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?

Case of the Sniffles

Manners Regarding Colds and Sniffles

In one of the most poignant vignettes in her terrific book Quick Before the Music Stops, my former Town & Country magazine colleague Janet Carlson recollects a daily commute next to her husband—a man with whom she was very much in love. Even during his occasional bouts of sniffling. As the years go by and the ardor evaporates from their marriage, the sniffles that once elicited a thoughtfully given, just-in-time tissue now produce in his wife feelings of annoyance. Hurtling toward Manhattan side-by-side on a commuter train each day, Janet begins to ponder why, after all this time, her spouse simply doesn’t bring a pack of tissues and clean his own nose.

I was reminded of that anecdote while watching last night’s presidential debate. With the first of several very pronounced sniffs (magnified by his wireless and podium microphones), Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump startled the television audience and unwittingly unleashed a torrent of Twitter jokes and memes about his sudden case of the sniffles.

Regardless of which side of the political fence you are on, chances are you can relate to having a runny nose (or the hiccups…or an uncontrollable cough). It’s embarrassing and absolutely no fun——particularly when exiting the room is easier said than done. Such was the case last night during a ninety-minute debate with no commercials and unceasing, close-up camerawork that refused to blink.

Sniffles Etiquette

Chances are you won’t ever find yourself presenting in front of a TV audience of 80 million. Nonetheless, what are some best practices for preventing your allergy or seasonal cold from distracting from your otherwise professional presence and remaining mindful of business etiquette? Here are my 5 tips:

Consider the Disruption

If your malady has the potential to become the focus and distract from your presence at an event (whether as a guest or as a host), consider canceling or sending someone else in your stead. Better you stay home and get the rest you need than attempt to soldier through it and turn in a poor performance.

Come Prepared

If you’ve determined your’re up to the task, be sure to give your body the help it needs. Don’t be caught without a packet of tissues, cough drops, ample water, hand sanitizer and perhaps an antihistamine tablet. And please, please, please, save the hanky for sartorial flourish…not for cleaning your nose.

Acknowledge, Don’t Dwell

If you are presenting in front of a group, defray the distraction by acknowledging the elephant in the room (“Please forgive my froggy voice…I’m just getting over laryngitis,”) and move on. Making a bigger deal out of your temporary affliction will only further distract from your message.

Keep it Brief

If you’re genuinely up to it and not contagious, commit to being at the function just long enough to fulfill your duties and then make a gracious exit. If you’re making remarks, keep them short. (Few will mind.) If you simply need to make an appearance, see the folks you need to see and then leave. Don’t feel the need to remain until the bitter end.

Play the Good Samaritan

In the same way your own first-aid kit can save you from embarrassment, be generous and offer your resources to anyone else in the room facing similar misery. A considerately provided cough drop or tissue is worth its weight in gold to someone muddling his or way through as you are.

As for the candidates themselves, come time for the next debate, I suggest both Mr. Trump and Secretary Clinton sniff out their opponent’s weaknesses and come equipped with a pack of tissues.

Wait Till You Hear What Happened to ME!

Whether it’s the friend who’s always coming home from a trip far better than the one you just took or your next-door neighbor whose surgery was ten times worse than yours, we all know a “Story Topper.” Sometimes, this game of one-upmanship can contribute to conversation, keeping things lively and fun. But let’s face it….no one likes to have their best anecdotes ruined by follow-up from a “been there, done-that” acquaintance. With holiday party season right around the corner, all of us will undoubtedly find ourselves in the presence of a Story Topper. (You may even be one yourself.) This week on the Today show, I shared some tips for how to react if this situation happens to you--and it will. For some additional strategies, read on....



Await a Better Audience

Save your best tales for the company of those you know will appreciate them and not attempt to one-up you.

Stand Up for Yourself

Don't be afraid to let the other party know you were not finished. Be polite, but be assertive; don't let your story be derailed.

Bring an Entourage

Thwart a perennial story topper by having a wingman along who will jump in and move the focus back to your tale.


Change the Subject

Shift the subject of conversation to something that doesn't (typically) involve anyone's personal experience (including your own). Current events are a good start.


Excuse Yourself

Move on to someone interested in an actual give-and-take conversation. Rather than giving this needy story-topper any more attention, excuse yourself politely. Even if they don't get the hint, you'll be saving yourself from further annoyance.

Be Honest With Yourself
Are you droning on too long? Bragging? Could it be that the story topper is trying to put you in your rightful place? Maybe it’s time to trim your tale a bit.

The takeaway here is that the occasional story topping (done respectfully, of course) is a sign of connection being made over common interests and experiences. The key is to keep your motives pure—don’t hog the conversation, and don’t try to steal someone else’s thunder. Finally, remember that the most mannerly person of all is the one who has an even better story but who nonetheless saves it for another time, kindly allowing others to enjoy the spotlight.