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?


uber-etiquette

To the jubilation of its drivers, rideshare king Uber issued a set of “community guidelines” for customer behavior this month. To wit: Advising passengers they are not permitted to have intercourse during a ride, to carry a gun or an open container of alcohol while en route. Common sense, surely, and yet?

Other banned behaviors include being verbally abusive to a driver or damaging the property of a fellow passenger during a shared ride.

I’d like to think most individuals who use services such as Uber, Lyft and Via know better than to engage in any of the actions above. That being said, I’ve witnessed my share of miscreant habits during my time as a rider. With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of my own community guidelines…common-sense thoughts that should make the journey more pleasant for everyone.

Be Prompt
Be sure you’re ready when your driver arrives. Don’t keep him or her waiting. This is particularly important when you are ride-sharing, as with UberPOOL, Lyft Line or Via.

Be Polite
Introduce yourself to your driver upon entering the vehicle so he or she is certain you are the right passenger. Say hello to any passengers already in the car, too. You don’t need to engage in a rip-roaring conversation, but when two or more fellow human beings occupy such a compact space, basic courtesy dictates you acknowledge the individual(s) in your midst. If you want a completely talk-free commute, wait a few years…self-driving cars are on the horizon.

Keep the Car Neat
Carry-in, carry-out. As is the case in the rest room on an airplane, politeness begs consideration of the next passenger. Don’t leave behind your water bottle, newspaper, gum wrapper or—worst of all—ABC gum.

Don’t Slam the Door
Whether by accident or on-purpose, slamming a door is a rattling experience (literally and figuratively) for the driver and any remaining passengers. Close the door gently and fully so everyone can get to the next destination safely and in peace.

Give Feedback
Drivers need positive reviews to keep their jobs; too many negatives and they get the boot. That’s not to say you should give every driver five-stars, but if the driver got you to your destination politely, safely and efficiently in a car that was clean and odor-free, be sure to affirm that service experience. Of course, if the driver did not deliver in those areas, it’s essential you share that feedback, too.

Safe and swift journeys, everyone!


From yesterday’s segment on the Today show…more solutions for dealing with stressful holiday situations—from how to react to your daughter’s annoying new boyfriend to the guest who breaks your fine china.


Business Etiquette of Saying No

“Can I ask you a favor?”

Do you get a rush of adrenaline when you hear this question…or do you feel a pang of dread?

For many of us, the chance to provide a career-related kindness is an opportunity to savor, the business etiquette equivalent of helping jump start the battery of a friend’s stuck car.

On the other hand, in business, we also encounter scenarios when we simply cannot (or would prefer not) to assist.

There are perfectly legitimate reasons for feeling this way and yet, for someone who’s a giver, saying “no” can be far more difficult than saying “um, okay.”

Have you ever been asked for a reference by a former employee whose abilities you don’t hold in high regard? Or for an introduction to a valued connection by someone you barely know (or trust)? What would you do with a request to pass along the résumé of a candidate whose abilities you know to be subpar?

It’s human nature to want to help, and yet when assisting also means ignoring our own best instincts, an uncomfortable paradox is typically the result. Having been in all of the situations above, here is my best personal manners and business etiquette advice:

The Recommendation Request
You detract from your own credibility when you provide a glowing reference for a former employee whose work performance was anything but. Difficult though it may be, professional ethics dictate you decline this request—gracefully, of course. I suggest responding along these lines:

“I’m honored you’ve asked me to recommend you and would be happy to confirm your position and dates of employment. With respect to a recommendation, it’s probably best for you to seek one from someone who can better represent your skills than I can.”

Your honest but sensitive reply should serve to prevent a similar request from this individual in the future.

My Daughter’s Roommate’s Boyfriend Needs a Job
“You know lots of influential people, right? Can you help him?” More often than not, this sort of ask comes from an acquaintance who saved your business card from a chance meeting at a trade conference eight years ago. You barely recall the acquaintance and of course, know less than zero about his daughter’s roommate’s boyfriend.

I’m a big believer in karma and doing good things for others without any expectation of reciprocation. And yet, your network of contacts, a coterie of individuals you’ve likely spent years establishing, is not something to treat cavalierly. The response to this request should also be a graceful “no.” I recommend a variation on:

“Much as I’d like to assist your daughter’s roommate’s boyfriend, I make it a policy only to connect individuals I’ve met and can unequivocally recommend. I hope you understand.” Leave it at that; no further elaboration is necessary.

The Résumé Referral
“Could you pass my C.V. along to your human resources department?” Although in your eyes an acquaintance may not be suited for a particular position, in this case, you can leave it to the hiring manager to make this determination. Don’t promise a glowing referral, and certainly don’t make one if you are not feeling it. I propose:

“Of course I can pass your résumé along.” (A true statement of fact.)

and

“I’ve been asked to forward this résumé for your consideration.” Full stop. Where it goes from there is out of your hands.

Bottom line? Tough as it may be not to go out of your way for those who ask for your business help, for others to continue to trust you, you must trust your own gut. Adhere to that standard and your network of contacts will continue to value your referrals, knowing they are heartfelt, genuine and truly worthy.