Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gift Giving at Work

Some of the most difficult questions about gift giving concern the workplace. Exchanging gifts with business associates is an area of behavior in which careful thought and prudence are especially important.
Rule 1: Extravagance shows bad manners and represents poor strategy.
Rule 2: Modesty and quality are the key words.
The gift should be personal enough to tell the recipient that you gave some thought to it. You might have to talk to someone’s spouse or secretary to learn what a person’s hobbies are or what kind of music, books, or foods would make a special treat.

The Ease of Registries

Establishing an electronic gift registry is a bit more complicated than simply setting up a registry at an upscale department store. When you set up an e-registry, you can indicate the sort of gifts you would like to receive. The registry will contact your circle of family and friends to get some ideas about their interests and preferences when it comes to gifts they would like to receive. Those contacted can also provide hints about what to buy for others on your list.
Selecting a registry:
  • Make sure the registry includes a large number of retailers to give you and others a wide range of choices.
  • Select a registry that notifies your family and friends of your wish list so that you don’t appear overly avaricious.
  • Make sure the items purchased are shipped directly from the retailer, instead of through the registry or another entity. You don’t want the gift going through too many hands before it arrives.

E-commerce and Registries Etiquette

Selecting, purchasing, and sending gifts electronically can be a wonderful convenience, but you must do some thinking first.
Before placing the order, decide whether to have the gift sent to you, which will allow you to wrap and personalize it, or directly to the recipient. If you choose the latter, here are some things to consider:
  • Find a reputable, reliable e-tailer, one you’ve used previously or that has been recommended by friends.
  • Have the item gift-wrapped. Most e-tailers provide this service.
  • Send a card or note telling the recipient that something is on it way.
  • If you are the recipient, call or e-mail right away to say thank you and to let the person know the gift has arrived. You must then follow up with a thank-you note.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Things to Consider Before Giving a Gift

Here are 10 questions to ask yourself when giving a gift:
1. Why am I giving it?
2. Is it sincere?
3. Am I giving it without strings attached?
4. Does it reflect the receiver’s taste—not mine?
5. Is it too extravagant?
6. Is it kind? (Beware of gag gifts.)
7. Is it appropriate? (No candy for a dieter.)
8. Can I present it in person?
9. Is it presented beautifully?
10. Do I feel good about giving it?
Let’s expand a bit on the first point, which is really the most important consideration. The first question you should ask yourself is why you’re giving the gift. We give gifts to say thanks to a business associate for an introduction, to someone who gave a lunch or dinner in our honor, to a couple for dinner at their home, to a person who gave us information that helped land business, or to someone who treated us to dinner.
You might also give a gift to congratulate someone on a promotion, an award, a marriage, a birth, an anniversary, or a birthday. And when choosing a gift, don’t forget the reason you are giving it. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to find, choose, and send gifts for every occasion.

  • If you’re tempted to buy a youngster war toys, check first with the parents. Some people have very strong feelings on the subject.
  • Never give children pets unless you have cleared it with the parents beforehand.
  • Joke gifts may get a laugh at the moment of giving, but can leave a sour aftertaste.
  • The value of a gift is enhanced by the fact that it arrives on time and is nicely wrapped.
  • Handwritten notes should accompany gifts. If you must include a greeting card, add a written note to whatever printed sentiment the card contains.
  • A gift of money can be most conveniently given in the form of a check or cashier’s check. Cash is more appropriate for a child. When giving cash, include a note mentioning the amount in case some is lost or mislaid and to help the recipient when it comes time to send a thank-you letter. Your note can say something like “I hope these ten dollars will fund your victory pizza after the game.”
  • Generally, money is a gift given by older people to younger people. It’s a good idea to try to learn if the recipient is saving for something special and to include a note saying the gift is to bring the person closer to that goal.

Ending Conversation Gracefully

It is very important to close a conversation gracefully. As humans, we need two things when dealing with others—acknowledgment and closure. We need people to acknowledge our presence. That’s why you might not mind waiting when a clerk says, “I’ll be right with you,” or even just looks at you and nods briefly. The need to be acknowledged also explains why you are so annoyed when a receptionist says, “Please hold,” and cuts you off before you can say anything. By the same token, it is annoying when people just drift away after a conversation without some acknowledgment that a conversation has occurred. When you feel a conversation has run its course or you have to move along, wait for a break in the conversation and then say something like “Well, I’ve got to say hello to our host (or George or my aunt, for example).” “That food looks delicious. Think I’ll have some. Excuse me.” “I’m going over to the bar for a refill.” (Don’t try this one while holding a full glass.)
Then say something like “It was good talking with you. I enjoyed learning about Ireland.” If others at a party interrupt and you cannot end the conversation properly, make some sort of parting gesture, for example, brief eye contact and a wave. Giving a talk and holding a conversation have a lot in common. Both work better if you are relaxed and natural. In a way both put you “on stage.” If you try to put on a show or if you are not entirely sincere, your listeners will pick up on it. So don’t say things you don’t believe, even something as trivial as complimenting someone on her hat or dress or telling someone that he looks terrific when you both know he doesn’t.

Keeping A Conversation Going

Listen. When people say, “He’s a good conversationalist,” they usually mean that he is a good listener. Don’t lie in wait for one of those natural conversation breaks so you can jump in with your next prepared statement or question. Interrupting is the most common and among the most irritating errors people make in conversation. Let people know that you’re listening through eye contact, but don’t stare fixedly at them.
Also, ask open-ended questions such as “Why did you decide to volunteer?” or “How did you become involved with our group?” Questions that result in yes or no answers stop the flow of conversation.
People like to be asked their opinions and impressions concerning major news events:
“I heard this morning that the mayor resigned. Makes you wonder what’s behind that, doesn’t it?”
Every topic has its own natural life span, and if someone is going on endlessly about one thing, it is a good idea to cut in as tactfully as possible. If, for example, the back and forth about the mayor is lively and quick, settle down and enjoy it. If it begins to sag under its own weight, try changing the topic. The easiest way is switching to a related subject. “Speaking of politicians (or speaking of retiring or public figures or our city) ….”
When you’re engaged in a conversation, keep in mind the following don’ts:
  • Don’t perform. Performing happens when you are concentrating too hard on the impression you want to make on the other person.
  • Don’t speed-talk. Sometimes people who are anxious to make a point try to spit it all out quickly, as if they’re afraid they won’t be permitted to finish the thought.
  • Don’t slow-talk. A sure sign that you’re dragging things out is when other people finish a sentence for you or nod to indicate they understand even before you have reached the point of your remarks.
  • Don’t let your mind wander. Try not to watch other people moving around in the room while someone is talking to you.
  • Don’t hold a drink in your right hand. Doing so leads to damp, cold handshakes.
  • If your palm is sweaty, it’s okay to give it a quick swipe on the side of your trousers or skirt before extending it for a handshake.
  • Don’t broach touchy subjects. Avoid discussions about your health, the cost of things these days, mean gossip, off-color jokes, or controversial issues—particularly when you don’t know where the other person stands on the subject. On the other hand, it is okay to disagree. Wait until the other person has spoken and then introduce your point of view without being judgmental.
Don’t say, “That’s completely off base,” or “You couldn’t be more wrong about that.” Instead, say something like “I disagree because …” or “Well, another way of looking at it is ….”

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Introducing a Speaker

Introducing a speaker is usually an easy job. Your basic objective is to get the speaker to the podium without a lot of fuss or delay. Leave yourself out of it as much as possible. Don’t launch into a long story about what good friends you are with the person you’re introducing.
Get hold of a biography and pare it down. Hit the highlights and emphasize what is of particular interest to this group. Make the tone warm and welcoming. If the event is a family gathering, a retirement party, or something similar, you can be a little more sentimental than at a seminar, lecture, or business function. But, still, brevity is the best policy.

The Closing

The closing is the most important part of your talk—the last impression the audience will have of you and the most lasting impression. We can be forgiven for weakness or lapses in the body of the presentation, but never for the opening or the closing.
If the talk has been of a rather light nature, you may want to end with a very good joke or a humorous spin on the material you’ve just presented. More often, the closing takes the form of a call to action. Don’t be afraid to employ some dramatic or emotional language here. You may want to quote a portion of a great speech or use some lines of stirring poetry. Some experienced speakers have a whole arsenal of fiery or sentimental quotes they can use to close a speech.

The Opening

This is the second most important part of your talk. First impressions are critical because the audience is sizing you up; people are deciding whether they like you or not, whether they can learn from you, whether they are going to be bored or excited. Have the first few words and the first few ideas firmly in your mind. You may want to introduce yourself to the audience, even if the previous speaker has already done so. Some speakers open by complimenting the audience, making some startling or provocative statement, telling a joke, or quoting a prominent person.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Delivery

Here are some insider tips on public speaking from experienced speakers:
  • Speak while standing whenever possible.
  • Adjust your language to the audience. Don’t talk down to anyone, but do tailor your language and your references to the audience (for example, are you speaking to engineers or to artists?). A young audience has a shorter attention span than an older audience does, so you will need to sprinkle more spice into your talk—gestures, vivid images, jokes. Male audiences respond more to visual images; women, to verbal images.
  • People like people who are like them, so try to make a connection by mentioning early something that connects you to the audience. For instance, you could say, “Some people think that, because we are volunteers and are not being paid, that our work is somehow easier or somehow less important. We all know just how wrong that is, don’t we?”
  • Remember that you are more important than the material. The people are in the audience because they want to hear what you have to say and how you present the information. Otherwise, they could stay home and read the report.
  • Decide what points you want to make. Don’t try for more than four major points in a 20-minute speech. The usual technique is to make a point, give a descriptive example, then remake the point.
  • Speak with feeling. Try to communicate your enthusiasm for your topic to your audience. Keep your head up and speak clearly.
  • Control voice volume. Inexperienced speakers have a tendency to shout or to get louder as they go along. Think in terms of projecting. You can project your normal tone of voice without shouting and without sounding like a sideshow barker.
  • Take your time. Another common error of inexperienced speakers is a tendency to speak quickly, as if every second has to be filled with information.
  • Avoid rambling and repeating.
  • When you’ve finished, if there is no question-and-answer session, say thank you and sit down. Don’t wave or otherwise acknowledge applause.
  • If you are having a question-and-answer period, say so and raise your hand briefly to indicate the protocol for asking questions. Restate and, if necessary, rephrase questions. Don’t say “good question.” This gives the impression you are judging the questions.
  • Don’t refer to the questioner by name unless you are prepared to address everyone in the room by name.

Getting Ready

When preparing to give a talk or, for that matter, when preparing for an important one-on-one meeting, ask yourself four questions:
  1. Who am I? Does this person (audience) know you? What is your relationship, if any? How do you want your audience to perceive you? What attire would be most appropriate to communicate your role?
  2. Where am I? The physical space will determine how you should use your voice and gestures, and whether you will need a microphone. Find out what audiovisual equipment is available and who will be running it. Think about what you will do if the equipment fails to function as expected. (It so often does.)
  3. To whom am I speaking and what do they expect from me? Why are they here, and what are their expectations? Do audience members share any characteristics? Do they have a specific point of view concerning you or your topic?
  4. What do I want to accomplish? To welcome, to instruct, to motivate, to persuade? Do you want to ask for a raise, explain your situation, or praise another person?

The Terror of Talk: Stage Fright

Everybody gets it. Everybody can get over it.
Third-degree stage fright manifests itself as a revved-up heart beat, elevated blood pressure, a flushed face, and trembling hands. When you have stage fright, you’re experiencing a reaction shared by your cave-dwelling ancestors. Experts call it the flight-or-fight reaction. When a cave dweller saw a saber-toothed tiger, adrenaline pumped into his blood stream and his body prepared itself to scamper up a tree or, if necessary, to do battle.
Most people have the same kind of reaction the first time they face an audience. Here are some physical and mental tricks you can use to control this reaction:
  • Keep in mind that the audience is not a tiger. Audience members are disposed to like you. They want to relax almost as much as you do. They want you to succeed because that means they will be entertained. In other words, the audience is on your side.
  • Because your stage fright reaction is a right-brain function—instinctive and emotional—counter it with left-brain activity. Count or work a numbers problem in your head. Think about how your talk is organized and how you’ve marshaled the various points.
  • Breathe. Fitness guru Pat Croce recommends inhaling deeply through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.
  • Smile. Just the act of smiling causes chemical changes in the body that can help you relax and feel more confident.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Embarrassing Situations

Your colleague’s fly is open, your friend has a giant run in her stocking, your lunch mate has spinach stuck between his front teeth, or someone has feloniously bad breath. What do you do?
First of all, you have to be direct but discreet. Get the person out of earshot of other people and say, “Your fly is open,” in the same tone of voice you would use to say, “It’s raining outside.” If you don’t know the person, find somebody in the group who does to give the message.
You are in a more serious situation if you have a friend who has a particular and persistent bad habit or something like chronic bad breath. If he’s a real friend, you have to tell him about it even if you know he won’t like it. Use the “critical I” if you can. “I’ve been told that I’ve had bad breath from time to time, but it seems to be a chronic problem with you. Maybe you have a dental problem you don’t know about, or it might be just a matter of using mouthwash more often. That’s what worked for me.” The story or analogy you convey doesn’t necessarily have to be about the exact problem that your friend has. If you haven’t had that exact problem before, choose a story that shows parallels to the other person’s situation.

Sexual Harassment

What to do? Go right to the senior officer in your company or department, report it, and demand justice? Consult a lawyer? Put up with it until it becomes blatant? Cry? Hit somebody?
One way you could react is by giving a response that attacks the ego of the offender:
“I hope you don’t think that was sexually attractive. In fact, it was comical. You’re making a fool of yourself.”
Or for something a bit stronger: “I didn’t realize how pathetic you were. You’re really a silly little man.”
Or begin with a warning: “I’m going to forget this
happened. But if anything like this ever happens
again, everybody here is going to know about it, and you’re going to be in more trouble than you can imagine.”
Be prepared to follow through on your warning if necessary.

Firings, Layoffs, and Demotions

The work arena is fraught with difficult and disappointing situations. People get fired, laid off, passed over for promotion, transferred against their will, and chewed out unjustly by the boss. In these situations nothing you can say will fix the problem, so it is important to mirror the person’s distress. Let him know that he isn’t alone, that he is, in fact, in good company. Reinforce the person’s good qualities. Don’t say, “Things will work out for the best,” or even worse, “I told you something like this would happen.” Don’t say that what happened to somebody else is even worse than what happened to him.
Instead, try one of these phrases:
“I’m so sorry you must go through this.”
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“This must be very, very tough for you.”
Do not indicate in any way that the unfortunate turn of events was predictable or even partially the fault of the injured party. If a colleague was denied promotion for what you believe to be very good cause, don’t launch into a lecture about the skills she needs to acquire or improve upon or tell her that somebody else was more qualified for the position. If the injured party says, “Don’t you think that this was rotten luck?” and you know luck had nothing to do with it, just say, “You must be really disappointed,” or some other phrase that lets her know you identify with her emotional state.