Free Speech + Civility = A Good Combination

BusinessMeetingDebate061411iStock_0A big dose of civility is what America needs right now, especially when our freedom of speech is under as much fire as it is these days. A civil society encourages dialogue and creates an environment where people feel free to express their views and not be silenced because of them.

Incivility is rampant in our current political process, along with our workplaces, sporting arenas, and roadways, but I’m even more troubled with what I see happening on America’s college campuses. They used to be places where free speech was celebrated, where a diversity of ideas was welcomed, nurtured, shared, and debated. Protests and civil disobedience were not unusual occurrences where a big, messy marketplace of ideas was available to all. Yes, I realize they didn’t always end peacefully, but these voices weren’t shot down by dissenters before they even started. People were given the opportunity to learn and then make their own decisions.

Now, many universities are either being forced to change their policies or have jumped on that bandwagon willingly—cancelling speakers that might have a different worldview, silencing student groups, and turning free spaces into “safe spaces”. Many campuses now have “bias response teams” to investigate claims of students’ feelings being hurt. When did we develop such thin skins? When did we lose the ability to hear others’ opinions and not be personally violated? It’s been reported that at one Big 10 university, resident advisors are being pressured to coerce students into signing an overly-broad “civility pledge” which, when combined with their new “Inclusive Language Campaign”, can lead, in my opinion, to administrative overreach and senseless investigations. Please—do not tarnish the magnificent concept of civility by attaching it to something that borders on intimidation.

Wouldn’t it be better if we encouraged free speech and exposed students to all ideas and worldviews? Wouldn’t it be better if we taught the art of civility which teaches people how to listen well, ask insightful questions, seek to understand, and then ultimately respect the other person’s opinion—even when it’s different than their own? Wouldn’t it be better if we had the skills to handle a diversity of viewpoints and disagreements ourselves, instead of running off to administrations, HR, or the government to step in and regulate it?

I agree with John Marshall, Vice President of Student Services at Colorado Mesa University, who said, “We need to help challenge our students. You don’t have a right not to be uncomfortable. We don’t always need to create these ultra-sensitive responses. We want [students] to think critically and deal with each other with respect and civility.” And I applaud the recent event at the Aspen Ideas Festival, where professors and authors spoke up about the failure of college administrators to respect free speech. http://www.campusreform.org/?ID=7797

Civility is not about silencing other’s views or even successfully convincing them of yours. Civility has nothing to do with coercion, regulation, or pointing fingers. It is about encouraging a marketplace of ideas, where diversity of thought and worldviews is encouraged, and interactions and disagreements with others are handled with respect and grace.

If you need more civility in your workplace, please check out http://theedgeexecutivecoaching.com/training-workshops/civility-in-the-workplace/

© 2016 Jill Bremer

7 Reasons to Put Pen to Paper

thank youThe impact of a handwritten note is often overlooked in today’s “why-write-something-when-I-can-email-it” world. A note written promptly and sincerely is more impactful and appreciated than a phone call, email, or text. Yes, we have a lot of technology at our fingertips, but just because we can do something that way doesn’t mean we should

Handwritten notes and letters are a rarity, which makes them that much more meaningful and cherished by the recipient. When you take the time to write a note by hand, it shows the other person that you cared enough to pull out the stationery and choose your words without the conveniences of the grammar tool, spellchecker and auto-fill! Written notes are also permanent, which means they’re often saved by the recipient and even shared with others.

Before you begin, you’re going to need nice stationery. Business letterhead or a fold-over note card with the company logo on the front are fine to use for relationships that are just getting established. Once you have a closer working relationship with that colleague or client, you can switch to personal stationery.

Here are the 7 along with suggested reasons to send:

  1. Thank You – for the meal, opportunity, gift
  2. Letters of Congratulations – for reaching that work milestone, winning the election, getting married
  3. Good News – for the new job, being promoted, for their child’s accomplishment
  4. Complimenting Someone – for the great presentation, negotiation success, work performance
  5. To Consolidate Contact –you enjoyed meeting them at the conference, you’re looking forward to working together on the new project
  6. To Encourage – if they’ve come through a difficult time or crisis
  7. Condolence – for a death in their family

Do you really want your “thank you” email to be buried within the 300 they’ll receive that day? Your words will have real impact and you’ll stand out as someone with class and sophistication if you put pen to paper!

© Jill Bremer 2016

Think Manners Don’t Matter?

NW Etiquette Dinner2I recently learned of a unique hiring test conducted by the CEO of Charles Schwab. In an effort to understand the true character of each candidate, Walt Bettinger, Charles Schwab CEO, interviews them over breakfast at a restaurant. But unbeknownst to the prospect, Mr. Bettinger tells the restaurant ahead of time to mess up their order. The purpose? To reveal the heart of the candidate along with their ability to handle challenges. When presented with the wrong food, do they become frustrated or angry? Do they lash out at the server? Or are they able to take the situation in hand and act graciously?

Manners are much more than knowing which fork to use or how to properly shake hands. Manners are a hallmark of a civil society. When manners are absent, boundaries begin to vanish, people don’t feel respected, and civility starts to break down. The rituals of etiquette help to establish civility. As P.M. Forni shared in his classic work, Choosing Civility, “Manner comes from manus, the Latin word for hand. We have good manners when we use our hands well, when we handle others with care.” Our manners reveal how we view the world—with either everything revolving around us at the center, or with us as just a cog in a bigger wheel where everything we say and do has an impact on others.

Social graces can be learned. Character can be harder to teach. But a good place to start is by learning basic etiquette. Then, when the spotlight is on, you’ll know exactly what to do and can do it with respect and grace. Good manners are good for business—and they might just get you that job!

© Jill Bremer 2016

Are Emojis Appropriate in Business?

Emojis

The answer is yes—with two caveats that I’ll explain in a moment. Thanks to millennials, which are now the biggest generation in the American workforce, our future communications will likely be loaded with emojis and emoticons. In 2015 alone, the use of emojis tripled over 2014. The beauty of emojis is that they can add what’s often missing in our texts and emails – intention and tone.

A Scandinavian study on email in the workplace found that emoticons/emojis “provide information about how an utterance is supposed to be interpreted.” They serve as cues to context—as markers of positivity, jokes or irony, and as hedges to strengthen or soften our thanks, greetings, requests, and corrections. In the absence of body language and vocal inflection, people will often read a negative tone into our electronic communications. Enter the emoji! They can relay our intention in a straightforward manner when we are unable to do so face-to-face.

Now for the caveats. First, choose your emojis wisely. Stick to the basics, nothing flirty or rude. Second, don’t use them with a client or superior unless they use them first. This is new territory in the workplace and with all new things, my advice is to always be the second to try something new, not the first. 😀

© Jill Bremer 2016

Social Media Etiquette for Weddings

It’s becoming more and more common for social media to play a role in weddings. Brides and grooms are encouraging their guests to tweet, post, and share the happy day with the world—and it provides them with sentiments and candid shots that wouldn’t have been captured otherwise. Here are some social media do’s and don’ts for all the parties involved in the big day.

BEFORE THE CEREMONY

Couples
Right off the bat, a big no-no is to post news about your engagement before sharing the news personally with family and close friends. You don’t want to risk any hurt feelings at the outset.

As you unfold your plans to future guests, let them know how you feel about social media at your wedding. For instance—no thank you during the ceremony, yes please during the reception. And make plans to communicate your wishes in multiple ways—in the invites, the wedding programs, and at the reception.

As you go about planning all of the details, leave something to the imagination for your guests. Don’t tweet pix of every decision, like bridesmaid dresses and cake design. Instead, intrigue your guests with hints and teasers as to what is to come.

To encourage your guests to post and tweet, create your own unique hashtag for your big day and include it in the save-the-dates, wedding invitations, and again at the reception.

Bridesmaids/Family
Snap away as you’re getting ready beforehand, but hold back from posting any pix of the bride in her dress. You wouldn’t want the groom to see his bride before he’s supposed to!

DURING THE CEREMONY

Couples
Make your wishes known if you want guests to post/tweet immediately or if you’d prefer to make the first posts yourselves. Also, there’s nothing wrong with asking for a completely tech-free ceremony.

Guests
Silence your phones!

Consider enjoying the moment with the couple, rather than seeing the event through your viewfinder. Let the professional photographer capture these shots. If you do take photos during the ceremony, save the actual posting for afterward.

Leave your tablets at home. They’re just too big to use at an event like this.

Stay out of the photographer’s way. Don’t lean out of the pew to snap a pic of the ring bearer and block the photographer’s once-in-a-lifetime shot. Give them the space they need to work.

AFTER THE CEREMONY

Couples
The first photo you post will likely be widely viewed and shared. Make it a good one, so think about what you’d like it to be.

Don’t clog everyone’s news feed with 400 pix from your wedding. Post a few good ones, then direct people to your site to view them once you’ve gathered them all.

Guests
Don’t post unflattering content or pictures, especially of the new couple. It would be nice, too, to ask for the couple’s permission before posting any pix or tagging them.

It’s best to put the phone away completely if the party goes late and things start to loosen up!

© Jill Bremer 2016

What’s YOUR first impression?

 

perfect10In her new book, “Presence”, Harvard Business School professor (and creator of “power posing”) Amy Cuddy shares that in first impression situations, people instantly answer two questions about each other:

  1. Can I trust this person?
  2. Can I respect this person?

Cuddy says that trust equates to warmth and respect to competence. Ideally, we want to be perceived as having both, but we can lose out if we think competence is the most important factor on which to be evaluated. The goal-to be seen first as warm and approachable. Others will respond more favorably when they sense first that you’re trustworthy. It’s only when trust has been established that competence will be evaluated.

The takeaway? Trying too hard at the beginning to convey you’re smart, accomplished, and competent can send a vibe that you’re unapproachable and maybe even manipulative. Brush up on your social skills, ask questions, be a little transparent, and show interest in others. Cuddy says, “A warm, trustworthy person who is also strong elicits admiration, but only after you’ve established trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat.”

© Jill Bremer 2016

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