the meeting to make sure everything is working properly. I suggest having a backup on a thumb drive or easily accessible in a cloud storage like Dropbox or Google Drive. This is insurance against any issues with the devices in the meeting space.
During a meeting
Minimize distractions by silencing your phone and keeping it out of sight. If you are expecting an important call that you must absolutely take, let the meeting organizer and attendees know you may need to step out during the meeting to take the call.
Stay on topic. Stick to the agenda items and relevant discussions. Avoid going off on tangents that waste time.
Be considerate of everyone in the meeting and avoid monopolizing the conversation. Allow everyone to have a chance to speak. Be respectful and professional if you don’t agree with someone. Avoid personal attacks and focus on the issues at hand.
Stick to the allotted time for each agenda item. If more time is needed, suggest adding it to a future meeting.
Avoid multitasking and focus on the meeting rather than working on unrelated tasks. This shows respect for the presenter and other attendees.
Eating during a meeting
Eat at meeting only if it is a meeting where food is being served. Do not bring food to a meeting unless you were told to. For example, “We’re having a brown bag lunch meeting next week.” This goes for Zoom meetings too. Please do not eat on camera during a Zoom meeting. If you must eat, turn your camera off. No one wants to watch you eat on screen.
Speaking of Zoom
I have one rule for Zoom meetings: Behave at a Zoom meeting the same way you would be behave if the meeting were held in-person.
Remember that the specific etiquette guidelines might vary based on the nature of the meeting, your organization's culture, and other factors. The goal is to be respectful, engaged, and considerate of others throughout the meeting process.
Many of us traveling this time of year have the good fortune to be an overnight guest in someone’s home. Here are some things to consider to ensure you get invited back.
First Things First
Wait to be invited. If you're traveling to an area where you have family or friends, don’t assume they are able or willing to host you as an overnight guest in their home. Also, if someone has a beach, lake or mountain home, don’t presume you can schedule a time slot that coincides with your vacation days. They are not running a hotel. Let them know you will be in the area and wait for them to offer. The exception would be if they have offered to host you when you are in town. In that case, go ahead and ask if it would be a good time to take them up on their offer.
Please do not ask to bring your pet. You want to avoid putting a gracious host in the uncomfortable position of having to tell you “No.” If you absolutely can’t travel without your furry friend, ask if they know a good pet boarding facility in the area. This will give them the opportunity to include your pet in the invitation to stay in their home. Keep in mind that asking may be appropriate depending on your relationship. It would be okay to ask about bringing your pet with a close family member or friend.
If they have pets, do not ask them to keep them in another room because you are allergic. Remember, this is their home and you're a guest. If you are highly allergic to their pet, you may want to consider staying elsewhere.
Communicate These Things Early
Discuss the length of your stay and make sure it fits into the host’s schedule. Don’t impose your vacation time on them. Agree on a definite start and end date and time for your stay so everyone is on the same page.
If you have food allergies or restrictions, let the host know in advance and offer to bring any special foods you will need. Please don’t expect the host to be able to accommodate your food restrictions at every meal. Instead, offer to prepare food that you can eat. A nice touch would be to make enough to share with others.
Follow These House Rules
If your host will be working during your stay, ask about their schedule. Avoid any activities that will keep them from that schedule. Be considerate of their morning and bedtime routines.
Keep your room or space tidy and pick up after yourself. The host won't want to walk by your room and see a disaster zone. Keeping a clean space shows respect for their home.
Keep the bathroom clean; especially if you are sharing it with them or other family members.
Clean up after yourself if you are preparing food in the kitchen.
Other Ways To Make A Good Impression
Bring a small hosting gift with you to give when you arrive or at the end of your stay. Another option is to send a gift after your visit. *See the list of ideas for hosting gifts at the end of this article.
Offer to buy groceries or chip in for them. You can also arrive with groceries to help defer the cost of any food you will be eating.
Offer to prepare or take them out for a meal. This is a nice gesture and would be a treat for any host. If you do prepare a meal, do all the clean-up so the host won't have to lift a finger.
At The End Of Your Stay
Ask if they would like you to change the sheets or strip the bed at the end of your stay. It’s always best to ask since every host has their own preference. If asked to strip the bed, leave the sheets folded at the foot of the bed and put the comforter or bedspread back in place, unless given different instructions.
Also, ask what to do with the used bathroom towels.
Lastly, send a handwritten thank you note when you get home, along with a small gift, if you did not give them one during your stay.
Keep these tips in mind and you should always be a welcomed overnight guest!
*Hosting gift ideas:
Airplane Etiquette is a hot-button issue right now. Traveling is not as glamorous or fun as it used to be. It’s become a stressful event that we do to get from one place to the other. Bringing kindness and consideration for others into the mix has the potential to make it more enjoyable for all. As we head into summer travels, here’s my take on what you should and should not do on an airplane.
Have your documents ready for the security screening
This should be obvious, but I’m always surprised when I see someone fumbling for their ID as they approach the security screening agent. Instead, get your ID ready to show as soon as you walk into the airport. Put it in an easy to reach pocket to be able to easily pull it out when you get to the front of the line.
Board the plane when your group is called
We were all taught in kindergarten to wait your turn. This is the grown-up version of that.
Don’t block the aisle as you get into your seat – put your items in overhead bin as quickly as possible so you don’t hold up the other travelers
This one is tricky because you want to make sure you have everything you need before you sit down. Try to pull out your reading materials and anything else you may need before you board the plane so you’re not holding up the line as you retrieve them from your carry-on. Another option is to place your items in the overhead bin and once everyone is settled, get the items you need at that time.
If asked to move your seat to allow families to sit together, go ahead and move unless you have a valid reason why you can’t or won’t.
I did a TikTok video on this and received a lot of backlash. If you’ve paid extra for your seat or selected a specific seat for comfort, legroom, whatever reason, no one would expect you to change seats. Plus, no one should ask unless you are exchanging like-for-like (i.e., aisle for aisle or window for window seat). If changing your seat is no big deal, just do it. I’ll bet you’ll make their day.
Reclining your seat
There’s a lot of chatter about this on social media. Should you recline your airline seat? My thought is, if the airline has seats that are reclinable, then they are meant to recline. Before you do, give the person sitting behind you a heads up. Recline your seat slowly, especially if they’re using their tray for food or beverage.
Armrests - Who gets them?
Evidently, there is this little-known rule: The person in the window seat has the view. The person in the aisle seat has the ability to come and go as they wish. The person in the middle should have the use of both arm rests as a consolation prize. This should be part of the announcements made before takeoff!
Don’t be a Chatty Cathy or Chatty Chad
Not everyone wants to have a conversation the whole flight and the rest of the plane doesn’t need to hear your life story. I was recently on a flight where to two men behind me starting chatting the moment they sat down. They did not stop THE WHOLE FLIGHT! Conversations like this disrupt people who may want to read or sleep. Please be courteous and keep your chatter to a minimum.
Use headphones when watching a movie
Most airlines require headphones when watching a movie and even make an announcement about it before takeoff. Bring your headphones or ask if the airline has a pair you can use.
Avoid bringing smelly food onto the plane
Strong smelling food in an enclosed space can be nauseating for some people.
When disembarking the plane, wait until it’s your turn
This is just like boarding the plane but in reverse. Wait your turn. If you are going to miss your connecting flight, notify the flight attendant and they may ask your fellow passengers to allow you to disembark first.
Be considerate to the flight attendant and follow any requests they make
They don’t make the rules but it is their job to enforce them. Be nice.
Be patient with other travelers and be prepared for minor inconveniences
Accept that part of traveling includes some inconveniences. When packing for your trip, remember to pack your patience too.
I believe we live in a world where kindness and consideration are valued and that’s what etiquette is all about. Even on an airplane.
Landing your ideal job does not begin and end at the job interview. What you do before and after can have as much impact as what you do and say during the interview. These tips will prepare and help you stand out from the other candidates during your job search.
These are the steps I teach in my business etiquette courses.
BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
Before heading into an interview, you need to do some preparation to ensure success.
Research the Company
Look at their website and review their Mission Statement, Leadership and Staff for topics you can discuss in the interview. Take note of any specific initiatives or projects highlighted on the website. Next, check out their social media for insight into their company culture. Ask yourself: Is this the type of company you want to work for?
Research the Position
What qualifications do you have that are relevant to the position? If you don’t have specific training in a certain area, look to see if it’s something you can improve on through classes or seminars. Have this information ready to share at the interview. Come up with a list of questions about the position.
Prepare for the Interview
Be prepared for common interview questions. Have your answers ready to respond to these types of questions.
Have some questions prepared to ask during the interview.
Check on the travel time to get to the interview so you aren’t late. If it’s an area you aren’t familiar with and it’s close enough, take a dry run of the travel route.
DURING THE INTERVIEW
Be on time. Yes, I know that sounds like a given but you would be surprised at the number of candidates who are late for interviews. I suggest arriving 10-15 minutes early to the location. This will allow time to walk in, use the restroom, if necessary, all without feeling rushed.
Bring extra copies of your resume and references even if you have already have a copy. Also, remember to bring a notebook and pen to take notes. Please do not take notes on your phone. It can give the appearance that you aren’t paying attention and instead are scrolling through social media.
Dress appropriately for the position you are interviewing for. Dress codes have evolved since the pandemic and in some job environments they have become more casual. If you’re unsure what would be appropriate attire, do a little research on the company website and social media accounts.
No matter what you wear make sure your clothes are clean and wrinkle free. Set out your clothes the night before. Inspect them for loose threads, stains or holes and either fix them or select something different to wear.
Have good posture, make eye contact and give a solid handshake. Not too tight and not too limp on the handshake.
Do not talk negatively about previous employers or co-workers.
Be prepared to share specific examples of work that you’ve done that are related to the position for which you are interviewing.
At the conclusion of the interview, ask if any additional interviews are required. It’s also perfectly acceptable to ask when to expect a decision.
AFTER THE JOB INTERVIEW
Send an email within 24 hours, thanking them for the opportunity to interview for the position. If they requested additional information during the interview, you can do so in the “thank you” email.
Some may say that a handwritten thank you note is obsolete but I believe it will set you apart from the other candidates. That is why I highly recommend that you send a handwritten note the next day, again thanking them for the opportunity and that you look forward to hearing their decision.
If you have not received a response within the time frame stated at the interview, a follow up phone call asking if a decision has been made is appropriate.
The bottom line is to do your research before the job interview and follow up afterwards. These two things will give you the confidence and set you apart from the other candidates.
Prom is a fun time for high school students to get dressed up, have dinner and dance the night away with friends. It can also be a time of confusion when it comes to the proper way to handle certain situations.
Here are some polite ways to handle tricky scenarios that may come up, along with general etiquette tips for the night.
What if someone asks you to prom and you don’t want to go with them?
You don’t have to go to prom or any dance with someone just because they have asked you. The important part is to let them know politely. You don’t want to embarrass them or announce to the whole school that someone asked you to the prom and you said "No". Be discreet and consider their feelings when you give them your answer.
If you had plans to go with a group or were not planning on going at all, let them know. If you were hoping someone else was going to ask you, be honest. You can say something like: “Thank you for asking, but there is someone I really like and was hoping to go with them. I hope you understand why I can’t go with you.”
What about a “Promposal” that you don’t want to accept?
Promposals are an elaborately staged request to be someone's date to a prom. Promposals are usually done in public so this can be tricky if you are declining the request. You don’t need to say “yes” just because they have asked you in front of others but you also don’t want to embarrass them. One way you can handle it, is when they do the big “Ask”, you can smile and say “Thank you for asking” and then whisper in their ear “We need to talk”. That should end the production and you can let them know your answer in private.
Note to those of you planning a Promposal: Before going to all the effort, you may want to put out some “feelers” with one or two of their close friends to see if they are even interested in going with you. This will help avoid any embarassment.
What if you agree to go to prom with someone and then a 2nd person asks and you want to go with them instead?
You’ve already said “yes” to the first person which means you originally wanted to go with them. That is, until the 2nd person also asked. The polite thing to do would be to honor your original commitment. You’ll probably end up having a good time without feeling guilty about ditching them. Tell the 2nd person that you’ve already accepted a prom date but would love to go out with them another time. That way you’ll still have an opportunity to go out with them.
Who pays for the prom?
Traditionally, the person who did the asking did the paying. Today this is a bit more flexible. The cost of prom tickets, dinner, outfits, limo, etc. can get very expensive so, it’s completely acceptable and a nice gesture if the person being asked offers to pay for part of the night. They can offer to either buy the tickets or the dinner or even offer to chip in for the meal or limo. Don’t be offended if they don’t offer. Just know that they are more traditional when it comes to these types of dates.
The key is to have this conversation right away. If you’re asked to go to prom and want to help with the cost, you can say something like: “That would be great! I look forward to a fun night. I’d like to pay for the ….. or chip in for the …..”
Tips for the night:
The tradition of showering the bride-to-be with items to start her new life can raise a lot of questions.
I’m often asked these three questions when it comes to bridal shower etiquette.
The etiquette around bridal showers is always evolving. What was once considered “proper” for your mother’s shower may not apply today. This information is for etiquette for showers from a western cultural perspective. Every country, culture and even families have their own traditions around this.
Who Hosts a bridal shower?
The host of a bridal shower is typically a friend or relative of the couple. Traditionally, the parents or immediate family of the couple did not host the shower because it could give the impression that they are “asking” for gifts for their children. Keep in mind that there are certain situations where it may be the only option.
The Maid of Honor or Bridesmaids should not be expected to host the shower. They already have other obligations and expenses as part of the bridal party. If they want to, they can, but it should not be a given.
Also, it’s completely acceptable for several people to Co-Host the shower.
Who to invite to a bridal shower?
The guest list typically includes close friends, family members and the bridesmaids.
Today, all genders can be included. It doesn’t need to be an all-female shower like in days past. It’s whatever the bride and groom prefer. In this instance, a co-ed shower would be called a wedding shower rather than a bridal shower.
The guests invited to the shower are typically also invited to the wedding. So, the host should check with the bride on the guest list. The exception to this would be if it’s a small or destination wedding where the guest list is small or if it’s a workplace shower.
When the bride or couple are having multiple showers with different guests lists, the bridesmaids can be invited to each shower but they should not be expected to attend all of them. If they choose to attend every shower, they should not feel obligated to bring a gift to each one. A lovely card with a handwritten sentiment or small gift is acceptable.
Do you invite co-workers to a bridal shower?
If the bride’s co-workers are also close friends, then absolutely include them in the shower. A group of co-workers may offer to host a shower for the bride and invite everyone who works there. In this instance, it would not be expected that everyone would also be invited to the wedding.
The idea behind this tradition of bridal showers is to help the couple prepare for a new stage in life. The shower should be a special gathering of family and friends to celebrate the honoree(s) and open gifts.
We’ve all been told not to put our elbows on the table while dining…but why? This is probably near the top of “Etiquette Don’ts” proclaimed by parents to their children.
In my dining etiquette classes and in my online videos I teach about this “No Elbows on the Table” policy. Every now and then I get asked: “But Why?”
Here’s the gist of why we have this on the list of etiquette “Don’ts.”
Earlier civilizations realized that placing elbows on the table invaded your table mates space and could be considered aggressive, having the potential to start a fight. According Margaret Visser, who wrote The Rituals of Dinner: The Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities, and Meaning of Table Manners, “People got scared when you started having bad manners.” So, the importance of staying within the boundaries of your knife and fork was stressed as good manners.
There’s even a reference to elbows on the table in the Book of Ecclesiasticus in the Bible 41:19 (aka the Wisdom of Sirach). “Before your neighbors, be ashamed of theft. Be ashamed of breaking a promise, of leaning on the dinner table with your elbows, of stinginess when you are asked for something.” So, if the good book talks about this, we should pay attention…right?
A more modern and practical explanation is that when you place your elbows on the table, you have the potential to block conversation between the people on either side of you. And you run the risk of getting food on your clothing. Nobody wants to explain to their dry cleaner why there’s a gravy stain on their elbow.
There are some who would give a certain allowance for placing elbows on the table. American etiquette expert Emily Post said that placing your elbows on the table in a casual dining situation is okay, as long as you are not eating or drinking. This allows you to lean in to the conversation at the table. Basically, she said it’s okay between courses.
Even though the “No Elbows on the Table” rule may have originated from a now outdated purpose of safety it remains a tradition that we teach in the etiquette world today.
That’s a great question! Many people think that etiquette is obsolete and manners are a thing of the past. Before we dive into that let’s talk about what manners and etiquette are. We use these two words interchangeably when they are actually two different things.
Consider etiquette as a code of behavior or guidelines to help us maneuver social situations. We use etiquette in just about every part of our lives without realizing it. (e.g., rules for driving, sports, etc….) Manners are how we live out these codes of behavior; how we treat one another. They can change over time and are different across cultures and countries.
Now that we know the difference between manners and etiquette, do they still matter?
I believe they do, now more than ever.
As of this writing, we’ve recently come out of a worldwide lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ve been sitting in front of our computer screens for the last three years dressed from the waist up to a “T”, while the waist down was more pajama bottoms with tea stains. Our interpersonal skills have become a little rusty from all those virtual meetings. Now that we’ve stepped out from behind the screens, our basic manners, like saying “Hello” to a co-worker when they walk into the room, are missing to some extent.
Manners and etiquette are not only for in-person interactions. Before Covid, we interacted with people from across the globe through social media and online platforms. As we’ve continued virtual meetings in many aspects of our lives, we are taking those global connections even deeper. To do this successfully we need to have a certain level of emotional intelligence. Having a self-awareness of how our actions and words affect others allows us to interact with anyone, without offending or insulting. Self-awareness is one of the core teachings in etiquette.
While practicing good manners allows us to be courteous, thoughtful, and civil toward each other. Knowledge of proper etiquette allows us to feel comfortable. When we know the code of behavior or “rules” in social situations we can be at ease and confident. This allows us to focus on our interactions with others, rather than what fork we should be using or which water glass is ours.
One of the reasons I’m passionate about etiquette is because it helps me be more self-confident in certain social situations. My passion for this became evident when we were all stuck at home during the height of the pandemic lockdowns. While everyone was taking up a new hobby or learning to bake sourdough bread, I started sharing tips about manners and etiquette on TikTok. I soon realized my content was resonating with people. It gave me great satisfaction to help people with their etiquette questions or dilemmas. I decided to become a certified etiquette trainer because I wanted to help people have that same confidence in social situations that I do.
The bottom line is that having good manners and knowing proper etiquette is not snobbish or elitist or stuffy or boring. Instead, they allow us to live in a society where we care about one another and our effect on them.
So yes, manners and etiquette still matter.
Suzy Lins is a certified etiquette trainer located in Southern California. Educating on manners and etiquette to help people gain confidence to master business and social situations is the core of her teaching.