7 Etiquette Resolutions for 2017

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?

5 Tips for Keeping the Peace This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving etiquette, family dinner table

Not in recent memory has there been a Thanksgiving so needed (and simultaneously dreaded) by so many. Coming on the heels of one of the most contentious election seasons in American history, this year’s holiday brings with it more than just stuffing and yams—it also brings the threat of family arguments and hurt feelings. Will politics be broached at your dinner table this week? Here are some ways to put partisanship aside and focus on counting our blessings:

1. Establish a Politics-Free Zone
The dinner table should be a place where all feel comfortable and welcome, with no one held captive to a heated political conversation. If this is a concern, the host should request in advance (whether by email, phone or text) that there be no political chatter at the table and instead request that guests arrive prepared to discuss something in their life for which they are thankful.

2. Use Placecards to Help Keep the Peace
If there are two or more relatives who are sure to lock horns over politics no matter what rules are set in advance, the host should prepare a seating plan and use place cards to ensure the two combatants are neither next to one another during the meal, nor across from one another.

3. Bring on the Blessings
Ask one or more of the younger members of the family to say a prayer to begin the meal. This will help kick the celebration off on the right foot. If they enjoy craft activities, at the start of the gathering, have the children (and any creative adults) make signs with tongue depressors that have fun slogans on them, such as “Poultry, Not Politics” and “Gobble, Don’t Squabble.” Have the young children hold these signs up anytime they hear a heated political conversation brewing.

4. Let the Music Play
Remember that Saturday Night Live skit where the arguing family turned happy and non-contentious every time Adele’s “Hello” played? I think that skit was on to something. If not Adele, create a Thanksgiving music playlist with an emphasis on music that calms nerves rather than rattles them. Suggestions: instrumental soft jazz, classical piano or, for something completely unexpected—Hawaiian music.

5. Create a Personal Tagline
Try as you might, you know there will be one family member who insists on broaching the peace with unwanted political chatter. Unless you can engage in a way that is respectful and one that will not result in hard feelings, you are best to avoid the bait. One of my favorite strategies for doing so is to have a mantra that you stick to verbatim any time someone tries to lure you in to a conversation you’d rather avoid. Suggestions: “I choose to avoid talking politics today” or “Let’s table this for another time.”

Don’t fear your family on Thursday—embrace them. If not their beliefs, for their better qualities. Challenge yourself to re-discover what they are and be the one to create that fresh start.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!