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.


networking_gratitude

Good networking in business is about give and take. And the best networkers give more than they take. Sadly, there are far too many who practice the exact opposite.

I could fill a book with the names of people who have asked me to review their résumés, write them recommendation letters, serve as a reference, grant informational interviews or make introductions on their behalf. In nearly all cases* I’m happy to oblige, even when to do so impinges on my own workload. I also delight in being a connector—fixing up my acquaintances (often unsolicited) when I think there could be a mutual benefit from their knowing one another.

Which is why I struggle with personalities who are not shy about asking for favors but neglect to express their thanks after the fact. No matter how busy you are, you have zero excuse not to thank someone who has gone out of the way to grant you a solid. Like walking through a door a stranger has held for you and not saying “thank you,” accepting another’s goodwill and then forgetting all about it has wide-ranging repercussions. As in: The giver is going to think twice about repeating such generosity in the future. Whether for you or for someone else.

With that in mind, here are my best practices for asking for (and accepting) the benevolence of others in business:

1) Don’t Be Pushy
Just because a person has the ability to grant your request does not equal obligation to do so. If the other party is too busy, unwilling or unable to comply, you can’t allow that fact to tarnish your relationship.

2) Offer More than You Ask
Requesting big favors and never offering any of your own will quickly earn you a reputation as a taker. (And perhaps even a friendship faker.) Be a giver…think of it as building your credit score. The higher your score, the more likely it is you’ll get “loan offers,” i.e.—connection opportunities—without even asking.

3) Make it Easy
If you want contacts to write you a letter of recommendation, provide them with any background information they need to do so. Give them plenty of time, too. Asking for favors at the last-minute is inconsiderate, and will likely deliver inferior results. Also, if you’re offering up someone’s name as a reference, be sure you have cleared it with the individual before passing along any contact info.

4) Be Thankful
Not every favor granted calls for a flower arrangement, a cookie basket or a thank-you dinner, but at the very least, it calls for an expression of genuine thanks. (And no, a text message that reads “Thx” does not cut it.) Be certain you don’t leave your contact in the dark! If the connection has resulted in something positive for you (a business deal, a job, a foot in the door), keep the favor-granter posted. What greater joy than to know the efforts have borne fruit.

5) Pay it Forward
With apologies to Taylor Swift, the “Takers gonna take, take, take, take, take.” So last but not least, don’t be a taker; aim to give twice as much as you request. After all, tis better to give than to receive.

*There are instances when I decline providing a recommendation or connection, such as when I don’t believe in the abilities of the person doing the asking or when I don’t think the connection would spell mutual benefit for both parties. I work hard to build a trusted network of contacts, and I know you do, too. Maintain the integrity of your list by respecting that sometimes, a connection is simply not meant to be.


Happy 2017, everyone. Looking at the year ahead, I sat down with Matt Lauer and Katie Couric to address some very of-the-moment questions about etiquette in the age of digital. Based on that interview, here are seven resolutions for being a better-mannered person for the next twelve months and beyond:

Resolution #1: No More Posting Politics on Facebook

Save the political conversations for individuals with whom you know you can have a respectful in-person discussion, and where you can provide more context than you could possibly do on social media.

We live in an age where political preferences are played out on our social media pages on a daily (if not hourly) basis. If you value your sanity (and your family’s, too), hide updates from family members whose views perturb you; if it’s an acquaintance, consider simply un-friending the person. Regardless, commenting on his or her posts will only egg the individual on.

Resolution #2: No More Endless (And Mindless) Daily Posts

You know the old phrase “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? I’d alter that as follows: “If you don’t have something interesting to share, don’t share it.” So if you have 20 fascinating things you want to share a day, go for it. But be ready for your friends to unfollow you if they don’t agree with your definition of “fascinating.”

Your high-school reunion? Yes! Your morning French toast formed in the shape of a llama? Not so much.

Resolution #3: Correct Others’ Grammar in Nicest Way Possible

Even those who know better make mistakes on social media and in email…we’re typing on small screens, we get autocorrected. So errors of grammar and spelling happen to the best of us. I would give a long leash to someone who makes the occasional typo.

If it’s a child or someone who reports to you at work nd he or she is making the error on a frequent basis, I would point it out in a constructive, non-critical way. Otherwise, how will he or she ever learn? (Just make sure you are correct, and be ready for those same people to correct you when you make a mistake.)

For all others, I would gently repeat the sentence in an affirmative way with the correction included in the re-statement. For example, if someone were to say: “I’m disinterested in sports,” you could reply with a statement that corrects two oft-confused words: “I’m uninterested in sports, too.” [Emphasis added.]

Resolution #4: Send Plentiful Thank-You Notes

Ideally, you’ve called the next day to thank the host of any party you attended. If you were a house guest, you’ve also sent flowers or a gift basket as a thank-you. You’ve sent a traditional thank-you note for any gifts you received (with the exception of a gift swap or grab bag).

There is no thank-you needed for a card, although an acknowledgement—whether in-person or via text or email—is important, particularly if you did not send cards.

Get your thank-yous out quickly. Don’t wait forever. If you lack the focus, tell yourself you won’t use the gift until you get out the thank-you first. No one is too busy to write a note. And sooner is always better, but don’t let the passage of time deter you from writing. I would never turn down a thank-you note because it came late…but in the note, the sender should apologize for taking so long.

Resolution #5: Keep Photo Posts to a Minimum While at Work

Depending on your industry, it may be acceptable-or even (as is the case in media) expected-that you will be posting regularly on social platforms. Where possible, make your photos and videos inclusive. (In other words, don’t take a photo of everyone on the team except for one person.) It can be a nice way to build workplace morale.

Exercise care when tagging, and make sure all subjects in the photo are comfortable being identified. Also, that your workplace permits it. Lastly, exercise particular caution when using Snapchat’s geotagging filters-whether on yourself or, especially, on your boss.

Do make it quick, though, and get back to your desk.

Resolution #6: Don’t Yell at Your Digital Home Assistant

These are the new household novelties, and they can be fun, of course, but I think it’s important we take a step back and consider how we use devices such as Google’s Home, Amazon’s Echo or Apple’s Siri.

Just because a question pops into your head doesn’t mean you’ve got to ask it right then and there, no matter what you and your spouse might be doing at that moment. You are better off communicating with a digital assistant when you are alone, such as checking the weather before you head out the door rather than when you are in the presence of another human being.

These devices should be turned off when guests are in your house. Barking questions at a digital assistant throughout the night is no way to create a fun evening. And although you may not have concerns, your guests may also have privacy questions about the devices, and it is important you respect that.

Resolution # 7: Be Goofy—With Caution

Life is serious enough and I don’t think there is any harm in having fun with bitmojis, emojis, memes and services such as Jibjab. Anything that helps keep us connected and simultaneously puts a smile on someone’s face can’t be a bad thing. And yet, three things to watch out for here are:

•Is the content in any way offensive? If so, don’t send it.

•Is it an appropriate way to communicate with this individual? (In other words…are you sending this to someone who might look at you as less than a professional afterward?

•Are you overdoing it? Send too many and people will start thinking you have way a lot of free time on your hands. It also becomes predictable. So use them selectively, making use of these digital tools the exception rather than the rule.

Good luck with your resolutions this year! Which ones would you add to my list?