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

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

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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)

Holiday etiquette: wardrobe malfunction and conversation advice from Karen Cleveland

by Sarah Kelsey

With so many things on the go during the holidays, it can be easy to stumble into a seasonal snafu.

Never fear: we have answers to your “How do I handle this?!” holiday questions (Tweet us or add a comment below) thanks to Karen Cleveland of the Finishing School — a national column devoted to etiquette, manners and civility.

This week, Cleveland tackles wardrobe malfunctions and how to remember names.

Sexy, festive clothing is popular this time of year, but can also present an element of risk. What do you do if you have a wardrobe malfunction?

“Even in our wretched winter weather, we still turn it out at the holidays, don’t we? ‘Festive’ attire is subjective, so dress for the occasion: an office holiday party is still a professional occasion,” says Cleveland. “Still, even the greatest dress or pair of heels in the store won’t flatter the wearer if they don’t feel comfortable in it.”

She adds: “You’re far more likely to have a wardrobe slip-up if your dress is too tight or short or you can’t walk properly in your shoes. There is nothing less attractive than seeing someone tugging at the bust line of their ill-fitting dress all night.”

And if your clothing betrays you and you end up showing off more skin than you intended, deal with it as gracefully and swiftly as possible. “If it’s an issue that needs serious tending to (a split seam, popped button, etc.) make those adjustments in private. And if anyone notices the mishap, address it quietly with a coy “phew, that was close” whisper — and maybe a playful wink if you’re not shy about who saw too much of your skin.”

You’re terrible with names, but know you’ll be meeting a tonne of people over the holidays. How can you go about remembering who people are? And, if you slip up a name, how can you admit you don’t “know” who they are?

“Full disclosure: I’m terrible with names so I don’t get as fussed when I meet people and they don’t remember mine. Introductions can be so fast and fleeting, particularly at a time of year when our calendars are at their busiest. It can be impossibly hard to catch who-is-who or the proper pronunciation of someone’s name. I find that repeating someone’s name when you’re introduced to them can help with recall,” says Cleveland.

If you’re in that moment when the face looks familiar, but the name just won’t come: “You cannot go wrong with simply re-introducing yourself. It instantly puts everyone at ease. If you like, you can further soften the situation by making a quick self-effacing joke, like “Ever since I turned 30, I’ve been plagued by short-term memory loss. I’m so sorry, can I reintroduce myself?”

“Even if you’re quite sure you remember someone’s name, but there’s enough doubt to stall you, avoid the guessing game that can endlessly gone on and on. Refrain from taking stabs in the dark of “I think we met X or at that X or did you work at X? Wait, was it the X?” By the time that goes on for 10 minutes (and you’re repeatedly dead wrong), the person may not want to meet you after all.”

(First published in The Huffington Post Canada, December 2011)

Holiday etiquette: wardrobe malfunction and conversation advice

With so many things on the go during the holidays, it can be easy to stumble into a seasonal snafu.

Never fear: we have answers to your “How do I handle this?!” holiday questions (Tweet us or add a comment below) thanks to Karen Cleveland of the Finishing School — a national column devoted to etiquette, manners and civility.

This week, Cleveland tackles wardrobe malfunctions and how to remember names.

Sexy, festive clothing is popular this time of year, but can also present an element of risk. What do you do if you have a wardrobe malfunction?

“Even in our wretched winter weather, we still turn it out at the holidays, don’t we? ‘Festive’ attire is subjective, so dress for the occasion: an office holiday party is still a professional occasion,” says Cleveland. “Still, even the greatest dress or pair of heels in the store won’t flatter the wearer if they don’t feel comfortable in it.”

She adds: “You’re far more likely to have a wardrobe slip-up if your dress is too tight or short or you can’t walk properly in your shoes. There is nothing less attractive than seeing someone tugging at the bust line of their ill-fitting dress all night.”

And if your clothing betrays you and you end up showing off more skin than you intended, deal with it as gracefully and swiftly as possible. “If it’s an issue that needs serious tending to (a split seam, popped button, etc.) make those adjustments in private. And if anyone notices the mishap, address it quietly with a coy “phew, that was close” whisper — and maybe a playful wink if you’re not shy about who saw too much of your skin.”

You’re terrible with names, but know you’ll be meeting a tonne of people over the holidays. How can you go about remembering who people are? And, if you slip up a name, how can you admit you don’t “know” who they are?

“Full disclosure: I’m terrible with names so I don’t get as fussed when I meet people and they don’t remember mine. Introductions can be so fast and fleeting, particularly at a time of year when our calendars are at their busiest. It can be impossibly hard to catch who-is-who or the proper pronunciation of someone’s name. I find that repeating someone’s name when you’re introduced to them can help with recall,” says Cleveland.

If you’re in that moment when the face looks familiar, but the name just won’t come: “You cannot go wrong with simply re-introducing yourself. It instantly puts everyone at ease. If you like, you can further soften the situation by making a quick self-effacing joke, like “Ever since I turned 30, I’ve been plagued by short-term memory loss. I’m so sorry, can I reintroduce myself?”

“Even if you’re quite sure you remember someone’s name, but there’s enough doubt to stall you, avoid the guessing game that can endlessly gone on and on. Refrain from taking stabs in the dark of “I think we met X or at that X or did you work at X? Wait, was it the X?” By the time that goes on for 10 minutes (and you’re repeatedly dead wrong), the person may not want to meet you after all.”

(Published on The Huffington Post Canada, December 2011)

The worst kind of snub: the public snub

If social interaction is a continuum, on one end there are people who are painfully fake, too slick, easy to spot in a crowd, just look for them looking over the shoulder of the person they’re speaking to. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are, plug your ears, bitches – icicles that can’t be bothered to make nice with anyone. Somewhere in the middle, thank God, are genuine, friendly people.

Aspartame-y people (sweet, but fake – see what I did there?) are one thing to deal with, but innocuous. People that publically snub others are another challenge all together, because they make it awkward for everyone around. I’m horrible at remembering names (a flaw that I’ve lamented about) but I try not to let that shortcoming make those around me feel uncomfortable or awkward. We’ve all felt left out in a converstation at one time or another – so we can all related to have that feels.

There’s an art to making nice and giving good small talk. It makes others feel more comfortable and makes you look more graceful. Be warm. Be kind. Be curious. Be conversational. Be inclusive. Be humble, even if that means reintroducing yourself to the same person three times. Try a little. Being bitchy isn’t very becoming.

(First published on She Does the City, March 2011)

Stranger neighbours

Dear Karen,
I have lived in my neighbourhood for two years and am very friendly with all the neighbours, as work from home so see them all the time. However, they only know my dog’s name and I only know their children’s names, and that’s in a few special cases. It feels almost silly to ask their names at this point, as I must cross paths with them twice a day. I was almost considering lifting their mail to end this ridiculousness once and for all – but I suppose that is illegal. What’s a friendly neighbour to do? I would like to switch the formality from “HI ROCKY’S MOM” to “HI JEN!”

xo

Absolutely – go lift their mail! In fact, for discretion’s sake, take a furtive approach and find some kid on your street and pay them to do it for you.

Truthfully, I’m in the same boat with some folks on my street. Four years later, there are probably a dozen people that address me by name. I can remember a paltry four (five, max), of their names. In fact, of those names I claim to “remember”, I have to keep them written down on a chalkboard in my kitchen, with arrows pointing to where they live, in relation to said chalkboard. How tragic. Note to self: wipe chalkboard before inviting any of them around for tea.

I don’t think you can be slick about this. You have to humbly fall on your sword and admit you don’t know their names. You can open it up with a pithy introduction, assuming your neighbours are friendly enough/cool enough/have some inkling of humour. Check out Hi Have We Met for some starters, but plan to go old-school on this one. Bring over something from your kitchen (baked goods?), your garden (start a new plant from one of your’s?) and shake their hand. Admit your embarrassment, but also your enthusiasm about meeting them formally.

Once you’ve made proper introductions, race at breakneck speed to find a chalkboard at once, and record their name and location…at least it works for me.

(First published on She Does The City, May 2009)