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)

How to Do Good at Home

People for Good are at it again, carrying on their crusade for kindness. Thank goodness, literally, for their selfless goal of making the world a better place, one good deed at a time.

Incidentally, when we think about fostering kindness, we often think first about interactions with colleagues, acquaintances or strangers (I’ll get to those in good time, too, I promise), rather than family. The irony that home is often where our important, intimate relationships live. Home is our space to be unequivocally ourselves, to kick back in our own castle. Because family has to love us unconditionally, right? Right.

But home is also the perfect place to practice and foster the kindness we want to see reflected in other parts of our life. Here are a few ‘good’ ideas for your home life:

• Voluntarily give up control of the remote
• Sit down and write a letter to a family member you haven’t heard from in awhile
• Wake up early and make breakfast for the household
• Tuck a note into a family member’s pocket, wishing them a great day
• Take it easy on yourself. Sometimes being hard on ourselves hardens us on others.

For more ways to spread some good at home, or to share your good ideas, visit www.peopleforgood.ca

(Originally published on The Huffington Post Canada, August 2013)

Have Wedding Gifts (and Expectations) Gotten Out of Hand?

Call it a faux-pas, call it cattiness, call it what you want. I’ll call it Giftgate.

In case you missed it, Amy Kenny of the Hamilton Spectator wrote a fantastic piece about an embarrassing turn of events. In a classic case of two wrongs not making a right (but making for great journalism and lively water cooler banter), a local couple lambasted their wedding guest for giving them a gift they felt to be of inadequate value. The scorned wedding guest made the private discussion extremely public, the local paper caught on and the story went like wildfire. Giftgate, if you will.

Once I could pick my jaw up off the ground, I was thrilled to chat about the subject. It struck a nerve. The CBC, the National Post, radio stations, even the Vancouver Sun, covered it.

I write this on an evening, my own week bookended by bridal showers on either weekend. I’m lucky that the brides I’m celebrating with are lovely, kind, diplomatic women, but reading and talking about Giftgate fires me up. And I’m not alone. The subject of wedding gifts, from the lead up events, to the expectations on guests, to the cost of all the rigmarole, is a loaded one.

To set the record straight, it’s nice to bring a gift to a wedding, it’s a norm some might say, but couples are never to expect or demand a gift. That reeks of entitlement, and does greed have a place at your wedding?

  • Weddings are life occasions, not profit-and-loss forecasts. Wedding guests are not on the hook to cover the cost of a wedding. For those planning a wedding, if that’s the thinking behind your budget, consider scaling back your guest list or your expenses.
  • It’s never OK to ask a gift giver for a receipt, or to substantiate a gift they got you. If this is asked of you, however, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for new friends.
  • Weddings can be complicated. However, the rules of giving and receiving gifts are refreshingly simple. Couple gets gift, couple writes thank you note communicating gratitude for said gift, couple and wedding guests live happily ever after.

(Originally published on The Huffington Post Canada, July 2013)

People For Good Use Good Deeds to Make Your Day Better

Canadians reap the benefits of our gentle dispositions when we travel abroad, a fact galvanized by other countries “borrowing” our maple leaf for their backpacks, trying to masquerade as us. But to witness rush-hour road rage on the Gardiner Expressway, or cram into a packed subway train, you might never guess this is a country known for its politesse.

In fact, if you catch us at our worse, we can seem downright boorish.

If you do find yourself shoehorned into one of those subway cars and just happen to look up (for salvation? fresh air?) you might find yourself looking smack at a message encouraging kindness courtesy of People for Good.

People for Good, a coalition formed in 2011 by a collaboration between a media and creative agency, has a simple, albeit grandiose, mandate: to make the world a kinder place, one good deed at a time. No catch. No fundraising. No veiled corporate purveyor. Just an honest-to-goodness decree to inspire kindness. How refreshing is that?

While People for Good has been alive and well over the years, it has recently unveiled a fresh new campaign, so get ready to kick-start your do-gooding. In a series of follow up posts, I’ll cherry-pick a few of their inspiring ideas, test drive some others and hopefully help spread the message of kindness. In the meantime, check out their newly refreshed site at www.peopleforgood.ca and their brilliant new spot, here.

(Originally published on The Huffington Post Canada, July 2013)

Cocktail Hour – Ode to the Negroni

When I don’t know what I want to drink, or what to serve friends, I default to a Negroni.

A classic cocktail with three ingredients, this drink doesn’t require a minor in mixology or complicated bar equipment (you don’t even need a shaker) — and yet it is a damn solid drink.

Classic cocktails stand the test of time and the Negroni has earned its rightful position as staple drink. If you like, you can make these with painstaking love, one glass at a time, with finite precision with your garnish, but there is no need to get too precious. The beauty of this drink is its steadfast simplicity: a 1 to 1 to 1 ratio of gin, sweet vermouth and Campari. If entertaining a group, you can cheat by making a batch (just don’t add ice too far in advanced when making by the batch, it will melt and spoil your concoction).

Negronis belong in the martini family in the true sense of the term: straight alcohol, not a splash of anything. They pack a punch and have a beautiful complexity about them. Not too sweet, not too bitter and a gorgeous colour. The rich red of Campari screams summer for me, la dolce vita in a glass.

The drink was invented by a Count (really) who worked as a rodeo cowboy, if that’s any indication of the drink’s stock. Not a wimpy cocktail.

You will need:
• Gin
• Campari
• Sweet vermouth
• An orange
• Ice

Here’s how to put it all together — the perfect Negroni, in one minute.

(Originally published for The Huffington Post Canada, June 2012)