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.)


“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.

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!