What Happened to the Wonderful World of Tact & Diplomacy?

Youth Get a Bad Rep

Handshake, manners, introductions, tact, diplomacy, leadership

As I was sitting in a meeting about a new program that was coming to the educational institute I work for, my attention was peaked when I heard the coordinator say that there would be a class to teach “tact and diplomacy” as a part of the course requirements. I suppose I was intrigued because I am in the business of image, etiquette and leadership in my side hustle, VNC Image and Etiquette, and these are exactly the types of things I teach or talk about.

I see the basics of manners, protocol, image and respect (the precursors to tact and diplomacy) are in such a demand in this world we live in. I came to notice it mostly in my days as an employment counsellor. Clients would come in smelling like pot smoke, slouching, wiping their noses on their sleeves and void of any vocabulary that gave any semblance to manners. Of course, I paint a picture of the clients that needed the biggest introduction to tact and diplomacy but there are many that just don’t know what they don’t know about making a good impression with just these small but significant ideals.

tact, diplomacy, respect, civility,

The thought that it is going to be included in a college degree program was great as far as I was concerned but it got me to thinking. Why is this an issue today? I came up with a list of what I thought could be causing the shift away from such things as tact and diplomacy.  I have no empirical data to back this list up but it might generate a discussion or perhaps a hypothesis. See what you think:

Busy parents

It’s a busy world we live in with many households having 1 or 2 working parents. These parents then have to manage the household, volunteer commitments and the children’s extra-curricular schedule. This is my world. I try my hardest to teach manners, respect, etiquette and protocol and model this the best I can but I know my children are picking up many behaviours outside the home. Some of them are not the most favourable.

Lack of structured religion

Typically, there are good things that come out of regular church attendance despite one’s stance on religion or faith.  There is a common practice in most faiths to preach The Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have done unto you”.  It fosters community, provides a spiritual connection, reinforces social and civic duty and allows for the facilitation of gratitude and respect.  With the decline in church attendance over the past several decades, this is a resource that isn’t being accessed or introduced to our young to enlighten them on such things.

Decorum or comportment aren’t taught in school todayTea time

My parents and grandparents talked about classes in decorum and/or comportment or just regular inspections on one’s wardrobe, posture or etiquette.  They further mentioned they hated them but that what they took from them was important for how they carried themselves today.  It comes down to respect.  Although it is expected in many educational environments, I’m not sure it is defined as a part of curriculum in those same institutions.  And if there are no guidelines or structure, respect can be a very subjective topic.

Helicopter parenting 

Because news of kidnappings, sexual abuse and other violence in society, parents have had to take a more active role in ensuring the safety of their children.  This, in return, has taken away the opportunity for our children to develop physical independence as well as independence in thought. They cannot learn from the experience of having their own feelings or problem-solving tactics on difficult matters and therefore do not learn how to control them or appropriately express them.  Many youth today develop a sense of entitlement because of the overprotective nature of parenting today.

Multiculturalism

As our society embraces new or varied cultures, the lines of understanding of what is respectful or civil may become blurred.  What was once considered polite and cordial to some may not be considered the same to others if they have a different understanding or perspective.  A new sensitivity and openness to these different perspectives are quickly becoming a necessity as our world becomes more globalized.

Technology

The impact of technology on our lives becomes more apparent and comes at us at a much quicker pace than ever before.  It changes the way we communicate no doubt.  A dichotomy of respect has emerged between those who are having to embrace newer and quicker technologies and those who are born into it and don’t need to embrace for it is their world.  Many adults complain that technology creates disrespect when it is used in place of face-to-face communication.  Youth today, don’t necessarily regard technology use as rude because this what they know and this is how they communicate.  Because technology has moved in (what seems) so quickly, it is changing the rules of etiquette and courtesy when it comes to communication.

Curious to learn more about Tact and Diplomacy?  Head over to The Art of Tact and Diplomacy.

Other Words for Image & Etiquette

VNC Image & EtiquetteWhen I am researching for articles, posts or material for VNC Image & Etiquette, I have many words that I will use in my search that are related.  I’ve included them here.  Let me know of words that you might think of and include them in the comments below.

Etiquette Manners Image
Wardrobe Style Fashion
Look Leadership Career
Success Civility Kindness
Courtesy Mentorship Career
Politeness Positivity Optimistic
Friendliness Thoughtfulness Respect
Self-esteem Confidence Congeniality
Social Grace Charm Protocol
Butler Poise Elegance
Class

A Business of Self-Esteem

VNC Image & Etiquette

I’ve been working for many (many, many) years towards getting a business off the ground. The vision began with a joke between a friend of mine and myself. We were both career counsellors at an employment agency and were commenting on the need for some of our clients to understand the importance of their attitude, wardrobe, manners and behaviour choices. We thought it would be funny to have our own etiquette business to teach these necessary but absent skills.

After some time and several clients later, I began to think it wasn’t so funny after all. In appointments, I heard atrocious language, saw unkempt hair, watched slouching individuals bite fingernails and sometimes I’d have to hold my breath to not inhale the “whatever-it-was” smoke that seemed to still be billowing from clothes. It occurred to me that some people did not realize how their choices were affecting those around them. Or that those same choices might be the cause of detrimental judgments that could hinder their prospects for jobs or even relationships.

It was then that I started to take that original joke between friends, more seriously. I enrolled in an image consultant certification course, invested in civility training workbooks and step-by-excruciating-step, I have put together VNC Image & Etiquette and I am (almost) ready to launch to the public.

In addition to my image and civility (etiquette) training, I am a certified career development practitioner and hold both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Education degree. I understand that how one presents him/herself physically and behaviourally is essential to the pursuit of many goals – personal or professional. I have a special interest in honing youth and young adults’ leadership capabilities. This can help with the transition from high school to post secondary or from post secondary to career. I can also offer assistance to those who are looking to boost self-esteem or just need to freshen it up.

As a first step, I am offering a Leadership Workshop Series for youth ages 14 – 21.  More workshops will be coming and personal one-on-one services will be available to develop action plans with individuals depending on their needs.  I will also be available for speaking engagements.  Please contact me if you require further details on any of the above workshops or services.

Stay tuned …

How to Appear Confident … even when you’re not

Confidence

Confidence is key in this western society that we live in. Jobs, relationships, perceptions and self-esteem can all be made or broken by how much confidence we exude or don’t. Many times, we simply are not confident. We might be nervous, feel inferior, not feel knowledgeable or unprepared and worry that we just don’t fit the bill. Even though we may feel that way, it doesn’t mean we can’t present ourselves confidently.  Even just looking the part despite not feeling it, can get us through until, eventually, our artificial sense of confidence turns into the real thing. “Fake it ’til you make it”, I like to say. Here are some tips to help you come across as confident even when you don’t feel it.

1. Posture – The way you stand can say so much about you.  If you aren’t feeling your best, slouching, hiding behind long hair or leaning against the wall can be a direct message that you don’t want to put yourself out there.  Stand or sit straight with your head up and your shoulders back.  Pretend you have a string that is tied to middle of your head and a puppeteer is holding you up by the string – straight and looking forward.  Good posture sends the message that you know what you are doing and you are comfortable with where you are.

2. Eye Contact – Always make eye contact when you are talking to or listening to someone.  If people can’t see your eyes when you are talking to them they may not feel you’re trustworthy.  Shifty eyes will make people nervous.  No eye contact suggests you don’t believe you are good enough to talk to or worse, you don’t believe the other person is good enough to talk to.  If you don’t make eye contact when someone else is talking, it may give the impression that you aren’t listening or you are not interested in what that person has to say.  Not only can it destroy your confidence believability, it may keep you out of the networking loop.

3.  Admit when you don’t know something – I’ve had people tell me that they will pretend to understand or know about something that they have no clue about just so they don’t come across as stupid or naive.  You are not expected to know everything.  Asking for information to learn something or just plain saying “I don’t know the answer to that,” shows that you are comfortable enough to show you are human.  This, believe-it-or-not, is confidence.

4.  Smile – The best thing you can do for almost any situation is to just smile.  Especially when you aren’t feeling confident.  Physiologically, smiling will send signals to your body to relax and help you take control of your thoughts and feelings.  Smile long enough and you can trick your body into thinking your are happy even if you aren’t.  It will signal to others that you are happy or experiencing a “light” moment and are, therefore, approachable.  When people approach you to spark conversation or make inquiries, it will make you feel confident.  And the greatest thing about smiling is that it’s contagious.

5.  Wear your power outfit – Everyone should have a power outfit.  That one outfit that makes you feel like you can take on the world.  You look good and feel good in it and you can’t help but feel confident.  I have a pant-suit that I only wear when I’m presenting to large and perhaps, corporate, audiences.  It makes me feel tall (I’m not), put-together, attractive and stylish.  Even if I’m sweating buckets and am incredibly nervous, I know that I look like I mean business when I’m in my power outfit.  And sometimes, just putting on that outfit is enough to put me into full-fledged confidence mode.

6.  Firm hand shake –  A firm handshake is a must.  It may be a bit cliche but when meeting people, if the grip isn’t one with some fortitude, it can make or break an introduction and thus, a relationship.  A firm handshake (one coupled with eye contact *see point #3) suggests that you know who you are and you are ready to make a new and possibly great connection.  Even, when not feeling the power of a confident mood, that firm handshake at least gives that message at the start so you can catch up with confidence later.  Caution, however, that the handshake isn’t too strong.  A bone-crushing handshake can give the impression that you mean to dominate and that does not, a great introduction make.

7.  Prepare – If you have an event or an opportunity approaching where you are worried that your confidence may not be in full order, the best thing to do is prepare.  If it’s a networking event, read-up on who is expected to be there; what is the focus of the event; are there questions you can prepare ahead of time so that you are armed with information for those awkward silences.  Perhaps check out what is trending on twitter before heading in so that you have some quick conversation-starters like “Did you catch that headline about …?”  If you are going into a situation where you will be in the spotlight, go over your notes or ask a friend to prepare questions to ask you.  The more preparation you can do ahead of time, the more confident you feel and the more confident you will come across.

Should you be in situation where you’d rather just curl up and sit in the corner, these tips will hopefully help not only put you into the centre of the room, but help you to feel comfortable being there.  Are there other ideas that you use to help you feel confident even if you aren’t?

Top 10 Most Gracious Celebrity Women according to me

These are women that I see as role models. They are women I’d like to have at my supper table and who I’d love to sit down and chat with. From what I know of them (and of course that is through the lens of the media) they exemplify the following characteristics:

Criteria:
• Often seen smiling
• Present positively
• Sense of humour
• Well – groomed
• Well dressed
• Courteous
• Humble
• Giving
• Authentic
• Not afraid to look silly
• Courageous
• Confident
• Grateful

10. Michelle Obama

Gracious Michelle Obama

9.  Kate Middleton

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8. Queen Latifah

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7.  Emma Stone

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6.  Meryl Streep

Meryl-Streep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.  Princess Diana

princess diana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.  Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen-Degeneres

3.  Maggie Smith

Maggie-smith-original

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.  Julie Andrews

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1.  Audrey Hepburn

audrey

A Quick Thought About Your Impression

more business casual
Whether we like it or not, agree with it or not, judgments will be made about us. If we do not take into consideration how we look or act, these judgments may not be in our favour. Furthermore, these assumptions may not only be made about us but could be made about our positions, our departments and/or the organizations we work for. Therefore, it is very important to put thoughtful consideration into our appearance and behaviour.

How to Stand Out

Some people just stand out. At the grocery store, maybe it’s that one cashier that you always go to, or the guy in the suit standing next to you in line at the bank machine. For whatever reason, some people just “catch our eye”. What is about them? Are you one of those people? Not sure? Here are some things to consider if you want to “get noticed”:

1. Posture – Memorable people walk, stand and sit with their heads up and shoulders back. They are looking forward and don’t shy away from making eye contact with anyone in their path. It’s easy to blend into a crowd with your head down or shoulders slumped. Good posture sends the message that you are confident.

2. Eye Contact – Eye contact is crucial. When someone looks into my eye when I am talking, it lets me know they are listening. If they are talking, I can pick up on other communicative clues. Either way, I want to share in a conversation when someone is looking at me. No eye contact and I will probably loose interest or assume the other party is not that interested in me.

3. Conversation Initiator – I feel as though I’m the conversation starter usually so when someone starts a conversation with me, I take notice. I realize that this can be intimidating for many but it’s amazing who you may end up speaking to or what you end up speaking about. I have landed jobs because I was the one who said “hi” to the right person.

4. Dress Well – How you dress can say a lot about you. It doesn’t take a tonne of money either. Ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it”? It’s absolutely true. Pay attention to trends and pick clothes that fit you well. If you don’t know what your colour season is, it might be a worthy investment to find this out. Wearing the “right” colours can take you from looking “okay” to looking “FABULOUS”.

5. Be Well-Groomed – This is critical. A person who is well-dressed but doesn’t comb her hair, trim his nails, or shower, stands out for the wrong reasons. When I am “people-watching”, the notable ones have well-coiffed hair, usually finished with some hair product, have nicely manicured nails and smell great.

6. Walk with purpose – I mentioned that posture is important when walking but so is the way you walk. Scuffing or dragging your feet can give the wrong impression. When walking amongst a crowd, it’s a good idea to keep up with the pace. Just like with driving, a slow walker may annoy those behind him who are trying to maintain a steady gate. Those who rush and weave in and out of other walkers can be an annoyance as well.

7. Smile – Smiling just draws attention on its own. It makes people feel happy. It makes you feel happy. People want to be around people who are happy. Remember that. People will notice you if you are smiling. And sometimes, even when you feel the furthest from smiling, forcing yourself to do so can start the process of turning things around so that eventually, you aren’t forcing yourself anymore. Your natural smile just comes through. I always loved that song from the musical, Annie: “You’re never fully dressed without a smile”.