Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Podcast: Mobile phone etiquette

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

How to be a good conversationalist

Dear Ms Manners

Say I'm at a party or a dinner and I happen to be sitting with a group of disparate people, only some of whom I may know. The topic of conversation may just veer to subjects I may not be knowledgeable about – say art or politics. How can one best work around conversations where they don't have much to contribute? How does one manage to stay 'included' and conduct one's self stylishly without revealing any lack of know-how or making any faux pas?

- Sonali Pandya

Dear Sonali,

I know what you mean; nobody would like to get labeled as a dim-wit. I cannot but stress enough the importance of communication whether it is verbal or non verbal.

Speech is an important form of communication. Each time you open your mouth, you reveal something about yourself to someone else not just in what you say, but how you say it! A good conversationalist is not one who chatters endlessly or one who pretends to know it all either. Developing effective communication skills would therefore be of primary importance to get you through sticky moments. Here are a few tips.

First and foremost, your body language should convey confidence. Don’t slouch- Keep your head up, shoulders back and sit up straight and tall.

Look directly at the person who is speaking, with spontaneous and undivided attention; the person who looks happy to see you, who is seemingly eager and enthralled with your conversation is generally good company. Always nod in understanding, even if what is being said is double Dutch to you.

Listen intently without interrupting when a person is speaking, storing all information in the far recesses of your mind for future use. ‘Remember that the sympathetic (not apathetic) listener is the delight of delights.’

Don’t pretend to know more than you do. If you do, but don’t appear to have any understanding or further knowledge of the subject, you will you look extremely foolish. ‘Only the very small mind hesitates to say “I don’t know.”

Besides, when in doubt, silence is golden; chattering inanely will merely reveal a shallow mind.
If ignorant about the current topic of conversation, wait for a lull in the conversation or a pregnant pause and subtly steer the conversation to areas of interest to you.

Contrary to popular belief, ignorance is never bliss. Though you are not expected to be a walking encyclopedia, knowledge is wealth! Read voraciously, especially about art, literature, culture and music. Brush up on current events.

Introduce your self to the unknown and converse with the person on either side you. Skillfully manipulate the conversation towards mutually interesting topics. Test a few, until you hit on one which gets you an animated/ eager response. Asking a new acquaintance a work related question is a good ‘ice breaker.’ In India, cricket is always a sure winner.

Speak softly, clearly and sincerely. Make your self heard without shouting, interrupting or talking over others. Speak your mind and convey your feelings, without being hurtful of another’s feelings

Society is meant to be a pleasant place; being confrontational or aggressive with people does not make for pleasant company. Politics and religion are absolutely taboo topics. Moreover, it is terribly rude to ask personal questions or make personal comments. Those that keep the conversation impersonal, light and happy are normally popular company.

Hogging the conversation, whining or bragging will earn you the tag of a ‘pest’ or a ‘bore’. Besides preaching should only be done from the pulpit.

Relax, tension, resulting from the feeling of ineptitude or inadequacy, can cause a mental block, or even provoke useless chatter. It would be worth remembering that those waxing eloquent may not be an Einstein clone either.

The first, last and only rule really is to stop and think before you speak!. If you “stop” you can’t chatter or expound or flounder ceaselessly, and if you think, you will make conversation that is interesting to your company rather than long-suffering.

I rest my case with this anecdote I heard in passing --- An elderly man, in an effort to be communicable, once told a new acquaintance, “Twenty years ago you were the prettiest woman in town!” How is that for tact!?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Grooming & Etiquette Workshop: Jan 11-13

Image Inc is conducting a Grooming & Etiquette workshop by image consultant Ms Rukshana Eisa on January 11, 12 & 13, 2006.

10.30 am to 2.30pm at Waterfield Rd,Bandra (W), Mumbai 400050.

The workshop will teach skills that will influence your success and build an image that will enhance your confidence and improve your business and social etiquette.

For details call Maria on 2492 1010 or email rukshana.imageinc@gmail.com

How to gracefully end a relationship

Dear Ms Manners

How does one gracefully move out of someone’s life when a relationship ends? I think this stage, more than any other, is a true test of one’s dignity and tact. It could be the end of a friendship, a marriage or a couple breaking up. But being bitter, malicious or nasty serves no purpose. How soon can one ask for their personal possessions to be returned, and return their ex’s stuff too? Can you ask for things to be returned to you? Of course, in a marriage there’s an entire settlement to think of, but in a relationship should expensive gifts exchanged be sent back. Things are particularly painful when the girl or guy in question has developed a relationship with their ex-best friend or partner’s family. What’s the best way to behave if one bumps into them somewhere, and does one need to express anything when, say, sending back something personal or pricy they’ve gifted or given you.
-Tania Somani

Dear Tania,

That breaking up is hard to do is the understatement of the year! Ending a relationship is among the most stressful things a person has to undergo not to mention the most painful! Your life sometimes virtually turns upside down. But keep your chin up and your dignity intact no matter how dismal the situation may appear to be.

Different people seem to handle this situation in different ways. But depending on your inner strength, there are two ways to cope with it. A person can make a clean break, leave the past behind, close the chapter to begin the healing process, and get on with life. Such persons wake up one day feeling that that all is right with the world again. While for the others it takes time, patience and hours of fluctuating emotions.

Letting go is even harder. But you must move on and with your head high. I have a list of 11 commandants for the broken hearted that will prevent the most common mistakes

Have a good cry! – Releasing pent up emotions is instant therapy and not gender specific. Let it all the pain, bitterness and anger out then let it go. When emotionally spent relief sets in.
The ego takes a drubbing-Emotionally at an all time low and vulnerable, one generally experiences an acute feeling of inadequacy and incompetence not to mention unattractiveness. I dislike seeing people wallow in self-pity.

Go out and pamper your self. Buy a new dress, have a flattering new haircut, get a make over. In short make sure one feels good about oneself.

Writing can be extremely therapeutic. Pour your heart out in a letter or an email. Lay bare your suppressed emotions and inner most feelings, but do not post or hit the send button until you have had the time to do a rethink. Things always look different in retrospect.

Suddenly time will be in abundance for the newly single. The evening and weekends are the hardest to cope with Quit sitting around moping though, and feeling sorry for oneself.

Your not the only one this has happened to neither will you be the last. The time void created by the ex will need to be filled. Peruse interests that had been put on hold in favour of the relationship. Join a club, or a book club, take a class or a volunteer group.

Family and friends - Support Group- Family and friends are invaluable at this time. The family will stand by you and support you with out saying “I told you so” or being judgmental. Make new friends and rekindle old relationships but keep them all platonic

Get away for a while- Taking a holiday is very therapeutic. Go to some exotic holiday resort.
This has a two fold benefit. It signals that one is not pining for the ex and that is a major ego booster while diverting attention from the offending ex.

At the same time, mending a broken heart needs one to make a few steadfast vows as well.

Never to call the ex no matter what urgent or pressing news has to be imparted only by you.

Reach for the phone when the desperate urge is experienced but call a friend instead.

Avoid frequenting places the ex frequents in the faint hope of meeting. This is merely self destructive.

Never make hasty decisions. Judgments are not as astute at times like this.

Do not take his/her calls or return phone calls. This will just prolong the agony.

It is futile to look for hopeful signs of a patch up or visit a fortune teller.

Accept the break up as permanent unless proven otherwise by concrete actions and personal apologies

Never wash dirty linen in public and do not be a whiney, cranky person totally preoccupied with the present situation. This is the surest and quickest way to loose valuable friends.

My school of thought is that gifts are given with a certain sentiment at the time and it is rude and hurtful to ask for them to be returned or to even return them, Personal effects(photographs and clothes) however, can be returned immediately. If it is too painful for one to do so personally, ask a friend to do the needful.

Greet the ex’s family or friends with the same warmth and feeling as always. They will endearingly recognize the maturity and decency of the action. Besides they are, after all, in no way to be blamed for the situation.

Finally if one bumps into the offending ex, take a deep breath, look unperturbed, greet and move on. Do not linger ever.

Last but not the least, while time is a great healer, there are many other fish in the sea!!!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

How to politely bring a dirty washroom to a colleague's attention

Dear Ms Manners,

As a professional who works six days a week and also lands up traveling a fair amount, sharing private spaces is a part-and-parcel of daily life. But I often find myself in places and situations where patience and tolerance evade me. The primary one being toilets. Bathrooms are the bane of my existence.

It's not that I'm obsessive-compulsive or anything; I'm just particular about things like cleanliness. Please advise me (so that I may also pass on the information!) on proper toilet etiquette – whether in airplanes, offices or parties. Also, if I'm aware of certain colleagues who are particularly careless and messy, how do I bring it to their attention without nitpicking or sounding obsessive-compulsive?

- Sangita Achrekar

Dear Sangita,

You’re quite right. Clean amenities are a fundamental right of every citizen of the world. Ms Manners would like to make an impassioned plea of help to all those who are in a position to influence and improve the toilet habits or assist in the toilet training of all and sundry. In my opinion, it should be mandatory that toilet training be included in school curriculums.

There appears to be a dichotomy of sorts here though. It is truly incomprehensible how our homes are well kept but public property does not warrant the same consideration from most. I was immensely embarrassed to note that this was also a foreigner’s observation, pasted on a website that had information on the culture, habits, protocol and mannerisms of Indians, for foreigners intending to travel to the country.

Little wonder then that our esteemed National carrier runs a program demonstrating the use of the toilet, as soon as the aircraft takes off! Could our ‘sahib’ or ‘memsahib’ culture and attitude be to blame here? Besides there seems to be the perception that cleaning etc is demeaning and below a person’s dignity.

To the point in question, generally a poster in the restroom requesting the proper use of the amenities does the trick. There are many funny posters that will get the message across without disturbing the peace. If that don’t work, resort to a more direct approach and paste a notice categorically stating that the misuse of the amenities will not be tolerated. In most cases the offenders will take the hint.

Today the Spartan humble toilet has given way to the washroom which functions more as a restroom rather than a mere toilet. Restrooms are places where a person can rest their weary feet, freshen up and refresh their energy. Increasingly important therefore, that the area is clean and pleasant.

Since the opposite is normally true, this is a matter of grave concern and I feel a responsibility to do my bit to ensure that a standard of hygiene is maintained. My effort, here is to gently jog the sleeping senses and create an awareness. Should we all religiously adhere to these few suggestions, I am sure using a public washroom will be a pleasant experience rather than a nightmare!

· Inculcate a sense of pride and concern for in your surroundings
· Quickly shed the notion that caring for public property is not your responsibility—we must take collective responsibility for our environment.
· Men should lift the seat before using a toilet
· Should you dribble on the rim of the toilet bowl please be kind enough to wipe it with a tissue.
· Don’t clog the toilet with toilet paper or litter the room with it either.
· Wash basins must be used for washing hands and face only.
· Make sure the water doesn’t splash outside the sink. Should that happen, wipe it with the tissue.
· Always flush after use and never clog the toilet with unmentionables.
· Throw used towels and tissue in the bins provided for soiled items and not on the floor
· Do not spit on the floor
· Do not eat pan. If you spit pan juice in the basin please wash the stain away with plenty of water.
· Never use the floor as your toilet
· Don’t comb your hair over the sink and leave strands of hair forming intricate patterns on the floor or sink.
· Don’t blow your nose in the washbasin. Use a tissue and flush it down the toilet.

The appalling condition of the railway waiting rooms/retiring rooms airports etc are a virtual eye sore. The authorities have a responsibility as well. Public toilets should have running water,
And be well stocked with toilet paper, paper towels, hand driers, liquid soap and last but by no means the least, room fresheners.

Restroom are generally designed in relaxing colours and should be well ventilated and with air purifiers. Finally, remember to leave the public utility in the same condition that you encountered it in the first place. A good rest in a clean, pleasantly designed and decorated restroom does promote a sense of well being.

Best wishes,

~Rukhsana Eisa.

Facing an etiquette crisis? Please mail Ms Eisa at image.inc@gmail.com with your queries.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

How to deal with rude a maitre d'

I was at a restaurant recently – not an overly fancy place or anything - and couldn't help but notice a group of four young ladies walk in, nonchalantly ask a passing waiter if they could take the first table and then proceed to sit there.

When the maitre d' came by in a few minutes and said another group had been waiting for that table, they seemed to take great offense. They said asking them to move was embarrassing and that they had, in fact, asked the waiter and taken the table. It took many apologies and much persuasion on the part of the maitre d' to move them to another table.

Was this impolite behaviour on the maitre d' and restaurant's part? Or is it appropriate to wait only for a maitre d' to seat you, no matter how big or small the restaurant, or whether or not you have a reservation? What is the best way to conduct yourself at a restaurant – when entering the place, asking for your table, seating yourself, ordering, addressing a waiter and tipping?

~Veera Inamdar

Dear Veera,

It is absolutely inappropriate for the maitre d' to dislodge a customer who has been seated by a steward in his absence. Having created a blunder, the restaurants would have to bear the consequences. However, if the group has seated themselves, it would be within his right to request them to move.

If the restaurant has maitre d seating, it is solely the maitre his responsibility to seat customers according to the prior reservations and allotted tables. The reservation register is maintained, with specific table’s requests, for the precise purpose of avoiding any faux pas. Delegating a reliever while he is on a break would avoid any embarrassing faux pas.

Protocol demands that you always wait to be seated. Be prepared to be shunted if you take the liberty of plonking yourself at any table. If you have table preferences take the time to make a reservation to avoid any unpleasantness

The lady must follow the maitre d' to the table ahead of the gentleman and be seated first.

Immediately place your napkin on your lap or the maitre d will do it for you with his nose in the air, indicating that you were too slow.

Snapping your fingers to catch the attention of the steward is the height of bad manners. Try and make eye contact .If that fails, a simple “excuse me” or just raise your hand will do the trick.

Genteel people would address the captain by his name from his name tag under his left lapel.
When placing your order read the name correctly from the menu. If you find the French name s unpronounceable just smile at the maitre d and take his assistance. If you are unsure about what wine to order, it is a good idea to ask for help.

The guest never does anything until the host does it first, including eat, put your napkin on the table – indicating that the meal is over, leave the table; he is after all, paying the bill the least you can do is to be courteous!

When eating sit up straight and bring the food up to your mouth. Never stoop towards the food.

If you spill food on your self, don’t make a scene. Excuse yourself and repair the damage in the wash room.

Should you spill food on the table cloth, ignore it .

Proper posture at the table is important. Sit upright with arms near the body and elbows off the table.

It is extremely rude to smoke at the table and is offending to even ask for permission to do so.

Never pick your teeth at the table or spit a piece of bad food or gristle into your napkin.

Neither should you speak with food in your mouth lest you spray others at the table.

Make pleasant table talk, steering clear off controversial topics

Taking a call at the table is taboo. Turn your cell phone onto silent or vibrator mode as you enter the restaurant but should an emergency arise, take the call outside

The host always pays the bill and the guests should accept gracefully without grabbing for the check.

Finally, tipping is a tricky business. In India, tipping is normally 10 percent of the total bill. In the U S , 15 to 20 % is mandatory —20 percent for a first-class place.

If you have had a drink at the bar, leave the bartender 15 to 20 percent, In Australia leaving a tip is not necessary. However, if a service charge is included in the bill, leaving a tip would be totally up to your discretion. If the service is impeccable or the waiter cute, you could leave a handsome tip.

Best wishes,

~Rukhsana Eisa.

Facing an etiquette crisis? Please mail Ms Eisa at image.inc@gmail.com with your queries.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Image Inc's Grooming & Etiquette Workshop

Grooming & Etiquette Workshop : Image Inc is conducting a Grooming & Etiquette workshop by Image Consultant Ms. Rukshana Eisa on November 20,21 & 22, 2006 from 10 am to 2 pm at Sunville, Worli, Mumbai 400 018.

The workshop will teach skills that will influence your success, enhance your confidence and improve your business and social etiquette.

For details call Maria on 2492 1010 or email mailto:rukshana.imageinc@gmail.comby November 16, 2006.







Ms Eisa's etiquette tips for Australian cricketers

The national dailies have given ample coverage to the uncouth behaviour of the Aussie cricket team and the strong reaction and protests that the incident has attracted. In my opinion this is a rather shameful lack of etiquette. I wonder though if it has been recognized so.

However before we begin any condemnation I hasten to recount my own experiences. This morning I was amused when arriving along with another invitee, at an official luncheon, the chauffeur of the official car in which we were traveling, nonchalantly sprang out to open the car door for the male leaving me to fend for myself. To add insult to injury, the livery at the posh five star hotel was quick to open the doors for the men quite oblivious of the women. And a boorish man almost collided with me in an effort to beat me through the door.

Though I hate to admit it, I realize we are in the midst of an “etiquette crises”. Over the last few decades the lack of etiquette has translated into a “rudeness crises”. Full fledged brawls or slinging matches erupt at the slightest provocation. How often have we lost a good deal by offending the sales person with an arrogant attitude? A junior staffer once landed in an awful predicament having to walk bare foot to work when a person stepped on her heel snapping the strap of her sandal. So much for personal space! Another arrived flustered and distraught after an unruly alteration with a group of militant women in the local train-Bad road etiquette can drive even the most passive into a flaming rage and queue jumping can make the mildest of tempers to flare! Yet we do not recognize this as a problem.

All this is not the inane rambling of a crank, but a valiant effort to prove a point.
The problem with rude behaviour is that most people do not recognize it as a problem. Behaviour is regulated by the law when etiquette fails or when violations against life, limb or property occur. This unwritten, tacit code of conduct is what assists living harmoniously in a community and man, - a social animal- unless living in solitary confinement, is a member of society”. Even animals adhere to the law of the jungle!

The problem is compounded by the reality that most don’t understand what etiquette is! So what is etiquette? Respect, good manners and good behaviour all rolled into one would be your etiquette. The Oxford dictionary defines it as ‘the code of polite behaviour in society’ There is also a misconception that etiquette is a sort of ritual for the snobs or that it is a frivolous pastime not to be taken seriously. Etiquette is about human social behaviour - your conduct in any public or private setting. To stress the need for etiquette would be to state the obvious.

What can we do?

Start with the common courtesies. Please and thank you are two simple words that evoke the maximum pleasure and well being.
Respect women and the elders.
Open doors and stand aside for them to precede you indoors.
Offer them your seat. Escort a lady walking along side and not leaving her to trail several steps behind dodging portholes.
Watch your language while in the presence of the women folk and senior citizens.
Wait your turn in queues that is what they were designed for in the first place.
At a restaurant, let the lady walk ahead of you to be seated. Hold her chair out while she is being seated.
Ask for her preference in the menu before placing the order.
If you are the host or hostess it is good manners that you pay the bill unless, of course, you have decided to go “Dutch”
How peaceful and calm the world would be if people stopped jumping queues, crowding entrances sticking chest to derriere in a line or check in or out counter.

Finally I suggest that you do not fall into the trap of those who say that they don’t care about etiquette but object to the conduct of others towards them. If you behave in a way that offends the people that you are trying to deal with, they will stop dealing with you.

It appears however that we are not the only country in the throes of an etiquette crisis. The Australian Cricket captain, it seems, might need a crash course.

by Rukshana Eisa.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Downloads: Talk to the hand posters

Isn't it confusing that our biggest experience of formal politeness
comes from the recorded voices on automated switchboards—who patently don't mean it?

This is one of a series of delightful posters available at Lynne Truss’ website. Lynne Truss is the author of the New York Times bestseller Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door.

An absolute must read.

Click here to download the entire series of Talk to the Hand posters (in PDF format).