"Ask the Expert" Etiquette Tip

In its 17th annual word of the year vote, The American Dialect Society voted “plutoed” as the word of the year. To pluto is to demote or devalue someone or something, as happened to the former planet Pluto when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union decided Pluto no longer met its definition of a planet.

When having a bad moment, try this smile experiment and see if your mood changes.
  • Close your eyes and smile with your eyes.
  • See and feel your inner smile.
  • Spread your smile into your body.
  • Swallow your smile through your body
  • Move your smile down your spine.
  • Move your smile up your spine.
  • Return the smile to your eyes.
  • Open your eyes.
  • What do you notice about your mood?

Before calling any top U.S. Company, check http://www.gethuman.com/us/ to see if the company is listed on this site with the secret way to get around endless automated, computerized voicemail systems. If so, follow the simple instructions to circumvent the company’s automated voicemail and get a human on the line.

Sign on Texas Highway I-35: Drive Now – Talk on Cell Phone Later.

Not so fun stuff, but for real stuff: Air Force Cell Phone Restriction:

“Using a cell phone while driving (on an Air Force Base) without a hands-free device will be considered a ‘primary offense.’…a ticket may be given to the driver for each violation.”

Source: Tinker Retiree Newsletter Fall/Winter 2006

Car phone message: “Hi, I’m home now, but at the sound of the beep, leave a message, and I’ll call you when I’m out.”

Buffet: A fancy word that means, “Get up and get it yourself.”

Hors d’oeuvres: A sandwich cut into 20 pieces.

Question: Do I RSVP if I’m not attending?

Answer: Good question at this time of year as holiday parties are just around the corner. RSVP is an abbreviation for the French phrase "Respondez S'il Vous Plait." In English, RSVP stands for "Reply Please" – whether attending or not attending.

If you receive an invitation with an RSVP notation, you are being asked to respond and let your host know whether or not you are able to attend. Be classy in your timing by responding as soon as possible so your host can plan for the event. It also increases the probability that you will receive future invitations.

If you send an invitation with an RSVP notation, you are asking guests to "Respond Please" so that you can plan appropriately.

Question: When I invite a client to lunch, who chooses the restaurant?

Answer: The host always selects the restaurant, keeping in mind the guest’s food preferences and convenience of location. Be sure to tell your guest “exactly” where you will meet – in the lobby, outside, in the bar – be specific.

Arrive before your guest and greet them when they arrive. If this is a business luncheon, be sure to tell your guest the reason for the luncheon so he/she can come prepared.

Question: How do I handle a friend/co-worker with a personal hygiene problem?

Answer: First, keep the tone of the conversation light and neutral. Keep other people out of it. The person doesn’t need to know that everyone in the office is talking about this. Treat it as if it’s a fairly recent issue and keep the discussion confidential. Say something like, “I’ve noticed something recently, and it’s probably this summer heat; I wonder if we could talk about a change that’s affecting our office environment.” Use “I” statements such as “I really have a keen sense of smell and pick up on body odor that probably no else would notice.” Allow the person any out to help them save face. Have a follow up response to help avoid embarrassment. “I had to change deodorants because I found out that we become immune to deodorants if we have used them for a long time. Doctors recommend we make periodic changes.” Be kind and gentle and they will get the point and make the necessary changes.

"Ask the Expert" Networking Tip

Gain more from networking events by telling the greeter: “This is my first meeting. Could you introduce me to someone who will tell me more about the organization and introduce me to new members?”

---Adapted from Donna Cardillo, www.dcardillo.com, Communication Briefings, August 2006

Tips adapted from “The Four-Second Rule” for Improved Communications, Susanne Gaddis www.communicationsdoctor.com

Astronauts at NASA are trained to make critical decisions in four seconds. In that short period, they make life and death decisions that determine their mission’s success or failure. Picture yourself in a stressful scenario where you need to communicate your feelings to someone. Now apply the Four-Second Rule:

Second #1. Take a deep breath and consider what it is you want to say, choosing your words wisely.

Second #2. Consider the tone of voice you’ll use. A calm friendly tone beats a tone that is loud, harsh, condescending or sarcastic. Do not speak until you have mastered your emotions.

Second #3. Make sure you’re about to communicate your message to the right person. Don’t misdirect your communications.

Second #4. Use appropriate body language. Face the person, make eye contact, and have an open stance. No huffing, puffing and groaning.

By using this Four Second Countdown you’ll communicate in a way that will keep others from going into orbit around you.

Question: Is there something more engaging to say rather than “Hi, how are you?” or “Have a nice day.”

Yes, these phrases are dead language and deaden conversation. Try “Hi, it’s nice to see you again.” Or “Enjoy your day.”

Question: Can I delete or change my message when I’m leaving a voice mail message?

Yes, you sometimes have a second chance. If you find yourself leaving a lengthy, garbled message on a voice mail, hit the # key on your telephone. Most voice-mail systems will give you the option to delete or change your message.

Question: There is no question this month, just a cool mouse tip.

If you hold down the Ctrl key on your keyboard and then turn the small wheel in the middle of your mouse away from you or towards you, the print size will change. It will either get larger or smaller, depending on which way you turn the wheel. Try it; it works.

Question: How do I address the Governor?

Answer: There are many forms of address - letter, spoken, or formal introduction. The answer to this and more information on Forms of Address can be found at http://www.infoplease.com. Type in Forms of Address under Search.

Question: How do I handle phone interruptions?

Make a decision to answer the phone or not. If you answer the phone, you accept full responsibility of the call. Stop everything you are doing and focus on the caller. If necessary, move away from what you are doing so you can listen fully. Handle the call in a sincere, professional manner that shows you take pride in yourself and in your organization.

Question: Resolve conflict by focusing not on your differences but on the areas where you agree.

Can we identify the common ground?” “What do we both want from this situation?” “What would need to happen to satisfy us both?” -- From the editors of Communication Briefings – December 2005

Question: I have trouble maintaining eye contact. Any suggestions?

Direct eye contact is very important and should be made about 50% of the time when doing business in the USA. Practice looking at yourself in the mirror using direct eye contact. Don’t look away. Smile. Have a conversation with yourself. You can also place a mirror by the phone and see if your eyes support your words. . Other cultures will have more, and others less. Visit http://www.executiveplanet.com/ for Business culture guidelines.

Question: How can I keep phone calls under 10 minutes?

Try using these phrases:
-“I have only eight minutes to discuss this.”
-“My next appointment is waiting.”
-“I’d like to discuss this at length with you, but before we proceed, would you please send me a detailed written description of all your points to be sure I have them right?”
-“To be honest, I don’t have much time. What’s your No. 1 issue right now?”
-“What should our next step be?”

--Adapted from 101 Productive things to Do in Ten Minutes or Less, Briefings Publishing Group – Communication Briefings Oct. 2005

Question: How do I handle someone who rambles on and on?

Say, “I’m sorry, but I’m not sure I’m following you. May I ask you a question or two for clarification?”
– Loren Ekroth Better Conversations.

Question: How do I handle conflict with a co-worker?

Answer: Use this basic opening: “I sense that we disagree, and as a result, we’re not working together. If I’m right, I’d guess that you’re as uncomfortable as I am. I’d like to work with you to find an alternative to what exists now.” With this opening, you aren’t pointing the finger of blame. And most people will respond positively to such an invitation. – From the editors of Communication Briefings, Sept. 2005

Question: How do I discuss touchy feedback with an employee?

Answer: Follow the Oreo cookie approach. Sandwich the touchy situation between two positive statements. Discuss one issue at a time. If you discuss several issues, you will overwhelm your employee. Focus on the most crucial behavior you wish to improve. Remember, you are trying to change the behavior, not demoralize the person.

Question: I’m having a backyard picnic? What are some things I should do to make my guests comfortable?

Answer: Have a timeline of everything that needs to be done. A planning checklist should include:
  • Mow the day of or the day before and don’t water the day of the event.
  • Make sure tables and chairs don’t sink into the grass; put large washers under legs if they do.
  • Spray and fog for insects, and light insect candles one hour before hand.
  • Place flags where guests should not park – inform or invite neighbors.
  • If you have elderly guests or people with disabilities, offer to fill their plates or assign someone in advance to offer to help them.
  • Have a first aid kit handy.
  • Have a rain plan and wind plan for paper products.
  • Have trash receptacles in background and easily accessible.
Question: Our Company has a “no alcohol policy.” How do I handle this at a business meal when I am the host?

Answer: Many companies are going with the no alcohol policy for safety and legal reasons. Call the restaurant in advance or arrive early. Ask the waiter not to present a wine menu or offer an alcoholic beverage. Your guest should get the hint. If not, you may have to inform them about the no alcohol policy. Don’t make a big deal of it, just let them know and then casually change the subject

Question: Our office meetings are boring, last too long, and accomplish little. What can we do differently?

  • Have a purpose.
  • Have a leader.
  • Have a start time.
  • Follow the plan.
  • Involve everyone.
  • Summarize progress.
  • Have a finish time.
  • Distribute minutes ASAP.
For meeting protocol training, give me a call and I will help make your meetings meaningful and productive.

Question: What can I do if I'm speaking on the phone to someone who is multi-tasking and not listening?

Answer: First, when calling someone, always ask, "Is this a good time to talk?" or "Do you have a few minutes to talk?" If you still feel they are in the middle of something and not focusing on the call, ask them if they would like you to call back at a better time.

Question: What is the best way to handle criticism?

Answer: Always openly examine the criticism to see if it applies. If it does, consider changes; if it doesn’t apply, let it fly. I can’t beat the answer of Buddha on Handling Criticism.

A man met him on the street one day and began to call him mean and ugly names. Buddha listened quietly and thoughtfully until the man ran out of epithets, and had to pause for breath.

“If you offer something to a man and he refused it, to whom does it belong?” asked Buddha.

The spiteful man replied, “It belongs, I suppose, to the one who offered it.”

Then Buddha said, “The abuse and vile names you offer me, I refuse to accept.”

The man turned and walked away

Question: The person sitting on my left used my bread dish. What should I have done?

Answer: This is a common problem that bears repeating. It happened to me twice over the holidays. On one occasion, the napkin was on the bread dish, so I was left without a bread plate and a napkin. You have several choices.
  • Don’t eat any bread.
  • Use your dinner plate.
  • Ask the wait staff to bring you another bread plate.
I prefer the first or second option. If you ask the wait staff to bring you another plate, it will be awkward for the placement of the additional dish, and the other person may then realize their mistake and be embarrassed. When my plate and napkin were taken, I excused myself and asked the wait staff to give me another napkin. I got the napkin before I went back to the table and very discretely put it on my lap. I just forgot about having a bread plate.

I have heard people at banquet tables very casually ask, “Now, which bread plate is mine?” They already know the answer, but are providing the answer for others at the table. It’s a nice way to avoid embarrassment. If you should ever forget, remember the BMW tip - from left to right, Bread/Meal/Water.

Question: I have a friend who has a loud voice and sometimes it embarrasses me when we are in a public place. How can I nicely tell her to quiet down?

Answer: Your friend probably doesn’t realize she is on over-volume. Say to her in a very nice way “I’m so sorry, but you probably don’t realize your voice is carrying over loudly.” Then just smile, and continue the conversation in a volume that is acceptable. You might even prevent embarrassment that would be caused if a third party said something.

Question: Do you have any tips for thanking someone?

Answer: Everyone appreciates a thank you. Follow these steps for a quality thank you.
  • Thank people immediately. Don’t save it for a rainy day.
  • Tell people exactly what you are thankful for.
  • Give it some emotion. Tell them how it made you feel.
Question: Will you please give me some tips on Thanksgiving/Holiday Etiquette?

  • Greet guests at the door.
  • Introduce everybody to each other.
  • Pay attention to your guest’s needs.
  • Be on time.
  • Offer to help.
  • Thank your host when you leave.
Both hosts and guests should be particularly aware of offering to help the elderly or those with disabilities. Be gracious to everyone and have a wonderful holiday.

Question: How can I rein in ramblers and help them stay on track?

Answer: Help them stay focused with statements such as:
  • "Let's focus on the most important information.
  • I want to concentrate on your main objective here.
People don't like being cut off, but they don't mind being focused. It saves everyone time.

Adapted from Speak Strong, Meryl Runion, www.powerpotentials.com. October 2004, Communication Briefings

Question: How can I end a call after a difficult encounter with a customer?

Answer: We all work hard to connect with customers, but sometimes it’s disconnecting that’s difficult. When you’re on the phone with a customer who simply won’t hang up, use summary statements to show you’ve been listening carefully. Example: “Before we close this call, let’s review what we’ve discussed. I’ll deduct delivery charges, since your shipment arrived late. I’ll send you the revised invoice in today’s mail. Thank you. It’s been a pleasure to serve you.”

-- Adapted from “Disengaging: Freeing Ourselves from Relentless Customers,”
Craig Harrison, www.craigspeaks.com.

July 2004, Communication Briefings

Question: How can I make sure everyone gets a chance to participate in a meeting?

Answer: Try these tips to discourage over-talkers and encourage others to participate.

  • Eager beaver. This person is always first, making it difficult for others to respond. “Thanks for getting the ball rolling Kim. Does anyone have anything to add to that?”
  • Expert. This person challenges your authority and argues with others. “Jim thinks our marketing plan has some major drawbacks. Does anyone have a different opinion?”
  • Rambler. You ask this person for the time, and you get the history of watch making. “Joan’s given us a good example of what an irate customer might say. Now let’s discuss the best way to handle this type of situation.”
  • Dominator. This person can intimidate the group. “Does anyone other than Jerry have a comment?”
-- Adapted from How to Handle Difficult Audiences,” Diane DiResta,

June 2004, Communication Briefings

Question: What is the best way to handle a hostile co-worker?

Answer: When confronted by an angry co-worker, defuse the situation by saying, "How would you like to resolve this?" Why? Anger often goes hand in hand with powerlessness. Asking an angry person what you can do or say to help - reduces the anger and tension.
    -Adapted from How to Say It at Work, Jack Griffin. Communication Briefings, March 2004.

Question: I’m on e-mail overwhelm. Help???

Answer: You are not alone. Recent studies show people spend from 25 – 50% of their workday on e-mail. One way to monitor your e-mail is to set aside 2 – 3 times a day where you check your e-mail messages. Being “on-call” with e-mail messages interrupts your day and costs you more time to resume what you were doing. When you send an e-mail, eliminate “Important,” “Urgent” or “Read immediately.” The subject line should include the essence of the message. “Confirming today’s meeting.” or “Must reschedule tomorrow’s lunch.” Keep it short, sweet, and to the point so your e-mail will be read and not deleted.

Question: I hate walking into theater seats when I have to climb over people to get to my seat. What is the best way to get to my theater seat?

Answer: : Face people seated in your row rather than putting your backside to them. I recommend walking through at an angle where you can hold on to the front seat, and say, "excuse me" as you make your way to your seat.

Question: Oops, I mistakenly put your cell phone number on information I sent out to my customers? What should I do?

Answer: Fess up and take corrective action immediately. Recently, someone did put my cell phone number on their advertising information. The owner did the right thing. He called my cell phone number and apologized. He said he was also sending out the correct number to everyone and also attempting to contact his customers by phone to notify them of the mistake.

Follow these rules for proofing a document from the editors of Communication Briefings.

  • Slow down when you know you’re rushing to meet a deadline – last minute changes lead to mistakes.
  • Let several people review your work. A fresh set of eyes to review any document is more likely to see an error.
  • The last step before finalizing any document: Perform a spell check. It’s your last chance to catch an error.
Question: How can I not cave in and disagree agreeably?

  • Be friendly and respectful. This prevents hostility from your adversary.
  • Be fair in your judgment of the other person, even if you do not agree.
  • Be frank. “I see things from a different perspective.”
  • Be firm. Do not compromise your values.
--Adapted from A Positive Minute by Dr. Robert Schuller

Question: What can I do if we're having a meeting and we get off the subject?

Answer: When a group discussion goes astray, use this phrase to refocus people's attention: "Let's back-track and see how that relates to the original question."

--Adapted from Intervention Skills, Communication Briefings, Jan. 2004.

Question: Is there a better way of greeting someone other than saying “ Hello Susan, how are you?” It seems so robotic.

Answer: Yes, “Hello Susan, it’s so nice to see you.” This greeting is a better way to keep the conversation alive.

Question: How can I say "No" gracefully?

Answer: You have to be direct and respectful. "I'm very flattered you asked me, but I'm going to have to say "no." And then, be silent. Avoid excuses that will open discussion. People will respect you for following your truth. Set your boundaries well, and your life will be your own.

Question: What can I do when co-workers interrupt my work?

Answer: Let them know exactly what they’re interrupting. They may decide that the issue they wanted to discuss isn’t as important as your current project. Example: “I was just going over the numbers for next year’s budget. But if this critical, I can give you a few minutes.”

– From the editors of Communication Briefings.

Question: What can I do when someone criticizes me in public?

Answer: Guess they haven't heard the rule "Praise in Public; Criticize in Private." The first thing is not to react and lose your cool. You might ask the person to explain what they mean. Or if they are angry, you might say, "I see your upset, can we talk about this later in private?" Remember, they are usually not angry with you, but about a situation, so don't take it personally.

Question: What is the correct way of referring to a person with a disability?

Answer: According to the Oklahoma Disability Etiquette Handbook, people with disabilities prefer to be called "people with disabilities." Never identify people first or solely by their disability -she's the blind woman, or deaf man. Speak of them first as a person - a woman who is deaf, or a person who has a mental illness, or a person with epilepsy.

"First and foremost, we are people; only secondarily do we have one or more disabling conditions. Hence, we prefer to be referred to, in print or in the broadcast media, as people with disabilities."

The entire Oklahoma Disability Etiquette Handbook is available at http://www.state.ok.us/~ohc/_ohc/deh_txt.htm.

Question: I recently took a client to lunch and the service and food were terrible. I was very embarrassed, but didn’t want to make a scene. What should I have done?

Answer: Apologize to your guest just once and let it go. Your guest is embarrassed for you so don’t make a big deal of it. When you get back to your office, call the restaurant manager to let them know of your bad experience.

Question: I've had it with inappropriate jokes and chain e-mails telling me I will have good/bad luck if I do/don’t forward this to at least 5 - 10 of my friends. What can I do?

Answer: “Reduce Junk E-mail,” in Communication Briefings recommends:

To stop the jokes and other junk e-mail from friends, family and co-workers, send a request asking them to stop. Be firm! You can say something like:

“I appreciate your thinking about me. But in an effort to streamline the many e-mails I receive, I must ask you to remove my name from the distribution list you’re using for this type of information. Thanks for your help!”

Question: What do I do when someone steps over my boundaries?

Answer: First, value your boundaries and second, let others know exactly what your boundaries are. After you have defined your boundary, follow these steps.
  1. Inform the person that you have a boundary. Be sure that your voice is charge neutral. Practice so it feels natural. Use “I”statements. Be confident and make direct eye contact.
  2. Request that the boundary be respected.
  3. Insist that the boundary be respected
  4. Leave or end the interaction with the person at this time.
The more practice you have at setting boundaries, the easier it gets! I’d love to hear from you with your boundary setting success story.

Question: I know I'm not a very good listener. How can I learn to be a better listener?

Answer: Try these exercises the next time you are in a conversation. They are harder than you think, but you will be proud of yourself when you've done them and the results will be well worth your efforts.
  • Even if you know the answer or have something to contribute during a conversation, don't interrupt. Let the person completely finish their story. Don't even tell your story.
  • Look at your watch the next time you're in a group conversation. Try to go for 5, then 10, then 15 minutes without talking.
  • Put your entire focus on the other person and their story. Smile, make frequent eye contact, and ask them even more questions about their story. Be genuinely interested.
This is a tough assignment, but you'll find people are amazed when you listen to them like this. I'd love to hear from you with your listening success story.

Question: What can I say to a customer who is complaining and I really don’t know how to solve their problem?

Answer: Use the seven magic words that customers need to hear: “What would you like us (or me) to do?” Then be silent, even if it’s uncomfortable. This pause gives them time to come up with their own solution. By giving them control, you will turn customer complaints into compliments – and keep their business.

Question: I don't know what to say to someone who is grieving. What should I say?

Answer: Grief comes for many reasons. It could be loss of a job, loss of health, a divorce, or a death. It is sometimes hard to know what to say to provide comfort. Things not to say are:

I know just how you feel.
Time heals.
It is time to get on with your life
It was God's will.
You can't stay sad forever.
You'll feel better in time.

Things to say instead:
This has to be a hard time for you. Does it help to talk about it?
I'm sorry. (Nothing else is necessary.)
I'm here to listen if you need to talk.

Do not feel you have to cheer the person up. Just be with the person and listen. The gift of listening is very powerful. Allow for silence. True support is not dependent upon how much you say, but rather just being there and listening. Listen, listen, and then listen some more.

Question: Rude drivers make me crazy. Any suggestions?

Answer: Change your perspective. Why let a rude driver determine your mood for the rest of your day? Instead of getting angry, laugh at the rude driver, laugh at the traffic, and laugh at your overload at work. Find the humor - crinkle up your face - make weird noises, faces, gestures. The other drivers will think you are crazy, but who cares? They may even join you. Everybody wins!

Instead of thinking of rude people as jerks, think about what you have in common with them. They have too much to do - too little time - too little money. They all want to be loved; they all want a good job; they all want the best for their kids. They are just like you.

Sometimes a situation JUST IS! It's up to you to control your emotions; it's up to you to create your thoughts. When you find yourself in a stressful situation, smile, laugh, make faces - you have the power, you have the choice!

Question: Should a woman stand when introduced?

Answer: Absolutely yes - everyone should stand for all introductions. This shows respect for you and for the other person. Remove all barriers between you and the other person. If you are behind your desk, stand, walk around your desk and greet the person with a handshake and eye contact.

The only exception is if standing is awkward or would disrupt those around you (a restaurant booth or banquette are examples). I usually smile and gesture that I would like to get up by slightly rising and then relaxing back down.

Question: What is the difference between American and Continental (sometimes called European) style of dining?

Answer: The difference is in the handling of the silverware. You may use either, or a combination of both. Continental style is the most efficient and widely used. It's also less noisy and there is less hand movement. Americans are the only ones who use the zigzag style of eating. Food is cut the same way in both the American and Continental style.

For American Style dining, after cutting your meat, place the knife on the upper right side of the plate. The cutting edge of the blade always faces the center of the plate. Switch the fork to your right hand before raising it to your mouth.

For Continental Style dining, the knife remains in your right hand and the fork in your left hand. A small amount of food is placed on the tines of the fork (tines down). Bring the fork, tines down, to your mouth by twisting your wrist and raising your forearm slightly.

Question: What can I do when a customer comes to my place of business and I am busy with another customer?

Answer: The most important thing to do is ACKNOWLEDGE THEM. Even if you are on the phone or finishing a project, make eye contact with the customer and smile. This lets them know you are aware they are there and will help them as soon as you are available.

Question: I am the meeting chairperson for an upcoming meeting. How can I assure that cell phones won't interrupt our meeting?

Answer: You can handle this one of two ways. At the beginning of the meeting you can ask everyone to turn off his or her cell phones. You can also conspicuously pull you cell phone out of your pocket and turn it off, thus setting the expectation that others do the same. This is also a good hint if you are dining with a friend or colleague and prefer not to be interrupted by phone calls.

July is "Cell Phone Courtesy Month." When you use your phone in public, ask yourself "How am I being perceived by others?" and remember to mind your mobile manners.

Read our article Is your Cell Phone Voice Volume on Over-sharing?

Question: Which has more caffeine - coffee or tea?

Answer: * A serving of tea generally contains less than half the caffeine of coffee or about 40 milligrams of caffeine. An average 5 oz. cup of coffee contains between 80 and 115 milligrams of caffeine. The actual levels vary depending on the specific blend and the strength of the brew.

*Source: US Food and Drug Administration & Tea Council of the USA

Question: Who offers the first toast at a wedding? When is it offered?

Answer: At a wedding reception where a meal is served, toasts are offered after everyone is seated and served their drinks. At a standing reception, toasts are offered after everyone has gone through the receiving line and drinks have been served. The best man stands and offers the first toast. The groom stands and responds with a toast of thanks. The father of the bride, father of the groom, mother of the bride, mother of the groom, groom to the bride, and bride to the groom is the appropriate sequence for wedding toasts. Always stand when offering a toast unless it is a small informal group. Toasts are usually the signal for the wedding to progress from the formal to the informal.

To the Bride and Groom "Please join in a toast to the happiness of Mary and Bob."

Question: I'm not very good at "small talk." Do you have any suggestions for how to start up and continue a conversation?

Answer: Small talk is a major challenge for most people. One of the most important things you can do is to take the focus off yourself and place it on the other person. You must listen to what the other person is saying. To be a good talker, you must be a good listener.

Use these 6 key words to help create and maintain a conversation: "who, what, when, where, which, and why." By using these words, you ask "open ended" questions that will be answered with more than a yes or no response. Listen to the response with your ears and your eyes. Let the other person finish speaking, pause for a few seconds, and then respond.

Listen to the other person as if they were the only person in the room and you will be the master of small talk.

Question: Am I expected to take a gift when invited to a home party?

Answer: Gifts are never expected, but certainly appreciated if they are well thought out. If you choose to send flowers, send them the day before the party or take them in an arranged vase. Wine is a nice gift, but do not expect your host to open it for the party. You might say that the wine is for them to enjoy later. Homemade treats, or a basket of gourmet nuts and cheese also make a special gift. Again, it's up to the host to decide whether to enjoy them at the party or later. Consider the person's likes, don't give anything too personal, expensive or with religious overtones, attach a card, and your gift will be a pleasant surprise for your host. Happy Holidays!

Question: I frequently ask a client to a business lunch. Do I ask them to choose the restaurant where we will meet?

Answer: No, the burden of choice belongs to the host. Of course, you want to take your client's location and preference into consideration. Be sure to be specific about the time, place and specific location within the restaurant so there will be no misunderstanding. And always call to reconfirm the day before or the day of the meeting.