The Power of Nice!

I had the following conversation with my son after he had his car serviced:

“Mom, they did a great job on my car,” he told me.

I asked, “Why do you say that?”

His reply: “As I was leaving, we talked about new cars and the mechanic told me to have a safe trip home.”   

I thought to myself that my son knows very little about the inner workings of cars, yet because the mechanic was nice and friendly to him, he believed that the man had done a good job on his vehicle.

He is not alone in how he judges the quality of someone’s work.

A colleague recently decided to go with one software vendor over another because, as she said, “He was so friendly.” I call this phenomenon the “halo effect” of being nice.  (The term “halo effect” was first coined in 1920 by psychologist Edward Thorndike, who concluded that your impression of someone will influence your view of his or her abilities.)

And there are consequences to not being nice.

David Von Drehle, a Washington Post columnist, wrote an opinion piece concerning the recent troubles surrounding New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. In it, he commented: “Many things have been said of Andrew Cuomo, often with respect and occasionally with admiration — but ‘nice to people’ is not one of them.” The headline on the column explains that comment: Andrew Cuomo is plummeting, and there’s no one left to catch him.  

Remember that being nice and friendly will not make up for inferior work. Let me say that again: Being nice and friendly will not make up for inferior work. What it will do is encourage people to view you and your work positively. People will enjoy working with you or for you if you are nice to them.  And that is an advantage in anyone’s line of work.

Here are five steps to follow to encourage others to react to you in a positive way: 

1. Greet people. This is one of my more common suggestions, yet people still tell me that they often feel ignored by others. People believe that they greet others, but I encourage you to monitor yourself over the next couple of weeks, and make sure that you really do. You need to say “Hello,” “Hi,” “Good morning,” or offer a similar greeting to people you know – and to people you don’t know. This is also true during Zoom meetings. Greet people when you join the meeting. If people are talking when you enter the meeting, you can smile and wave.

2. Make some small talk. You don’t need to know people’s life stories, but a little small talk can help establish a connection between people. Use “safe” topics. You can talk about the weather (front-page stories such as hurricanes generally have more conversational appeal), traffic, common experiences, travel, sports (if everyone is interested), entertainment (movies, plays), holiday celebrations, upbeat business news, vacations, current events (cautiously), and the activity you are attending. Additional information on small talk can be found in my book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette.

3. Offer to help, when you can. Why not lend a helping hand, if possible? If someone seems overloaded with assignments, assisting that person is a nice thing to do.

4. Speak well of others. You appear gracious when you speak well of other people’s accomplishments, not just your own. 

5. Have an exit line. An exit line establishes the ending of an encounter and paves the way for the next meeting. Sample exit lines include, “Nice talking to you,” “Have a great weekend,” or “Have a safe trip home.”

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, career development, business writing, presentation skills, professional presence, and business etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at joyce@pachter.com. (www.pachter.com)   

 

 

Related Articles

4 Ways to Shut Down a Conversation Dominator

Conversation Dominators. We all know at least one. It’s the woman at work who only asks how you’re doing so she can jump in and tell you how she’s doing. It’s that guy next door who has to let you know all about his son’s great accomplishments in sports, but never asks about even ONE […]

The Sunday Brief: Q1 earnings preview—setting expectations

Tax Day greetings from the middle of Texas (the iconic Underwood’s Cafeteria sign is pictured – it’s definitely a Texas thing) and from Davidson/ Lake Norman.  Feels good to be on the road again.  This week, we will divide our time between first quarter earnings preview for Verizon and AT&T (both scheduled to report this […]

The post The Sunday Brief: Q1 earnings preview—setting expectations appeared first on RCR Wireless News.

WHO MOVES? SIDEWALK ETIQUETTE IN A SOCIAL-DISTANCING WORLD

Etiquette rules for the sidewalk? I know that sounds strange, so let me explain. 

A colleague recently called me and wanted some help. She said that she had been out walking and saw a couple approaching her on the sidewalk. She wanted to follow today’s social-distancing guidelines, and she realized that the other people were going to be too close to her if everyone continued walking straight. Her question: “Who should have moved over?” 

This question highlights an etiquette dilemma in our coronavirus-dominated world —to ensure adequate space between people outdoors, who moves out of the way when two or more people are sharing a walkway? 

This situation may arise more frequently as people are being encouraged to exercise. David Pogue, a correspondent for the television show Sunday Morning on CBS News, did a segment this week on How to live AND work at home without going stir crazy. His fifth rule was “Go Outside.” His suggestion was to take walks with people who live with you, but steer clear of others.

Obviously, etiquette concerns are nowhere near as critical as getting needed masks and respirators to hospitals, but having answers for day-to-day situations can help people to stay safe, and also give them a sense of having some control in our uncertain world.

Below are guidelines to help you safely navigate sidewalks and walkways shared with other people: 

1. Pay attention. Notice your surroundings and anticipate. If you are talking on the phone or texting, it’s easy to become distracted and not notice someone coming your way. If your view is obscured for any reason – such as when you are approaching a corner – you may be unable to see someone walking directly toward you. Be aware of that possibility, and proceed cautiously until you can see what’s ahead. You don’t want to bump into people!  

2. Who moves? If someone is approaching and you realize you’ll be too close when passing each other, what are you to do?  Generally, it is the responsibility of each walker to move to the right when passing so that there is at least six feet between you. If the person approaching you is walking with a cane, pushing a baby stroller, or struggling with agility issues, you are the one who should move out of the way. Bottom line: Don’t stand on ceremony. If you believe that someone will be too close to you, move over!   

3.  Walk single file. If you are walking side by side with someone – even if you are several feet apart – go to single file when passing others. If you don’t, you put the person approaching you in the awkward position of deciding whether to go around one of you or to go between the two of you. 

4. Don’t hog the sidewalk. If you block the walkway when you stop to chat with someone – from a safe distance! – or to let your dog do his business, it’s your responsibility to move aside and let other people pass.

5. Pass people carefully. If you want to pass someone, make your presence known. You can call out “behind you” or “on your left” so you don’t startle the person. You then move to the left, keeping your social distance. The other person can also move to the right, making it easier for the person who wants to pass.  

6. Greet others. People can hear a “good morning” or see a wave from six feet away. Even though we are social-distancing, we still want to be social. (See my blog on Greeting Others In A Social-Distancing World.) And remember, if someone says “hello” to you, good manners require that you say “hello” back.  

7.  Wash your hands when you return home. You don’t know what you might have touched while you were out. Frequent hand-washing is high on the list of recommendations for fighting this coronavirus. 

Additional information about etiquette and your career can be found in Barbara Pachter’s book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success (McGraw Hill). Other books by Pachter include The Power of Positive Confrontation and The Communication Clinic

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on business etiquette, presentation skills, career advancement, professional presence, and business writing. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at Joyce@pachter.com or 856.751.6141.

What’s in a title? A lot — especially for women

Why are female doctors introduced by first name while men are called ‘Doctor’?

This provocative headline was on a Washington Post article a few years ago that featured two women physicians at the Mayo Clinic who had noticed that their male colleagues were usually introduced at conferences as “Doctor So-and-so.” But the two women and other female doctors were often introduced by their first names, when the person introducing them was a man.

Last year, I heard the pilot of my flight introduce himself using his title of captain, but then introduce his co-pilot by her first name only.

And most recently a Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Joseph Epstein made minimizing remarks about Jill Biden’s use of her title “Dr.”, including the comment: Any chance you might drop the “Dr.” before your name? “Dr. Jill Biden” sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic.

Is the use of titles a big deal? Yes. I believe it is. 

How people address you and what you call yourself really do matter. Names – and titles – have power. Names and titles may confer dignity, or take it away. They influence how you are perceived, and whether people take you seriously.

Though the problem of unequal introductions may not be on the same level as eliminating sexual harassment or the gender pay-gap, it is a communication concern with negative implications for women.

Denying professionals the prestige that a title conveys is a subtle way of undermining them.

Whom would you take more seriously, or believe was more competent: “Dr. Tom Jones” or “Sally Smith”? It seems obvious that it would be the person with the title, because that testifies to his training and professionalism.

The following six suggestions on use of titles and names will help you stop negatively influencing others’ perception of women, even inadvertently. These tips apply for both men and women, and to writing emails.  

1. Be consistent with your use of titles. Use professional titles equally for both men and women. If you are mentioning a man by his title, such as Doctor Jones or Professor Smith, refer to a woman the same way. This is valid whether you are giving a speaker introduction, introducing someone to other people at the office or in social situations, or simply mentioning people in informal discussions.

2. Use a woman’s title. Some organizations are very informal with names, but if professional titles are typically used in your organization, refer to women by theirs, such as Dr. (Sally) Jones.

3. Refer to friends/colleagues by their titles when in business settings. You may have a great relationship with Dr. Jones and use her first name when you are together. When you are with other people, however, you should refer to her by her title. You are recognizing her achievement in front of others. If you do not do this, you are establishing a norm that tells people it’s okay for them to call her by her first name. And that may not be the case. (This also applies to men.)

4. Be consistent with the honorific ‘Mr.’ and ‘Ms.’ This is similar to the first item. If you say or write, “Mr. Williams,” do the same for the woman, “Ms. Jones.” This conveys a level of respect for both parties. You do not want to say something like, “Mr. Williams and Karen went to the meeting.” In an informal setting you might also use first names for both, such as “Tom and Karen went to the meeting.”  

5. Refer to women in the workplace as ‘women.’ Businessmen aren’t referred to as boys; businesswomen shouldn’t be referred to as girls. The words “girls” and “boys” indicate children. I know, I know, you are going to say that it’s intended as a compliment, or it’s a way of expressing camaraderie, as in “girls’ night out” or “the girls I work with in the office.” But ultimately it fosters a less-professional image for women.  

6. Don’t use a woman’s nickname or shorter form of her first name —unless you know it is okay to do so or are asked to do so. Children are often called by nicknames. And many shortened names do not have the same standing as full names. My name is Barbara. Do not call me “Barb,” and definitely not “Barbie.” This situation can be tricky. Sometimes people, especially high-power people, will use their nicknames to seem friendly and more approachable. Christine Todd Whitman, the first woman governor of New Jersey and former head of the EPA, will often refer to herself as Christie Whitman. (Her current website is www.christiewhitman.com.)

Men also can be influenced by shortened names. According to a story about basketball legend Michael Jordan on the CBS show 60 Minutes a few years ago, he went from being called “Mike Jordan” to “Michael Jordan” after he scored the winning basket in the 1982 NCAA championship game.

(Note: At the beginning of my blog I didn’t refer to the author of the WSJ article as Joe or Joey Epstein. I used Joseph Epstein–giving him some measure of respect, which he seemingly didn’t want to give the First Lady-elect.)

Start paying attention to your word choices. You may be surprised at how you have been referring to women. Additional information on communication can be found in my book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.

 

*This is a repost of a previous blog. It has been updated.

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, business writing, professional presence, and presentation skills. Contact Joyce Hoff at joyce@pachter.com for more information (www.pachter.com)  

 

 

 

Don’t Whine About Your Job. Do Something!


My coworker hates her job. She keeps complaining to me. I have tried to talk to her about what she could do, but she is not listening. She is worried about finding a new position during the coronavirus pandemic. 
 

My husband keeps threatening to quit his job. He only comments negatively about his job and the people who work with him. I wish he would just do something.

My friend was having difficulty with her schedule, but she didn’t go to her boss to discuss alternatives. She just quit. When I had a problem, my boss adjusted my schedule. My friend’s might have been adjusted, too, if she had said something.

As these comments from participants in my seminars indicate, tackling problems that affect our work lives can be difficult. 

When some people become dissatisfied with their work, they do nothing. Perhaps they don’t know how to proceed, or maybe they don’t believe there is anything they can do to improve the situation. Usually, the only action they take is to whine about their bosses, their colleagues, or the work. 

Unfortunately, complaining doesn’t accomplish anything – except having your friends, colleagues and others stay clear of you.

Some, on the other hand, get so frustrated that they impulsively quit their jobs without having another lined up, or without even a plan for the future.


 Both reactions can affect your career negatively. However, there is an alternative that can help people evaluate their work situations. Answering the following four questions encourages people to take action and decide their next steps. 

1. Ask yourself, what is the real issue? It is easy to say, “I hate my job,” but it is important to identify why. What is the real issue that is causing you to be unhappy? Be honest and be specific. Is it the type of work you do, or just one aspect of the job? Is it the commute, the money, your boss, the people you work with, or any number of other causes? One man I coached liked most of the facets of his job, but wanted to quit because he had to make frequent presentations. Another realized that her new position involved using unfamiliar technology, which made her feel uncomfortable and unqualified.  

2. Can you solve the problem? Now that you have identified the issue, is there something that can be done? Is there a realistic solution? If so, what do you have to lose by asking for it? Make the case for your suggestion, including any benefits to your department or to the company. Remember that if you don’t speak up, chances are nothing will change. 

3. Are there advantages to this job? If you can’t solve the problem, think about what you are gaining from the position.  Don’t just quickly say, “Nothing.” Here are four possible things to consider: 

–Is the job a stepping stone?  Will you need the skills you gain from this position to qualify for a job on the next rung of the ladder? One of my early jobs involved working for a horrible boss. Yet I stayed until I had gained the experience I needed, and then I left.   

–Is there any education or training perk to which you have access? Some companies will fund part or all of your ongoing education. This can be a major benefit for many people. 

–Who are you meeting? Does the job allow you to interact with people and build your network? If so, it is possible that by having a strong network, additional job opportunities will come your way. 

–Can you learn to manage your boss? Learning to work with difficult people is an important skill that almost certainly will be beneficial to you at some point in your career.

4. Is it time to start a job search? Depending on how you answer the above questions, you may decide that it is time to start looking for a new position. (Specific suggestions for looking for work during the pandemic can be found in my blog, Looking for a job? 10 tips to help you succeed in a coronavirus world). You may even decide to change careers. Any number of alternatives may now be available to you. This doesn’t mean you just quit your job. Generally, it is best to look for a new job (or career) while you are still working at the old one. 

Information on conducting a thorough job search can be found in my book The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.   


Whether you decide to stay at your current job or to look for a new one, feel good about your choice. You are doing something: You have taken charge of your career. 

I post regularly on communication and etiquette. We can connect via LinkedInTwitterFacebook or my website:pachter.com
  
About: Barbara Pachter is an internationally-renowned business etiquette and communications speaker, coach and author of 11 business books. She helps individuals communicate more effectively and enhance their professional presence.  (bpachter@pachter.com)