A holdover from before the age of email, voice mail is perhaps the most loathed (and disused) communications tool at our disposal in 2017. Consider sentiments such as these:

“I never listen to my voicemails. It’s too time-consuming.”

“I don’t bother leaving voicemails. No one listens to them anyway.”

“I haven’t set up my voice mailbox. I wouldn’t even know how.”

Companies including Coca-Cola, Bloomberg and JPMorgan Chase have largely eliminated voice mail for their employees, typically to great acclaim. The argument, of course, is that voice mail is prehistoric and that email and text messaging have eliminated the need for it. Voice mail, with its cumbersome access numbers and passcodes, not to mention its linear method for listening to messages, is simply a time-waster. And while one could argue that replacing a fax machine with email is an upgrade with zero downsides, suggestions that email is a comparable substitute for voicemail are inaccurate.

What does voicemail have that email and texting do not? Tone. And I don’t mean dial tone. I mean vocal tone. In the business-etiquette training workshops I offer around the U.S., one of the consistent complaints I hear from my students is that they regularly receive emails that come across as rude. Often, this perception of lack of politeness is the result of a misunderstanding. What is meant to be concise comes off as curt. What is meant to be a question comes off as a demand. What is meant to be a rationale comes off as an excuse. And in each of these cases, the missing element is the human voice…something that would help bridge the digital gap easily and effectively. Consider the following one-line email:

We missed you at the meeting today.

How would you interpret that statement? As a thoughtful check-in? A perplexed inquiry? A gentle chastisement of someone’s absence? A frustrated observation?

I challenge you to answer that question definitively. I don’t think you can. Now try saying the line aloud, using as many different intonations as you can. How many versions of that statement can you create? Your voice inflection gives the listener keys to gauging your state of mind. Could you accomplish the equivalent via email? With effort, yes. Does everyone make the time to write thoughtful, nuanced emails that remove all possibility for misinterpretation? Based on the responses I receive in my training classes, absolutely not.

Is there subtext to your message? Is there an opportunity for the recipient to perceive your meaning incorrectly? Is a face-to-face conversation out of the question due to your being in different locations? If so, voicemail is clearly the superior option to email or texting. The takeaway here? Don’t be afraid to leave them—and listen to them.

What do you think? Are there instances where you would use voicemail as your preferred means of communication versus email? Let me know! And in my next post, I’ll discuss the art of perfect voicemail—both incoming and outgoing.

 


infertility_etiquette“When are you having a baby?” “Don’t you want kids?” “Have you thought about adoption?”

With one in eight couples in America struggling with issues of infertility, these are questions far too many couples and single people have likely heard from well-meaning friends and family members.

In observance of National Infertility Awareness Week, I recently sat down with relationships expert Andrea Syrtash on “Good Morning Washington” to discuss the delicate manner in which all of us should approach conversations of family planning.

My first tip for the inquisitive among us: Take a pregnant pause. More specifically, if you’re thinking of asking a woman if she is now pregnant–or hopes to be in the future–don’t. The sting of these questions is anything but innocuous.

For more tips, check out the segment below:


wedding_bandsPrince William doesn’t wear one. Nor does President Trump.

With public figures including Jay-Z and actor Will Smith opting to go out in public without a wedding band on their left hands, you’d be forgiven for pondering whether this a movement that will trickle down to the general population.

While traditions vary from culture to culture, the concept of a woman wearing a ring as a sign of betrothal and fidelity is ancient. For men in the West, it is a more recently adopted practice, one with its popular beginnings in the mid-twentieth century. What began as a reminder of one’s spouse for enlisted men away at war, today has become an accepted and commonplace means of signaling a male’s marital status.

Although men who eschew wedding rings have a variety of reasons for abstaining—from their dislike of jewelry to workday hazards to their desire to appear available, from an etiquette standpoint, I think it’s ill-advised. The best rules of etiquette exist to prevent confusion and mixed messages. Going ringless may not matter for a man who is widely known to be married due to his presence in the public eye. For the rest of the married-male populace, the facts are not so apparent. (Although, as previously indicated, that may in fact be the goal.)

With that said, it is for each couple to decide, and providing both individuals are comfortable with one or both partners not wearing a ring, that is their prerogative. Of course, going ringless is going to leave countless men across America with one less thing to fidget with, i.e., no more ring to remove and spin like a toy.

Lastly, unless married men not wearing a wedding ring truly becomes the rule rather than the exception, they had best be prepared to do some explaining when the topic of relationship status comes up with new acquaintances.


Dryers in the LaundromatAccording to estimates from the Coin Laundry Association, roughly seven million families in America visit a laundromat weekly. That makes seven million reasons–if not more–to put communal laundry room behavior through the heavy-rinse cycle. With that in mind, here are some of my tips for coming out with clean clothes–and a clean-bill of health for your manners, too:

*Patrons have a duty to remove their clothing from the washers and dryers quickly after those respective cycles are done. Leaving wet clothes in the washing machine for hours on end is inconsiderate.

*You have zero right to feel angry if you return tardy and find your clothes have been removed to make way for the next customer. Snooze, you lose.

*If you are extricating the clothing of the person whose washer or dryer load preceded yours, use every precaution to ensure the clothes are removed gingerly, in their entirety and placed as close to their original location as possible.

*When doing your own washer loads, if you spill detergent or bleach, be sure to wipe it up. And don’t leave behind empty containers or used dryer sheets.

*Remember to clear the lint filter after using the dryer so it’s ready for the next customer.

*Last but not least, don’t hog the folding table. Spreading out and leaving no room for others is inconsiderate.

Remember…bad manners always come out in the wash.