Quoted in Fast Company (#pinchme)

I was really, really chuffed when @ambermac asked if I could answer some questions for Fast Company.

MEETING ETIQUETTE 101: FIST BUMPS, GOING TOPLESS, AND PICKING UP TABS

DON’T FORGET THESE RULES OF THUMB ON HOW BEST TO BEHAVE WHEN FACED WITH STICKY BUSINESS SITUATIONS.
BY 

With networking technology like LinkedIn’s “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” feature at our fingertips, we sometimes forget the importance of face-to-face interactions. We stumble when it comes to business meetings, tweeting from under a cafe table or fist bumping when a handshake would do just fine–making little mistakes that could cost us big business.

Here are four rules of thumb when it comes to proper face-to-face business etiquette.

1. SHAKE, HUG, OR FIST BUMP?

While it may seem inappropriate to hug a business colleague, it happens all the time. I’ll be the first to admit I’m a repeat offender, often bypassing an outstretched hand for a big embrace. Sure, it can be considered a warm gesture, but it can also overstep a line for some.

If you’re wondering how to start a meeting with a potential client or colleague, “a firm handshake, eye contact, and a soft smile while introducing yourself will do,” says etiquette adviser Karen Cleveland from mannersaresexy.com. Using the person’s name when meeting can also help you better remember it, she suggests.

If you’re a germaphobe or feeling under the weather, just be upfront and say you’re sick. Don’t go in for a fist bump instead. “Unless the person you’re meeting comes in for a fist bump, leave the college affectations for the kids,” says Cleveland.

2. REACHING FOR YOUR PHONE DURING A MEETING

When your meeting is underway, it’s important to stay on track. Too often we find ourselves reaching for our phones, interrupting the flow of conversation, without even noticing what we’re doing.

Cleveland recommends what she calls “topless meetings.” She isn’t talking about taking your shirt off, to be sure, but rather keeping all devices off the table to avoid distraction. “It … does wonders for removing the temptation to squeeze in a text or email when our attention should be on the meeting,” she says. “It’s similar to grade school: If you don’t want to share what you’re doing with the rest of the class, then don’t bring it.”

If you are bringing a device to a meeting, an iPad always seems less intrusive than plopping a laptop up on a table. What’s more, your tablet could be a great tool to illustrate something quickly.

3. PICKING UP THE TAB

When it’s time to pick up the tab, do you insist on paying or graciously accept a free lunch or coffee? Dorenda McNeil, a business etiquette trainer and principal at Counsel Public Relations, offers the following tips to help navigate that awkward moment when the bill arrives:

  • DINNER WITH A CLIENT OR CUSTOMER

    Unless your guest is from a company that has a strict policy limiting acceptance of gifts or perks, always pay for dinner or lunch–especially if you invited them.

  • LUNCH WITH YOUR COLLEAGUES

    If you’re having a lunch with three other co-workers, add the tip (20%) and split the bill four ways. It doesn’t matter if you only had a salad.

  • COFFEE WITH A MENTOR

    Have you asked someone for an informational interview or are you requesting a reference? The person who stands to gain the most out of the meeting should automatically offer to pay.

  • A BITE WITH THE BOSS

    If your supervisor or boss invites you to lunch, it’s probably safe to assume they’re treating. However, it’s still polite to offer to split the bill and follow-up with gratitude (and don’t order the most expensive item on the menu).

4. CANCELING A MEETING

If you’re breathing, you’re busy. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but the truth is we’re all juggling a million things and sometimes meetings have to be canceled. “Give your colleagues the same attention and respect you would want,” says Cleveland. “Don’t use busyness as a crutch for bad manners.” If you do have to cancel a meeting, give the person you’re meeting with as much notice as possible. What’s more, if your day is simply too packed to meet in person, consider video chatting on Skype or Google+ Hangouts.

It’s easy to let manners slip, especially when we’re constantly bombarded with information. Don’t forget to put your best foot forward when you’re taking the time to meet a person face-to-face. It will pay off in the end.

[Image: Flickr user cogdogblog]

Before your hot Valentine’s date

Groomed? Smell good? Have a nice outfit? Ready to kiss all over town? Good for you. Love is grand. Since you’re already up to speed on dating decorum and swear not to Instragram your dinner, consider grabbing a few of these goodies before walking out the door.

Such a tiny package brings such salvation. The one time you don’t have floss is the one time that piece of spinach will bind itself in between your teeth.

 


Have cash to pay for parking, cabs that don’t take cards and those hipster restaurants that only take paper.

 

 


Don’t let slushy streets and sidewalks mess with your mojo.These handy wipes get rid of salty and muck in a flash.

 

 

Bring your phone not so you can text on it all night or Instagram your dinner, duh (please dear God and Cupid don’t take a photo of your dinner) but so you can smartly map where you’re meeting and get there nice and early.

Last Minute-ish ideas for Valentines Day

If you haven’t been hit over the head with onslaught of bad chocolate and tacky lingerie, count yourself lucky. Then come out from under the rock you’ve been living under, and concede that Valentine’s Day is here.

And if you hate on it, you can rest assured that you’re in good company, lots of people think Valentine’s Day is overblown and lame. But your honey might not give a hoot about how commercial or stupid you think February 14 is — they might still be hoping you do something, anything, to mark the occasion. You need not feel like a sell-out or go broke in the process.

Best bets for late (ish) Valentine’s Day gifts

Really, really good quality chocolate

  • Pro tip: if you can buy it alongside dish detergent and cat litter, you’re not buying good enough chocolate.


Something fun to do together

  • How do you want to spend an evening together? Getting rubbed down for a couples’ massage? Seeing a great band or comedian together? Taking a wine tasting class? No need to take one for the team, find something that you’re into, too.


A gift that gives all year long

  • Get pregnant! Kidding. Magazine subscriptions or loading up your lover’s e-reader with really great content will have them swooning all year long.

Get outta here

  • Go out of town and make out in a new, undiscovered territory. You need not go far to feel miles and miles away.

 

 

 

Niagara Icewine Festival Survival

Bundled up to brave the frigid Lake Effect temperatures, standing a stone’s throw from the frozen river bed — all for the sole purpose of drinking icewine. I’ve never felt more patriotic.

I wrote about the must do’s to hit during the Niagara Icewine Festival, so here’s a few things to pack.

Icewine Fest Survival

Check out Canada Goose, Burt’s Bees, Malin + Goetz, Balzac’s and The Hudson’s Bay.

 

 

 

 

Five Sweet Things to Do at the Niagara Icewine Festival

Niagara Icewine Festival 2014

If you thought that maple syrup was Canada’s most valued liquid gold, think again. Icewine, the dessert wine crafted from grapes that have been allowed to freeze on the vine, inspires fervent devotion that’s distilled each winter at theNiagara Icewine Festival. The 19th annual celebration of the sweet, amber-hued alcohol started earlier this month, but there’s still time to take in all the oenophilic fun on its final weekend, January 24 to 26. Bundle up and get ready to enjoy some of the region’s award-winning vintages while partaking in its warming hospitality.

 

Visit Winterfest in The Square
A few minutes drive from Niagara-on-the-Lake proper, the city of St. Catharines hosts a free gathering Friday evening (January 24) in its historic Market Square. Check out the farmer’s market, live entertainment, local food trucks and, of course, a stellar selection of VQA wines.

Drop by Peller Estates’ Backyard
Chef Jason Parsons has had a ball crafting an icewine-focused menu at Peller Estates Winery. Sample icewine hot chocolate and icewine suckling pig, then finish up by roasting icewine marshmallows over an outdoor fire. Reservations are not required, but an appetite is.

Learn About Soil Over Pumpkin Pie
The vineyard at Coyote’s Run Estate straddles two very distinct soil types, allowing the winery to create its Red Paws wines (from vines grown in iron-rich red clay loam) and Black Paw wines (from, you guessed it, darker soil laden with organic matter). Let veteran winemaker David Sheppard teach you some geology basics over spiced pumpkin pie paired with its 2009 Riesling/Vidal icewine, a rare gem with only 110 cases produced.

Enjoy a Consummate Locavore Meal
Settled into its new NOTL location after years in Port Dalhousie, Treadwell is the perfect spot to seek shelter from the Icewine Festival’s bustle. Open for brunch, lunch and dinner, the restaurant’s farm-to-table menu is fresh, simple and jaw-droppingly delicious. The thoughtful wine list boasts some fantastic small-batch producers that aren’t represented at the LCBO.

Have the Run of the Region
While you can pop in and out of festival-affiliated wineries and restaurants, investing in a Discovery Pass offers exceptional value. The $40 pass is valid Friday through Sunday and entitles its wielder to eight food-and-wine experiences offered by a selection of more than 40 participating venues—from an onion soup and Riesling icewine pairing at Cattail Creek Estate Winery to spit-roasted porchetta with apple icewine sauce at Reif Estate.

 

(Originally appeared on Where.ca, January 2014)

Have Canadian Manners Gone to Hell?

Have Canadian manners gone to hell?

The nation’s polite reputation in jeopardy, say experts

At The Petite Syrah café in Nice, posted prices for coffee vary based on a patron’s manners.
At The Petite Syrah café in Nice, posted prices for coffee vary based on a patron’s manners. PHOTO: FABRICE PEPINO

If the reputational cost of bad manners isn’t enough to encourage decorum, how about having to pay an extra $8  for a coffee?

A café in France recently made headlines for issuing a price scale based on patron etiquette: “Hello, one coffee, please” was listed at the usual price, while the more blunt “One coffee” was advertised at a premium. Though the sign was designed to make a point, people’s enthusiastic reaction to it is sparking renewed debate about the decline of civility.

Even here in Canada, where politeness is a flywheel of national identity, surveys consistently suggest we’re becoming less courteous, more self-involved, and increasingly prone to boorish behaviour – whether in the workplace, in public spaces or on social media. The question is, can anything be done about it?

“The reality is that things have to escalate to a point of pretty significant severity before a court is going to address it,” said Garry J. Wise, a Toronto-based lawyer. “It’s very, very difficult to enforce (civility) in the absence of an ongoing pattern.”

Internationally, however, that’s not the case.

Prone to road rage? Best not drive in Germany, where disrespect is punishable by law.

Germany’s so-called “insult law” not only criminalizes hate speech but also broad conduct showing disrespect for another person – including flipping someone off in traffic. In France, the state-owned railway tasked a team of “polite police” with cracking down on rude passengers after noting a 25 per cent increase in traveller complaints. And inSingapore, a person can be fined for everything from spitting on the sidewalk to not flushing a public toilet.

The lines are greyer in Canada, said Wise, with the onus largely falling on individuals and organizations to impose decorum.

“The willingness of an employer to jump in will vary from workplace to workplace,” said Wise, pointing to issues of harassment, sexism and racial slurs. “Sometimes, they’ll do what the law requires, but not necessarily for the purpose of solving the problem; it’s for the purpose of papering their file.”

Karen Cleveland, a Canadian manners maven, said the Canuck approach tends to be one of passive aggression as opposed to legal intervention. Take, for example, the time she forgot to silence her cellphone at the symphony and was met by “well-deserved glaring looks from other patrons.”

“We shame each other in a very Canadian, quiet, judgy way,” said Cleveland, who contends that etiquette in this country is headed down a scary path.

“Internationally, we enjoy a reputation as being a very mild-mannered people. Some days, that feels like nothing further from the truth – especially if you’ve had the pleasure of cramming yourself into a Toronto Transit Commission subway during rush hour.”

A 2011 poll of more than 5,000 drivers for the Canadian Automobile Association found 73 per cent of people believed road users were exhibiting more rude habits than in the recent past. And in a 2013 survey by B.C.-based Insights West, the majority of respondents had, over the previous month, witnessed public swearing (87 per cent), a child misbehaving without parental intervention (76 per cent), public spitting (72 per cent), and the use of cellphones during a movie (53 per cent).

Poor parenting was cited as a culprit by 93 per cent of respondents, followed by the influence of technology, at 84 per cent. Among Canadians 18 to 34, 70 per cent said someone had written something rude on their Facebook page, directed a mean tweet at them, or been disrespectful to them elsewhere online.

In recent years, however, a proactive approach to manners has begun to emerge.

To combat seat-kicking, phone use and other undesirable movie going activity, Cineplex relies on a pre-show campaign reminding Canadians to – in the words of spokesperson Mike Langdon – exhibit “the behaviour that’s generally preferred in theatres.” Read: Don’t be a jerk.

Prior to the Vancouver Olympics, volunteers participated in a kind of civility bootcamp, aimed at fostering such skills as attentive listening and conflict management. And looking to the nation’s bleachers, more than 65,000 Canadians have participated in Respect in Sport’s parent program, a behavioural training initiative – made mandatory by many sport bodies – designed to prevent infightingamong overzealous moms and dads.

Still, direct punishments for poor manners remain a rarity. In fact, Christine Porath, who has studied incivility for more than a decade, said the greatest costs – at least in the workplace – are suffered by the targets of incivility.

For instance, Porath finds 80 per cent of victims lose productivity due to worrying; 66 per cent incur a decline in performance; 63 per cent lose work time to avoiding the offender; and 12 per cent seek new employment. And the frequency is only worsening: in 2011, fully half of surveyed workers reported experiencing rude treatment at least weekly, compared to just a quarter in 1998.

“We’re not used to penalizing it,” said Porath, co-author of The Cost of Bad Behavior and an associate professor at Georgetown University. “We’ve always been about granting people liberties to be themselves.”

 

(Originally published on Canada.com, Jan 2014)

How Much to Tip Over the Holidays

The old adage that good help is hard to find has never been more true.. So when you are fortunate enough to receive it, acknowledge it wholeheartedly. All the people that make our life easy deserve a sincere thanks everyday of the year, but the holidays are the perfect time to show your gratitude.

Pull out a pen, a note card — and your wallet.

A brief hard-written card explaining your gratefulness and wishing a happy holidays will do. Tuck in some cash for either double the value that you normally tip, or for an amount equal to one typical service (so if your cleaner normally charges you $40 a visit, the holiday payment should be double that, with a nice card). Call it the “saving your ass all year long tax”. Money very well spent.

Here’s me further explaining on Global News

 

Decoding your office holiday party invitation

holiday cocktails

Festive? Cocktail? Or festive cocktail? The language of party invitations is key to cracking the dress code, well, code. Following are some cues to heed in your choice of attire. And heed away. There is a return to an interest in dressing with intent (thanks in part to a movement against ‘Casual Fridays’ getting too casual). Taking pleasure in dressing for a sense of occasion has triumphed over huffing about having to fuss with a suit or cocktail dress. Wear the hell out of that formal wear.

If you’re fortunate enough to be invited to an event that calls for black tie, why not fully embrace it? Wearing your best can be a point of pride, as well as a nod of respect to your host.

While you open your closet, consider falling nicely in the middle of the sartorial spectrum. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you don’t want to be the flashiest person in the room, but you don’t want to be the most underdressed.

Black tie|
Men

  • Black tuxedo jacket and trousers
  • Crisp white formal shirt with button studs and cuff links
  • Bow tie (or formal long tie, smart tie clip optional, as is pocket square)
  • Cummerbund or vest
  • Black patent shoes and black dress socks

Women

  • Floor length evening gown, or dressy cocktail dress
  • Evening heels or shoes (fabric over leather, often)
  • Formal accessories (not the handbag you schlep to the office, for example) and hair very done

Semiformal or Cocktail

Men

  • Dark suit
  • Crisp, pressed dress shirt
  • Tie, cuff links, tie pin if you’re feeling it
  • Leather dress shoes and dark dress socks

Women

  • Cocktail dress, top and skirt combination or smart pantsuit in an evening fabric
  • As dolled up in accessories as you like: jewellery, handbag and shoes
 
Business Formal - a slightly less smart or formal version of the above for both men and women
Festive Cocktail
Men
  • Relaxed cocktail attire, but a bit more ease. A vest over a dress shirt. Reindeer sweater is not required (be relaxed, but not costumey)
Women
Business Casual

Are jeans ok for business casual? If the function and occasion are more casual than business, then yes, but opt for your darkest, pristine denim.

Men
  • Blazer or sport coat in a seasonally appropriate fabric
  • Casual dress shirt (tie is optional) or collared polo
  • Loafers (if wearing socks, they should be good socks, not white gym socks. And hipsters may bare ankle as they see fit).

Women

  • Casual dress (nothing strapless or too precious) or a shirt with skirt or pant
  • Keep the business in “business casual” – nothing too slinky or bombshell
  • Wedges, modest heels or a smart flat (look no further than Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge for a study in casual)