Best to just ignore mother-in-law’s annoying posts on Facebook

Best to just ignore mother-in-law’s annoying posts on Facebook

Enthusiastic, ALL-CAP comments will give your other Facebook friends a chuckle

Our new online etiquette columnist, Karen Cleveland.

Our new online etiquette columnist, Karen Cleveland.

Wondering whether to like, block, pin or post? Our new online etiquette columnist, Karen Cleveland, will be answering your questions about life online. She believes manners make the world a better place — and your virtual life is no exception. Tweet her your questions: @SchoolFinishing

Help! My mother-in-law friended me on Facebook. Now she comments on every single thing I post, in ALL CAPS, all the time. How do I get rid of her and still get invited to Christmas dinner?

How great for your mother-in-law — and for all of your other friends on Facebook who might get a giggle from her enthusiastic commenting. It’s sweet that she’s taken an interest in your social life (see what I did there?).

Are her comments harmless and simply abundant? Is this really something worth addressing, at the risk of ruffling some delicate feathers? The comments you’re sweating speak for themselves. Anyone else reading them likely knows who is posting them and will likely laugh them off with an “aw shucks” lightheartedness.

Speaking of lightheartedness, you might want to steal a page from that playbook. You could also just consider posting less on Facebook. Or posting this advice directly on your Facebook wall.

What is the appropriate way to sign an email? My contact’s “warm regards” make me feel moist and clammy.

Emails without any sign-off are the worst — talk about leaving someone hanging. An email sign-off is great and an appropriate one is even better.

“Appropriate” is the operative word here, depending entirely on who’s going to receive the email.

On the scale of familiar to formal, Xs and Os must be reserved for your closest friends and family. “Sincerely” belongs on messages that would otherwise be most at home on paper, handwritten in ink. When I read a message signed with “cheers” or “ciao,” I pray those words are part of the sender’s everyday vocabulary (otherwise, it comes off as trying too hard).

The tone of “best” switches, depending on the punctuation that follows. “Watch this. Best, Karen” — looks nice, right? “Best. KC” — looks a bit bitchy.

The final consideration is that the sign-off should match the message. Plans for meeting up for a drink, ended with “sincerely” is incongruous, just like a job offer ending with “xoxo.”

Is it OK to Photoshop my Instagram photos? Lindsay Lohan does it.

Whatever Lindsay Lohan does is often a very good gauge for what not to do. The better question here is: Why Photoshop your Instagram photos? The friends who follow you will know that your waist has been whittled or your gams lengthened, so why bother? You’re not pulling any fast ones. Now, touching up a blemish is another matter.

Perhaps the better gauge is that, if a product can fix it up, then let tech do it for you (red eyes or a nasty pimple, for example). But photo modifications that would require surgery or a diet of fish and greens for four months aren’t fooling anyone. If you treat your photos the way Lindsay Lohan does, you just might welcome the sort of comments that are on her feed — and the eyerolls she gets offline, too.

I just got engaged. Should we be using a hashtag for our wedding tweets?

Congratulations! Of course you can use a hashtag for your wedding. You can also serve anchovies for dessert, it’s your party.

A hashtag helps consolidate all your guests’ photos for the night, so it’s a smart idea for the social-media savvy. However, not everyone will share your enthusiasm. In fact, for every guest hashtagging your beautiful centrepieces, two more might roll their eyes.

Who cares? If you plan your wedding with the intention of making everyone happy, you’ll be serving 100 different entrees and finding a gluten-free vegan paleo organic dessert. As a traditionalist (though of the modern variety), I think hashtagging your wedding takes an intimate event and turns it into something really, really public.

But hey, it’s your party. Hashtag if you want to.

Each week, etiquette expert Karen Cleveland answers your questions about life online. Tweet her your questions: @SchoolFinishing.

(Originally appeared in the Toronto Star, May 2015)

Kids at weddings: Tips for ensuring your kid rocks (not wrecks) the wedding

kids-at-weddings

It was a wedding Deb Oliveira-Godinho will never forget—though not for sentimental reasons. While the grown-ups focused on the beautiful ceremony, Oliveira-Godinho’s then-five-year-old daughter, Isabella—the flower girl—decided to entertain herself by painting her nails with red polish, courtesy of her cousin. Her white silk dress was ruined and the bride furious. “It’s funny now, but that day I was fuming, too,” the mom from Port Colborne, Ont., says.

When you mix young kids and weddings, there’s always the risk that calamity will mingle with the cute. So if your little one’s in a wedding party, here’s how to set the stage for success.

Know your child: Not every kid is comfortable in front of an audience, and while many couples love the charm of having children in their wedding, you know best. “If your kid isn’t meant for the job, it’s OK to decline,” says Karen Cleveland, a Toronto etiquette consultant. “You’re probably doing the couple a favour.” But if your child loves the spotlight and is excited to participate, go for it, but consider skipping some of the formalities, like the fancy updo—she’ll be better behaved if she can burn off some energy pre-ceremony instead of sitting in a stylist’s chair. And keep a watchful eye throughout the day, even if you know what kinds of things she’s prone to do (and not do). Kids can be unpredictable, especially when they’re bored.

Prep for success: Preschoolers’ attention spans are notoriously short. “It depends on the child, but many will change activities every five to 15 minutes,” explains Andrea Nair, a London, Ont., psychotherapist and parent educator. “During the ceremony, give him a job to do, like asking him to be the ‘tissue keeper’ for emotional moments, or taking photos with a little camera,” she suggests. Letting kids know what’s expected of them in advance can also curb issues on the big day: Watch wedding videos, do dry runs and practise picture-perfect smiles. If a babysitter isn’t an option for the reception, Nair recommends setting up some toys in an out-of-the-way corner to keep kids entertained.

But she doesn’t think bribery’s the way to go—no matter how tempting it may be. Instead, keep the mood light and fun to avoid creating power struggles. If your child sees you stressed out or frustrated, it will impact his mood and willingness to co-operate. Try using phrasing that gives him a little control in the situation. For example: “It’s time to take pictures. Would you be able to stand here, or here?” Adding some humour is bound to help, too: “What do you need to find your smiling face? Some tickles?”

Put parenting first: Be prepared to mix parenting with partying. Some restlessness during the ceremony is no big deal, Cleveland says, but if your child’s behaviour disrupts others, take him out of the venue. You can help prevent meltdowns by making sure your little flower girl or ring bearer is well rested, has a full tummy and has already visited the washroom, but Cleveland also suggests lightening up. “Parents often worry more than the couple does.”

When Annemarie Tempelman-Kluit’s sister asked her daughters—then ages four and six—to be flower girls in her out-of-town wedding, the Vancouver mom was nervous. It was a long flight, the wedding site wasn’t kid-friendly and no rehearsal was planned. “I felt the anxiety of not wanting my kids to ruin my sister’s wedding,” she says. Tempelman-Kluit talked through the importance of the day with her daughters and conducted her own mini-rehearsal at the venue. Everything went smoothly—which she attributes in part to the girls sharing the role. “They gave each other confidence,” she says.

Have a plan B: In case things get hairy at go-time, discuss alternative strategies with the bride and groom. Is it cool if you have to opt-out at the last minute, or are they OK with you walking down the aisle with your child?

Cleveland says it’s important to remember that weddings are fun celebrations, not flawless events. “Little quirks that come with having kids in a wedding are what makes it feel authentic and creates wonderful stories.”

 

(First appeared in the July issue of Today’s Parent, and online here)

“Good old what’s his face” – Canadian Business

Delighted to be quoted in Canadian Business, by the indomitable MrArdle.

Ask McArdle: Canned wine and Twitter feuds

And good old what’s his face

(Illustration: Peter Arkle)(Illustration: Peter Arkle)

There’s a guy in my office I’ve worked with for years, but I still don’t know his name. How do I fix this gaffe?

During my tenure with a government agency, there was a comely woman in my department. We worked on counterintelligence measures at the Ministry of Agriculture—let’s just say I encrypted, she decrypted. I could tell she admired the bristle of my moustache, yet I failed repeatedly to ask her name. This awkwardness continued for months, until I finally left an encoded letter upon her desk. And that, dear reader, is how I met Mrs. McArdle. For those not employed in state-sanctioned skullduggery, a more direct approach is warranted. “You can play the earnest card, or the humour card,” advises Karen Cleveland, an etiquette expert and proprietor of the delightful Manners are Sexy blog. Regardless, start by approaching the person with your hand extended, ready for a handshake. Then, either simply confess you are embarrassed to not know their name and introduce yourself or, if you are witty, make a quip about how “your memory recall started to go downhill at 25 years old.” (Cleveland warns “if you’re not funny, stick to the earnest approach, it will feel more authentic.”) If you are too sheepish for the direct approach, you can engage in a fact-finding mission by sneaking a look at their mail when it’s dropped at their desk. That way, you’ll at least know their name when you find yourselves next sharing an elevator.

 

(First published in Canadian Business, October 2013)

Efficiency Shouldn’t Win Out Over Etiquette

When I read Nick Bilton’s piece Disruptions: Digital Era Redefining Etiquette, from my smart phone, in between replying to texts, I felt sad. A little sad for Nick’s friends who are now probably terrified to ever call him to catch up (gasp, such precious time wasted) but also a bit sad for someone who read it and thought, “this makes sense to me. I shouldn’t clog someone’s inbox with a thank you email. I will stop sending them.” Not so fast. Really, slow down.

Send those thank you emails. Send them liberally and sincerely.

Bilton suggests a continuum that suggests the more interaction required, the more taxing (and rude) that interaction must be. Therefore, efficiency and minimal interaction surely must be the apex of good etiquette. But etiquette has never been about efficiency. That’s why there are so many forks and fussy rules on how to use them. That is also why the art of penning a well-thought thank you note has never been more important. It’s not time wasted. It’s time invested.

And while efficiency is key, particularly in a business capacity (I too like doing business with smart people who are respectful of my time), I also appreciate doing business with nice people. Kindness and thoughtfulness go a long way in building and maintaining relationships, a distance that efficiency alone cannot.

Not every medium is conducive to the same degree of communications. Texting, email, phone calls, face-to-faces meetings and Twitter (as Bilton’s mom can attest to, he explains this is how they keep in touch) all have a role but they are not fungible. You can’t take out a phone conversation and plug in a Tweet as a replacement and not expect to loss some substance.

There are no “time wasting forms of communication,” just poorly chosen forms for certain occasions.

(First published on The Huffington Post Canada, March 2013)

Global News Morning – holiday hosting

Holiday hosting advice