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Hateful Handsprings

Hateful Handsprings


I found your page while searching for advice on teaching tween girls to be considerate and not whisper or exclude one another. This is a big problem on my daughter’s gymnastics team, and I am sure in many schools and sports teams. Any advice?

—Anne M.


Your daughter is certainly of an age where this sort of situation is common. Have you tried approaching her directly? Let her know how hurtful these scenarios can be for the ones being whispered about. Be sure she understands that it’s okay not to partake, and that as she gets older, she’ll realize that the whisperers are often lacking in confidence and character, and the ones who refuse to take part are the admirable ones.

Since this is a problem that seems to affect the entire team, have you spoken to your daughter’s coach? The coach should make this sort of thing a priority, because it can only serve to weaken the team’s unity when there’s so much gossip going on. If the coach can’t get through, what about a graduate of the program, perhaps someone right out of college? Having someone who has succeeded in gymnastics and who is just a few years older than the girls in question may just command their undivided attention and help convince them to change their whispery ways.

Hateful Handsprings2018-05-28T22:00:39-04:00

Late-Night Limo

Late-Night Limo


I have booked a service to take me from the Philadelphia airport to Ambler, Pennsylvania. The reservation I made says no tip required, because the tip was included in the price.  My plane arrives at 11:00 p.m., which means the driver will be making a late night run.  Do I tip him anyway, and if so, how much?

—Bonnie L.


If the tip is included, you have no obligation to tip additionally, and limo drivers are certainly accustomed to picking up passengers at all hours. That being said, if you find the driver to be particularly courteous/friendly/ helpful, I would add another 5-percent to the overall amount.

Late-Night Limo2018-05-28T22:05:39-04:00

Bowled Over

Bowled Over


If a waiter brings over my entree along with little bowls of veggies placed on top of the plate, what should I do with the bowls? Eat from the bowls, or pour the vegetables from the bowls onto my plate?

—Scott B.


The answer really depends on the sort of restaurant you’re in…is this a fine-dining establishment (in which case the vegetables were put into smaller vessels for a very specific reason) or a more casual dining establishment, in which case there may be a more practical reason for this separation.
In a fine-dining spot, you’ll most likely have a small serving spoon in or next to each of the bowls. In the casual spot, that may not be the case. In the latter case, however, I would request your server bring you a spoon so you can place the vegetables onto your larger plate in portions as you progress through your meal. (Providing there is room on your plate and that this won’t mean you’re mixing sauces or condiments that do not go well together, of course.)

Bowled Over2018-05-29T01:01:56-04:00

Cookie Cheer

Cookie Cheer


We live in a small Midwestern town. When my husband fell ill earlier this year, a great many people went the extra mile (and then some) to help us in various ways. We’re currently short on spare funds, but well-stocked on flour, sugar, and good cheer. Is it acceptable to take brownies and other treats to the post office, doctor’s office and other organizations that have been so kind to us?

—Audrey L.


By all means spread the cheer through baked goods! The love and care that goes into warm homemade holiday cookies can sometimes mean even more than cold, hard cash.
If the recipient will be someone who is accustomed to receiving a tip from you at the end of the year (a hairdresser or a babysitter, for instance), be sure to convey that your not tipping him or her this year doesn’t reflect on the level of service that you have received. State simply that funds are a bit tight for you and that you nonetheless want to express your appreciation in the most sincere way possible. The best way to do this is (in addition to the baked goods) is with a holiday card/thank-you note that acknowledges your gratitude and accompanies the wrapped goodies.

Cookie Cheer2018-05-29T01:02:06-04:00

America’s 5 Friendliest and 5 Most Mannerly Cities

America’s 5 Friendliest and 5 Most Mannerly Cities

October 19, 2017

Earlier this month, Forbes asked me to name my choices for the five friendliest and five most mannerly cities in America.

As a frequent business traveler, I have the opportunity to visit dozens of destinations throughout the year and I have the good fortune to meet terrific individuals anywhere I go. You can imagine, then, the task was daunting to say the least.

For me, impressions of a new place are forged by the interactions I have with taxi drivers, shopkeepers, restaurant workers and everyday residents. All it takes is a few rude exchanges and I’ll return home with a less than favorable perception of the locale. Conversely, after a few friendly conversations, chances are good I’ll be longing to return.

Although it wasn’t easy narrowing down my list to just five, my choices are below. For the full Forbes article and my reasons for nominating each, please see here.

Let me know what you think…next time I think I’d prefer to list the top fifty rather than the top five!


1. Dallas, TX
2. Nashville, TN
3. New York City
4. Boulder, CO
5. Washington, DC.


1. Palm Beach, FL
2. Minneapolis, MN
3. Lancaster, PA
4. Charlotte, NC
5. New Orleans, LA

America’s 5 Friendliest and 5 Most Mannerly Cities2018-05-28T21:56:26-04:00

Sorry, Not Sorry: A Condolence Lesson for the President

Sorry, Not Sorry: A Condolence Lesson for the President

October 18, 2017

For most of us, finding appropriate words of sympathy for a grieving friend, colleague or family member can be particularly challenging. At such times, many of us default to: “I’m so sorry for your loss.”

The sheer innocuous-ness of that phrase sometimes makes it feel trite—or worse, not heartfelt. And yet, its simplicity sums up what courses through our minds as we offer comfort to someone going through the unimaginable. How much more difficult, then, are condolences for a fallen soldier.

The tragic death of Army Sergeant La David Johnson and the subsequent condolence call made by President Donald Trump is under great scrutiny today, and rightly so. The fallen serviceman, who was killed in an ISIS attack in Niger earlier this month, is survived by his wife, Myeshia—who is six months pregnant—and their two young children.  He was 25.

As conveyed firsthand yesterday by Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who was with Mrs. Johnson at the time she received the commander-in-chief’s call, the president’s attempt at sympathy included mentioning the soldier “knew what he was getting into” when he enlisted. If accurate, the Florida represntative’s report of the conversation, provides echoes of “I like people who weren’t captured,”—the tone-deaf statement of then-candidate Donald Trump in speaking about longtime prisoner-of-war Senator John McCain of Arizona.
Comforting the family members of a fallen soldier may well rank up there as one of the hardest calls a commander-in-chief must ever make. It is of the utmost importance that every syllable convey sympathy, concern, tact and support. To come off as callous—or even jocular—is worse than offering no comfort whatsoever.

Being president is not easy. Sometimes there are perfect words. Sometimes there are no words at all.

Sorry, Not Sorry: A Condolence Lesson for the President2018-05-28T21:31:37-04:00

Voice Mail: Not the Villain You Think

Voice Mail: Not the Villain You Think

June 6, 2017

A holdover from before the age of email, voice mail is perhaps the most loathed (and disused) communications tool at our disposal in 2017. Consider sentiments such as these:

“I never listen to my voicemails. It’s too time-consuming.”

“I don’t bother leaving voicemails. No one listens to them anyway.”

“I haven’t set up my voice mailbox. I wouldn’t even know how.”

Companies including Coca-Cola, Bloomberg and JPMorgan Chase have largely eliminated voice mail for their employees, typically to great acclaim. The argument, of course, is that voice mail is prehistoric and that email and text messaging have eliminated the need for it. Voice mail, with its cumbersome access numbers and passcodes, not to mention its linear method for listening to messages, is simply a time-waster. And while one could argue that replacing a fax machine with email is an upgrade with zero downsides, suggestions that email is a comparable substitute for voicemail are inaccurate.

What does voicemail have that email and texting do not? Tone. And I don’t mean dial tone. I mean vocal tone. In the business-etiquette training workshops I offer around the U.S., one of the consistent complaints I hear from my students is that they regularly receive emails that come across as rude. Often, this perception of lack of politeness is the result of a misunderstanding. What is meant to be concise comes off as curt. What is meant to be a question comes off as a demand. What is meant to be a rationale comes off as an excuse. And in each of these cases, the missing element is the human voice…something that would help bridge the digital gap easily and effectively. Consider the following one-line email:

We missed you at the meeting today.

How would you interpret that statement? As a thoughtful check-in? A perplexed inquiry? A gentle chastisement of someone’s absence? A frustrated observation?

I challenge you to answer that question definitively. I don’t think you can. Now try saying the line aloud, using as many different intonations as you can. How many versions of that statement can you create? Your voice inflection gives the listener keys to gauging your state of mind. Could you accomplish the equivalent via email? With effort, yes. Does everyone make the time to write thoughtful, nuanced emails that remove all possibility for misinterpretation? Based on the responses I receive in my training classes, absolutely not.

Is there subtext to your message? Is there an opportunity for the recipient to perceive your meaning incorrectly? Is a face-to-face conversation out of the question due to your being in different locations? If so, voicemail is clearly the superior option to email or texting. The takeaway here? Don’t be afraid to leave them—and listen to them.

What do you think? Are there instances where you would use voicemail as your preferred means of communication versus email? Let me know! And in my next post, I’ll discuss the art of perfect voicemail—both incoming and outgoing.

Voice Mail: Not the Villain You Think2018-05-28T21:32:13-04:00