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Don’t Let Your Business Card Etiquette Let You Down.

Posted by Peter Post April 30, 2013 07:00 AM

I was amazed at a business meeting I attended recently. Business cards were exchanged by literally, tossing them across the table. As I have travelled internationally, I have come to realize that our American attitude toward business cards can seem downright disrespectful. And that makes no sense. After all, a business card is an extension of a person’s image and, therefore, should be treated with the same respect you offer the person.

It’s not hard to show appropriate respect as you give and receive a business card.

When you receive a card, take a moment to look at it before putting it away. You show respect to the person who gave it to you by making the effort to read it.

Don’t shove it in a back pocket or just drop it in a purse. Put it away carefully and thank the person who gave it to you to continue to show your respect and appreciation.

Always have enough cards on hand to give out to people you will be meeting, and a few extras for those you may meet unexpectedly.

Another issue that causes people difficulty is when to exchange business cards.

Best time is at the start of a meeting. Business cards can be especially helpful for learning and remembering peoples’ names. You can place the cards in front of you on the table in the same relative position as where people are seated at the table. This gives you a quick reference guide to help solidify the names of the participants in your memory.

If you meet someone outside of a meeting, offer your card during the introduction.

Anytime a person offers you their card, reciprocate by offering yours to them as well. Of course this means having cards readily available. A small business card case will keep yours spotless and provides a great place to carefully put another person’s card.

If cards haven’t been exchanged sooner, be sure to exchange them at the end of the meeting or get-together.

Facebook’s Dinner Ad Strikes Out

Posted by Peter Post April 23, 2013 07:00 AM

Facebook recently released Home and promoted it with three television ads: Dinner, Airplane, and Launch Day. Cute ads, funny. Facebook hit home runs twice but struck out with the third.

In Airplane a guy sees images of family and friends and others come alive around him in the airplane. When the flight attendant asks him to turn off his phone, he quickly takes another peek before shutting down and nodding off.

In Launch Day as Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg announces the launch day to a “staff,” one member of the staff pays more attention to Home on his phone than he does to Zuckerberg. Again the images seem to come alive as Zuckerberg proclaims his excitement about the new product, until imagination becomes reality when the staff member is drenched in water from one of his images.

Finally, in Dinner, an aunt boringly relates lots of nothings at dinner while her rude niece looks at the phone in her lap, cruising Home. Like the other ads her images take on life around the dinner table as she enjoys the Home experience and ignores the people at the table, especially her boring aunt.

As ads, Airplane and Launch day work well, but Dinner sends the wrong message. Here’s why.

In Airplane the guy turns his phone off when he’s supposed to, well almost, but he does turn it off after the flight attendant asks.

In Launch Day ignoring a boss is a big mistake and would be egregious except for the fact that the ad makes the situation absurd when it melds reality and fantasy by leaving the individual soaking wet.

Unfortunately, there’s no such spoofing in Dinner. Here the rude girl does what is so frustrating to so many people today: She focuses on her phone instead of on the people she is with. Unlike Launch Day man who ends up doused in water or Airplane man who shuts his phone off, she benefits from her rudeness, and the ad implies that her rude behavior is totally justified and acceptable.

Over and over we hear how people are appalled at the rudeness exhibited when a phone is more important than the person or people you are with, especially at the dinner table, at a meal with others. Her rudeness is not acceptable, and Facebook shouldn’t be touting rudeness as a benefit of Home.

Boston, Our Thoughts and Prayers Are with You.

Posted by Peter Post April 16, 2013 08:15 AM

My and my wife’s thoughts and prayers are with the people who were injured or worse in Boston yesterday and for all the people of Boston. It is hard to comprehend such a horrific event. You can watch the images and listen to the anchors and experts, but it just doesn’t make sense.

“They’re okay,” my wife shouted from the other room. She had just gotten emails from her cousins who live in various parts of Boston. One had been at home. Another had worked near the finish line during the morning but had left before the bombs went off. Others had watched from various vantage points along the route. They live all over Boston, one only a couple of blocks away from the finish line.

I heard her, but I couldn’t move. “That’s a relief,” I answered softly.

I was mesmerized by the television. Wolf Blitzer on CNN had been talking for at least an hour straight, since we had hurried into our home and immediately turned on the television to learn what had happened. He kept trying to make sense of it. The destruction was so evident as the video of the finish line at the time the bombs went off played again and again and again. But he couldn’t help us make sense of what had happened.

I turned the channel the see what Brian Williams on NBC was reporting. Maybe they had more to offer. But he struggled just as Blitzer did. A child was one of those killed. Many others had been seriously injured. And none of it made any sense.

As I watched interview after interview with people who had been there describing their experiences and their reactions, my mind went from watching what had happened over and over and over to thinking about the people, about how awful what they had experienced had been on what was meant to be such a joyous occasion.

And that’s when I realized how important it was for my wife and me to hear from family and friends in Boston. Not only to know they are safe, but to let them know and all of Boston know we are thinking of them as we pray for the victims of this senseless tragedy.

Save Yourself Texting Grief With The “Who, What, When, Where,” Rule

Posted by Peter Post April 9, 2013 07:00 AM

Recently, I’ve found myself talking a lot about texting. Texting has fast replaced email as the preferred way we communicate, at least when it’s not related to business. I’m a perfect example of the migration to texting, and now I’m far more likely to text than email my friends and family.

Long ago I learned that communicating with my daughters was much easier and I got a much faster reply from texts than I did from emails or from voice mail messages. On a side note, I’ve stopped bothering with voice mails in many non-business situations—people simply see they have missed a call and call back without even checking or listening to voice mail. Interestingly, I even find myself doing the same thing.

Back to texting. While it is clearly one of our communication tools (and perhaps even now our preferred communication tool), it’s easy to misuse it. Like email, texting creates an electronic brick wall that leads us to write things we might not ever communicate if we were face-to-face with the recipient.

When you start writing a text, apply my “Who, What, When, Where” rule to your message. If it passes the test, send it. But if it doesn’t, consider talking with the person face-to-face or at least picking up your phone and calling them—even if you have to leave a voice mail message. The “Who, What, When, Where” rule is exactly what it says: Keep your messages confined to the facts. The minute you get into the “Why” or opinion or emotions or relationship issues, that’s when misunderstandings happen. That’s when you write something you think is positive in tone and the recipient thinks it is negative. That’s when feelings get hurt. That’s when relationships become strained.

Texting is a great way to make plans, to connect, to keep in touch on the go, to build relationships. Keep your texts that way by applying the “Who, What, When, Where” rule as you compose them.

Apple Apologizes Yet Again

Posted by Peter Post April 2, 2013 07:00 AM

I’ve written a lot about the need to apologize when you make a mistake. Owning up to your mistake is the first step in recovering and regaining the trust you have lost.

However, you can’t keep repeatedly apologizing for mistakes because the repetition engenders a suspicion that perhaps you really weren’t sincere to begin with. Instead your apology begins to look like a sham.

Consider the story today in Silicon Valley’s MercuryNews.com by Jeremy Owens. He reports that Apple CEO Tim Cook has apologized again—this time to the people of China.

China’s state-run media has been waging a campaign against Apple's repair and warranty system, claiming “Apple has different policies in China than in other parts of the world.” To right the wrong Cook announced that “Apple will provide Chinese customers with an improved repair policy on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, clear and concise warranty information on the Apple website, increase supervision and training of authorized Apple retailers, and improved accessibility to feedback.” Taken by itself, the apology is a first step in repairing the damage done to Apple’s potential business in China.

This is not the first apology Cook or Apple has offered. When IOS 6 was released the furor over the half-baked Apple Maps resulted in an apology to consumers. Bloomberg Businessweek expands on Apple’s apology history, reporting that in 2007 “co-founder Steve Jobs offered users rebates and an apology because early customers complained about a price cut two months after it went on sale.” In 2010 Jobs again apologized for problems with the iPhone4’s antenna and even gave the purchaser a free case to help resolve the problem.

The problem with repeated apologies is that they begin to appear hollow—perhaps even insincere. And when they are perceived as insincere, your audience stops believing in you. Apple’s stock price closed at $428.91 on Monday. That’s a far cry from the heady days of +$700 value.

Apologies are great, and they work to resolve difficult situations. While one or two or even three or four apologies may be taken at face value, how many times can a person or company apologize before their audience loses faith?

About the author

Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. The column is distributed by The New York Times More »

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