The Civilized Minute

a minute of manners and musings

Category Archives: Making introductions

what my nice surprise can teach you

In a very unexpected turn of events, my children have shown me that I’m doing something right.

No, no, I still don’t have the most favorite pair of jeans ready for school on the most important morning. I still don’t have enough milk on the morning that only cereal will do for breakfast. And, I don’t have the good snacks organized into containers like Aunt Loucy. What I have done….they don’t even get yet.

It’s been a year or so since the concept of The Civilized Minute as more than just a blog came into being.  Since then, it’s been TV segments, book writing, presentations and guest blog posts galore. Only recently, did I realize I was taking the approach of packaging some useful tidbit and presenting it in an under-a-minute sound byte into motherhood. I don’t know why this was so surprising to me…any working mother will tell you it’s impossible to not do work at home or do home at work.

Here’s what has gone down: My husband and I took our 2 children to a dinner theatre production last week.

Do you know how many different kinds of social skills you need to possess in order to not look like a doofus at a dinner theatre production? 

To appreciate the significance of this outing, you must know that the last time we did this, it prompted a career change for me. I had considered this idea of consulting with businesses to beef up the social skills of their staffs for years but when we took our (then) 10 and 7 year old children to a local dinner theatre, I decided the world needed someone to help them realize the importance of not giving your mother (or boss) a heart attack by announcing to the table that you need to be excused and why. In short order, I trotted off to the Protocol School of Washington.

Last week’s trip to a dinner theater was very different. I saw table manners and conversation skills.  I saw introductions being made with handshakes and eye contact. I saw smiles at servers and ‘thank-you’s’ and ‘pleases’. And, I thought I was going to see the big bright light in the sky since I was sure I had died and gone to heaven.

Afterward, I asked them about what I had seen (sans the what-in-the-world-is-going-on-here tone that was screaming in my head). They started quoting little Civilized Minute sound bytes back to me! It seems I have been talking to my children about social skills and behaviors in Civilized Minutes and didn’t even realize it.  And, holy above holy, it is working. I’m slipping something in their Kool-Aid and they don’t even taste it!

What can you take from this?

1) Talk to the people who work for you about ways to be respectful and likeable in a context they can understand and appreciate.

2) Don’t drag it out. Say what you want them to hear and be done with it. Let’s be honest, most people don’t care to go through the demonstration of a limp fish handshake.  Offer up 1 or 2 tips and stop. 

3) Give feedback often – good and bad. Be swift and sure about what you expect and what you see. Most people know what to do, they just don’t do it. Inspire and remind them of the greatness inside themselves that can only get out through kindness.

Today is Monday. Sounds like a good day to start with some Civilized Minutes, dontcha think?


Which day is your day?

Maybe it’s because I have children that I  sometimes become stunned when people actually follow my direction.  My children, well, don’t always do that. 

I released my e-book called The Civilized Minute last week.  Here’s the cover. There are pages behind it.  They are filled with all sorts of trickery. Thirty days worth of trickery to be precise. It’s written so that you have a 1-minute read each day for 30 days with each day presenting a lesson in civility.


And, people are actually buying it.  AND, people are actually telling me about tips they have implemented – that are working.  They are saying things like, “I didn’t realize I was reacting so harshly to everyday situations” and “Day 9 is printed and posted on the office bulletin board”. 

So, admitting to the masses that this comes as a surprise to me probably does not make me appear…confident? sure? as if I know what I’m talking about?

Well, who doesn’t doubt their genius status every now and then? (Day 11 is pretty good help with this) I mean, don’t we all want to be liked? (Day 25) Don’t we all want to be viewed as a role model? (Day 5)

Am I tempting you yet?  Well, don’t let me stop you from 30 days of pure…well, you decide…but, be nice about it (Day 22).

Click here to decide which day is your day: The Civilized Minute e-book

social etiquette or business etiquette?

The lines between social etiquette and business etiquette can blur to the point of nonexistence.  The really savvy professional knows this and uses skills from both schools of thought to the advantage of the business.  The less-than-savvy professional wrongly believes that once he/she leaves the office and heads to a dinner party, it’s time the part-y and drink up.

Recently, I held a small event to offer attendees a chance to understand and practice the rules of etiquette that should be executed with perfection whether you are at home or at the office.  And, remember,  some etiquette rules change with time, so watch out that you don’t appear outdated!

As a host, it’s not necessary that bring out the silver just because you are having friends over – even work friends that you want to impress.  Old etiquette rules would have you wound tight over a few weeds or too few linen cocktail napkins.  New etiquette tells us to relax!  The goal of any event is to ensure your guests are happy and relaxed.  So, choose a couple of really delicious nibbles and be done. 


The host is also responsible for knowing his or her audience.  If your crowd is laid back and informal, be sure the environment is one that they will enjoy.  You wouldn’t serve ribs and beer to the Garden Club or tea sandwiches to the little league ball coaches.  The real challenge is to execute your role with enough finesse to ensure guests know you took the time to prepare for their arrival without being imposing.  Look for ways to compromise, like chilling sparkling wine in a planter and serving drinks in stemless glasses rather than the more formal alternatives. 


As a guest, you, too, have a role to fill. It is imperative that you make yourself known to your hosts and the others in attendance.  To your hosts, you should express your appreciation for being invited.  To your fellow guests, you should be friendly, open and engaging.  You may find that you need to brush up on some of your social skills like introducing yourself or introducing others.  You may even need a refresher on how to handle yourself with food and drink (clink a toast with the bottom of your glass so no germs as swapped, food goes from tray to napkin to mouth, etc.) If you are with coworkers, they will notice if you stumble through happy hour and will be less likely to bring you in on a project with a new client.  They certainly will not want any awkward moments when a deal is on the table.


New etiquette dictates that we all behave in a way that makes others feel good and makes ourselves look good.  This is no less true on a patio than in a board room. 


Are you savvy with your sunglasses?


Sunglasses are an important part of expressing your character through fashion. Small round spectacles hint at a groovy sense of pacifism. Oversized ultra-dark shades are a nod at the iconic Jackie O’s unforgettable sense of style. And Mirrored aviators take us right back to flight school in the eighties.

In this way, sunglasses are also an important part of getting the sense of a time and place. However, the only time and place for shades to be worn inside is one occupied by Goose, Maverick, and Ghost Rider. Nobody’s future is that bright!

Make sure that you’re using yours to shade your eyes, and not your personality. So much of our expressiveness is conveyed through our eyes. Jokes are more humorous, sarcasm is more clearly understood and sincerity is more evident.

Sunglasses also pose a more direct barrier to our communication prowess.

It’s hard to talk to someone if they are wearing their sunglasses because you can’t tell if they are listening.  Nor can you tell if they’re even interested in what you are saying. Consider the silent messages you send with your eyes … messages that require the subtlety of a non-verbal delivery. Glances beyond the talker’s shoulder means I’ve spotted someone I need to get to, so wrap it up.  Glances downward mean I’m not here for the duration, so let’s get through the pleasantries so I can move on.  With your sunglasses on, you can’t send these messages at all. 

On the other hand, there are times when sunglasses can be used to create a sense of mystery, power, or flirtation. But those types of messages are more suited to The Cabana than the Conference Room.

So pick out the perfect pair! Just know when to hold ‘em. And when to fold ‘em.

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