ďHow many of you have an email address for you your personal emails which is separate from your business email address?,Ē I asked a group I was giving a speech to recently.
I asked the question because earlier this month the Superintendent of Schools in Des Moines, Iowa, got canned for using her office computer to send personal, private emails. The initial reason stated by the school board for her firing was she had signed a contract that specifically forbids using her school system computer for personal reasons. Yet, she went ahead and did it.
She compounded her initial mistake by sending emails to her lover that were sexually explicit. It turns out the contract also prohibits sending sexually explicit emails.
Strike two and in this case she was out. Unfortunately for her, not only is she out of her job as the Des Moines superintendent, she also had to give up a new job she had just accepted as the Omaha, Nebraska, schools superintendent. All this for failing to heed the most important rule of email, especially email sent on your business email account: if you canít put it on a bulletin board for anyone to see, then donít put it in an email.
In a USA Today online article she summed up her mistake: ďI tell my staff that they should treat any e-mails as a public communication. I donít know why I didnít do the same.Ē
Sure itís convenient, but you may be in violation of an employment agreement or policy, and even if youíre not in violation, your emails on your business computer are subject to inspection by your company.
How would you answer the question I asked my group? Do you have a separate email address for your private, personal emails or do you get all your emails at your business email address? (Click here to take our poll.)
Have you ever wondered why table manners matter? One of the things Iíve learned teaching etiquette is to have a good reason for recommending a course of action. Rules for rulesí sake simply donít work. People wonít change a behavior just because you tell them to, but give them a good reason for listening and for adopting a behavior, and then they are likely to do it.
So, when I was writing the first edition of Essential Manners for Men, and I came to the extensive topic of table manners, I wondered, what it is about table manners that makes them matter so much. And then it hit me: Eating is a gross activity and table manners help us to limit the grossness as we eat and drink.
Think about it for a minute. Youíre on a date sitting across from someone you want to impress. You take fork and knife in hand and somehow cut off a bite-size piece of food. Then balancing it on the fork and keeping it there without dropping it on the plate or worse yet in your lap, you insert the food into your mouth. You then chew it into a mushy pulp and swallow it. And then you repeat the process thirty or so times. And all the time you are trying not to gross out the person youíre conversing with who is sitting across from you. Table manner are designed to help limit the grossness of eating.
How we hold a fork and knife, how we take a drink from a glass, how we take a bite of bread, how we remove a gristly piece of meat or an olive pit from our mouths Ė these manners exist to make it pleasant to eat with other people watching. Anytime you start to wonder what to do at the table, ask yourself how your action will look to the people you are with. Will it be gross? Will it make them wonder why on earth you are doing that? If youíre pretty sure it wonít gross them out, then youíre probably on the right track. In the long run, limiting the grossness of eating is table manners 101, and it is more important than knowing which fork to use.
Essential Manners for Men was first published in 2003 and became a New York Times bestseller for advice books. Essential Manners for Men 2nd Edition is available now.
Itís the wedding season, and one of those heavy, hand-addressed, cream-colored envelopes just arrived in my mail. Everything about that envelope screams IMPORTANT. When one of these lands in your mailbox, there are several key steps to take, steps which for any other invitation you might not attend to quite so fastidiously (although you probably should, but thatís gist for another column.)
What to do with the invitation? Answer it. The sooner the better. Knowing how many people are attending is critical to the planning of the meal, the seating, the amount of refreshments. When you donít answer, you leave the bride and groom and their families in a difficult position, so do them a favor and answer it right away.
What about a gift? Give one. Itís an obligationĖnot as a payback for the reception meal, but as a way of honoring the importance of the occasion. If you donít know what to send, find out where the couple has registered for gifts. You can ask the couple, their parents, or an attendant, or check out their wedding website if they have one. Choose a gift thatís in your price range. It shouldnít put you into debt. Are you really meant to send a gift if you arenít attending? Yes. About the only time you wouldnít is if the invitation is from an obscure person you havenít seen in years and with whom you really have no meaningful connection. Even in that case, respond and let the person know you wonít be attending.
Who can go to the wedding with you? Only the people listed on the invitation. If itís addressed just to you, then it means you alone are invited. If it says your name and ďGuest,Ē then you can bring one person with you. If itís addressed to you and ďFamily,Ē then your kids are invited, too. Under no circumstances should you ever bring a person who hasnít been invited. If five, ten, or twenty people all did that, there wouldnít be enough food, refreshments, or seats for everyone.
What do you wear? This is a really big day for the couple, so showing them a little respect by dressing up makes sense. I was at a wedding a few of years agoóa really nice event with a sit-down lunch, music, dancing, the whole nine yards. A couple of guests showed up in shorts and sneakers. They looked like they had just come in from a touch-football game. Totally inappropriate. For hints on what to wear visit the Emily Post Instituteís website.
Finally, be a good guest: Show up on time, be respectful during the ceremony, and then share in the coupleís joy and enjoy the party.
Apologies to anyone who tried to link to the Couple's Chore IQ. The link was unintentionally password protected. It is now available for download without registering or inputting a password. Sorry for any confusion. Peter
The interaction between perception and reality is at the heart of relationships. One of the places that illustrates this dichotomy is the chores each member of a couple does, or rather how each person views his or her contribution compared to how they view the contribution of their partner. When both people believe chores are shared equitably, harmony reigns in the relationship. But if one person feels overwhelmed, under-helped, and under-appreciated, then stress and frustration rear their ugly heads.
For instance, consider something as seemingly clear-cut as washing the dishes after dinner. Do you do it, does your significant other do it, or do you share the job? How does your significant other rate his or her own contribution? If you say you do the clearing up all the time, and your significant other says you do it all the time, at least your individual perceptions are based on a mutual reality.
For my book Essential Manners For Couples, I surveyed people to find out where perception and reality donít match up in the household chore department. Interestingly, one the most glaring differences was who contributed to keeping the kitchen and the bedroom neat. More than fifty percent of the men surveyed said they shared equally in these chores, while only twenty-seven percent of women said men helped keep the kitchen neat, and twenty-nine percent said men helped keep the bedroom tidy. Men see themselves as sharing in these chores while women perceive themselves as carrying the load.
Who does the chores in your household? You can find the Chores IQ Test for Couples at the Emily Post website. Take the test individually and then compare your answers. Where you agree, celebrate. But where you disagree, itís time to talk.
Peter Post's Essential Manners for Men was first published in 2003 and became a New York Times bestseller for advice books. Essential Manners for Men 2nd Edition is available now.