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How to be gracious at work

Etiquette expert Letitia Baldrige offers tips on minding our manners

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in Business Etiquette,Workplace Communication

One of the most gracious First Ladies in U.S. history had a social secretary who continues to give advice on how to be gracious in our work lives.

Letitia Baldrige, author and formal social secretary and chief of staff to Jackie Kennedy, offers her advice on remaining gracious in a world that sometimes forgets its manners:

1.  Send unexpected email. We all receive plenty of email that keeps us informed. Baldrige recommends taking a few minutes to send affirmative messages to friends.

For example, “I’m so thrilled to hear about your son’s engagement. She sounds like a terrific girl, and how lucky she is to be entering your family.”

“Those kind of messages,” she says, “just make life worthwhile.”

2.  Know how to greet people. From her experience in overseas embassies, Baldrige knows that when you’re expecting a VIP in the office, it pays to do your homework. Find out as much as you can about the person. “The more you’re briefed and the more respectful you can be, the better you’ll be able to handle top guests.”

3.  Ask questions. “It shows you’re interested in something other than yourself,” Baldrige says.

4.  Expand your vocabulary. “If you’re looking up at the Sistine Chapel and all you can think to say is ‘Awesome!’ you need to stop yourself,” she says. “We’ve got to preserve our beautiful language,” but it’s being compromised by our dependence on terse electronic messaging.

Top workplace faux pas

The Protocol School of Wash­­ington, which trains diplomats and international execs, cites these among the top business etiquette missteps:

  • Using swear words
  • Shouting to others across the room
  • Talking on a speakerphone when others are nearby
  • Wearing unprofessional attire
  • Offering a weak handshake
  • Failing to make eye contact
  • Displaying poor dining skills
  • Answering calls or texts during conversations and meetings

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