Keep It In Your Pants. Your Phone, That Is

They’ve truly thought of everything. July is now dubbed Cellphone Courtesy Month, though it is worth noting that we should all consider being courteous for the other eleven months of the year, too.

To mark this newly minted awareness month, and hopefully spark good cellphone decorum all year-round, TELUS recently surveyed Canadians to gauge their thoughts on cellphone etiquette.

When Canadians were asked “when or where is it completely unacceptable for others to use their smartphone”, more people indicated movie theatres than funerals (12 per cent versus. 10 per cent, respectively).

Face to palm. The data suggests that we don’t have a cell phone etiquette problem so much as a crisis of humanity.

The survey showed that respondents overwhelmingly admit to using their smartphone to tune someone out, or to avoid conversation. Fully 75 per cent of people said they purposefully use their smartphone to tune people out and nearly a third (30 per cent) even admitted to doing so on the day they were surveyed.

The survey also found that we are twice as likely to whip out our phones around family and friends (83 per cent) than we are when we are at the office (40 per cent).

More than half (54 per cent) of respondents said that if their counterpart whipped out their phone on a first date, there wouldn’t be a second one. In fact, 16 per cent said they would end the date early if their companion couldn’t keep it in their pants (their phone, that is).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: don’t do things with your phone that you wouldn’t do in the flesh. Sitting at a dinner table, what’s the harm in squeezing in a sneaky text, right? But would you, at that same table, ignore the friend you’re in mid-conversation with, and strike up a new conversation with someone you recognize behind you? Maybe you’re bored at a wedding (I know, I know, some speeches go one longer that an Academy Award acceptance) and want to know how the Jays game is going? Checking the score on Twitter is akin to speaking over the person who is talking, and asking someone what’s up with the game.

Here’s the thing: this isn’t really new territory. Our phones have been welded to our hands for a few years now. It is looking like they’ll stay there, so we need to figure this out. Tricky. Very trickaaay.

Know that feeling of rebuff when someone turns their attention away from you and straight into their little screen? It doesn’t feel good at all. Being slighted, in any way, stings. So back to basics and the good news is that it is wonderfully simple: treat others the way we all want to be treated. All 12 months of the year.

If this topic really hits home for you and makes you want to confess for phone manner misdemeanors, there is salvation on the way. TELUS is inviting Canadians to come clean and share their cellphone etiquette confessions this July on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #keepitinyourpants.

(Originally published on The Huffington Post Canada, July 2014)

The Art of Hosting

The Art Of HostingBy Karen Cleveland
Photography by James Pattyn


There is something undeniably satisfying about feeding people you love. If your go-to dinner party plan consists of ordering take-out and eating on the couch, step up your game with these hosting guidelines.SET THE TABLE: Place dinner plates in the middle of the setting. Glasses go on the right side of the plate–first the water glass, then the wine glass. Place side or salad plates to the left of dinner plates.
Forks go to the left of plates; knives, then spoons, go to the right. Just to make things complicated, small cocktail forks go to the outermost right. Blades of knives face in towards the plate, and napkins go to the left of the forks.

NOW SET THE TONE: Anticipate your guests’ needs. Be ready to stash jackets, wet umbrellas and anything else they need to unload, and welcome them into a clean, tidy, cozily lit place. Washrooms should be spotless and fully stocked with provisions like toilet paper, soap, clean towels and a scented candle. Immediately popping a welcome cocktail into your guests’ hands won’t hurt, either.


LIBATIONS: Aperitifs are meant to open up and stimulate the appetite. (Cocktail trivia: the Latin word aperio means “to open.”) For a refreshing start to the meal, offer a Campari and soda (with a twist of orange) or a glass of champagne. Avoid anything too intense that could singe the palette. After dinner you can serve digestifs, such as scotch, brandy or port. Darker and typically higher in alcohol than aperitifs, these nightcaps are meant to help digestion.

HOW TO SERVE AND CLEAR: Serve your guests from their left and clear from their right. Typically women are served first, starting with the eldest through to the youngest. Once the ladies have been served, dole out to the gents, starting with the most senior. Or, if there is a guest of honor, begin with him or her and serve clockwise from there. Alternatively, you can serve family-style: place serving dishes on the table and let guests help themselves.

KEEP A HAWK-EYED POST: Keep an eye on your guests to ensure they have what they need. Keep their wine and water glasses topped up and ensure that dishes, sauces and condiments make their way around the table to everyone. Offer guests second (or third) helpings and revel in their enjoyment. When everyone is finished the main course, clear everything from the table, except what’s needed for the dessert course, and tuck it out of sight in the kitchen. Then you’re ready for the grand finale of dessert, digestifs and coffee. At the end of the evening, make sure your guests are able to get themselves home safely.

(Originally published on 2 For Life Magazine, August 2013)


Guest post – Because I am a Girl

I am thrilled to be part of Plan Canada’s Because I am a Girl program. I am currently fundraising for this incredible cause and shared my tips on how to raise funds (without ruffling feathers).

The etiquette of fundraising: How to ask your friends and family to raise money for a good cause

Karen Cleveland

Karen Cleveland tackles all things etiquette from the traditional to the taboo on her blog, Finishing School.

When it comes to fundraising, we often get asked the same question: “what’s the best way to ask friends and family to donate?”  That’s why we’re honoured to have today’s blog written by Karen Cleveland, who tackles all things etiquette from the traditional to the taboo on her blog, Finishing School. She sincerely believes good manners make the world a better place.


There is no shortage of great causes to support—though we can all sometimes feel like our philanthropic interests may outpace our social circles. Feel sheepish about asking for money? Worried about repeatedly hitting up the same folks? Where there is a will, there is a way. And you can continue to fundraise without becoming a social pariah.

Here are my 7 etiquette tips on asking your friends and family for a donation:

  1. Be knowledgeable about the cause you’re supporting. If you can speak with conviction  about it and your friends see how fired up you get, they will be more motivated to support you. Being able to answer their questions with ease, instills a sense of faith in those you’re approaching for donations.
  2. Get comfortable asking, and comfortable being told no. Maintain a ‘no hard feelings’ policy and never put people on the spot. If your request is declined, thank them anyway and move right along in the conversation.
  3. Mass emails or Facebook blasts get lost in the clutter. When we see we’re one of 150 people on a message thread, it begets apathy, as we assume the other 149 will give generously. Small group settings or face-to-face forums are great to tell people about what you are up to and gauge their interest.
  4. Use your discretion about what elements of your cause fit your audience. Your parents’ friends might not be the intended audience for a raucous cocktail party fundraiser – but they might jump to support the book swap you are organizing.
  5. Take varied approaches and respect the boundaries. If your company has a bulletin board for such purposes, use it to spread the word. Tweeting from your company’s twitter account? Not so good. Soliciting from someone who reports to you might be construed as bullish, so best to avoid.
  6. Understand the fine print. Is there a tax receipt available for donations? Are you asking your friend to sponsor you, or are you asking her to run 10km along with you? Anticipate the logistical concerns of those you’re speaking to and be able to address them.
  7. Thank people like it is your job. By supporting your charitable interests, someone has gone above and beyond for you, and that deserves a heartfelt thank you, in writing. Here’s a sample thank you message that you can modify.