Mrs. McVeigh's Manners
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Handling Uncomfortable Situations

              We all have an occasional “situation” with people who we interact with everyday, whether they are a friend, family member, or co-worker. What is the best way to deal with these uncomfortable situations? As much as most of us hate confrontation, you have to deal with people by communicating directly in order to get past a problem.             It is great if you have a relationship with someone that you can just bluntly tell him or her that he offended you, and then he apologizes, and vice-versa. As we all know having a relationship like this is rare, because as human beings we get our feelings hurt, get defensive, or just hate to be criticized. For the 99% of the people who we cannot be blunt with and get it over with, you still have to face up to the unpleasant task of talking things through. The approach you never want to take is to sweep it under the carpet and leave the situation without discussing and settling it. Resentment can build up, and the next time a “situation” occurs, it will become twice as big as it should be.             The best way to handle an uncomfortable situation is to ask to meet in person to discuss it. If that is not an option, pick up the phone. Be a good listener and let the person vent. If you truly are wrong then just go ahead and admit it. It is amazing how quiet a person becomes when you simply apologize. All the anger he or she felt up to that moment seems to go away.  Arguing back adds fuel to the person’s fire, but an apology puts out the fire immediately. If you have points to make in a rebuttal, before you explain your side try to summarize what you hear the other person saying. This will validate if you are hearing him correctly, and then he knows that you are truly concerned and are listening. After you agree that you understand the person’s grievances, calmly explain your actions or point of view. If you keep your voice low and non-threatening, the person should calm down and lower his volume.             Never handle a disagreement over email. What is the first thing you do when you get an unpleasant email from someone? You pass it on to everyone you think will care. You never know who will end up seeing the email, and how it will be used against you. Also, your tone of voice can easily be misinterpreted. Seeing a person’s expressions is priceless, and people seem to act more reasonably when they see you are truly looking sorry and concerned for how they feel. There is no substitute for talking something out. No matter if you think you are right or wrong, always appear calm and apologize for how the person feels. If you think humor will be taken in the right way, then start using it as soon as possible in the conversation. It is hard to yell at someone after ...

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Job Referrals – What is at Stake?


With the bad economy that continues to loom over our country, we all know people who have lost their jobs. Helping someone who is unemployed by giving him a job lead is one thing, but you may be hesitant about taking it a step further by giving someone a personal endorsement. I recently had a reader say she was hesitant in giving a friend’s name to her Human Resources department at her company when they asked. Suggesting someone for a job is a very nice thing to do, but can if affect your reputation if it turns out to be a bad fit for the person or the company? Here are some things to keep in mind before you agree to give a referral.

            If you have worked with the person before, you know first hand how this person performs at a job, and what his skill set and strengths and weaknesses are. This is a no-brainer when thinking about whether to refer someone for a job or not. If it is an acquaintance, friend, or a counterpart in your industry, who you have never personally worked with, it is a tougher call. If you feel like the person is of good character, has a strong work ethic, and gets along well with most people, then referring him should not be a problem. You can even give the disclaimer that you have never been employed at the same place, but you have observed positive traits in your relationship with him.  Always go with your gut. If you have any hesitation whatsoever, then do not feel obligated to give this person your endorsement.

            If you refer someone to your company and he does not work out, do not panic. If you are doing a good job as an employee, then your recommendation not being a success should not ruin your career. This is true for anyone you suggest to any potential employer. As long as you did not talk the employer into hiring this person, and simply suggested the person give your friend an interview, then ultimately it is the employer’s decision to hire this person. If your friend gets hired and then leaves voluntarily or is asked to leave, the employer will blame his own poor judgment with the hire, and it will not reflect badly on you.

What you Wear Unfortunately Makes a Difference


            A few weeks ago I talked about the trend of people wearing their pajamas in public. I had some responses that I would like to share with you. One was a gentleman who said my statement that people should not wear pajamas in public sounded judgmental. He stated he and his wife have gone out in Dallas before and have felt uncomfortable stares for being underdressed. Another reader said she agreed with me that wearing pajamas in public won’t get you as far in life as dressing well, and asks her children to look nice when going to school. A few people even forwarded me a local grocery store advertisement that said if you wear your pajamas to their bakery on Saturday morning, you will receive a free cinnamon roll.

If you agree or disagree with me that people should not wear pajamas in public, I think the bottom line is that people are judged by what they wear, if we like it or not.

            Treyvon Martin is a perfect example. The facts are still being debated but the heart of the issue seems to be that he was judged as a threatening person because he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt. The fact that he was African-American is of course being discussed, but if he was in khaki pants and a pressed button down shirt, I feel confident he would be alive today, no matter what color his skin was.  Is this wrong? Of course it is. If is down right disturbing if these are truly the facts. This is our society’s reality and how we dress is a reflection of how we are perceived and reflects how people react and interact with us.

            You can take my word for this as an “Etiquette Expert.” If I am dressed in anything less than something very professional and conservative, I get comments from people about how I do not look like an etiquette expert. It annoys me, and I do not worry about it on my off time, but I know not to show up to work in anything that does not look the part.

            We can tell ourselves not to judge people by the color of their skin, the car they drive, the neighborhood they live in, and how they dress. Our reality is we all do it, from someone wearing a hooded sweatshirt, to wearing our pajamas outside our home.

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