||Dear Etiquetteer:Isn't "flipping someone off" a very strong gesture? Let's take it one step further: flipping off a total stranger who has done nothing to you. I'm a big guy and it makes me want to beat the crap out of the gesturer.A recent entry in one of my favorite blogs relates how the writer gleefully flips off Hummers. Just because the writer has misconceptions about that automobile and probably knows nothing about the environmental activities of the Hummer driver, what gives the writer the right to flip off an innocent stranger? The writer is under the misconception that his gesturing is protected under the "First Amendment" (he really should study the Constitution before writing about it). I truly believe the blog writer is a nice person, but needs to learn that polite manners are for useeverywhere.Dear Flipped:Etiquetteer is fascinated by bird life, but not this kind! Perfectly Proper ladies and gentlemen know what this "splendid gesture" means, but it is not a part of their body language vocabulary. When Etiquetteer wags an Admonitory Digit, you may be sure it isn't the middle finger.But what you're really interested to learn is how you can guide this digitally profane blogger into the paths of Perfect Propriety, yes? Etiquetteer will observe that true cretins frequently try to use the law or the Holy Bible to justify bad behavior. They may indeed have the right to offend in any way they wish; they ALSO have the right to suffer the consequences. So if this blogger is mowed down in a fit of road rage by a raving-mad Hummer driver, so be it.The roadways of the world are tense enough as it is. Please encourage your friend to promote Highway Harmony, Road Safety, and Perfect Propriety by refraining from shooting the finger. He really ought to channel his anger more constructively in other ways, perhaps by joining the Sierra Club or something.
Dear Etiquetteer:When is it OK to call a colleague honey, sweetie, sweetheart or sweetpea? I thought I could use it if I am intimate with someone, no? I am so confused!Ooh, honey:You just might have come to the wrong person with this question. Etiquetteer will admit to being very free -- perhaps too free -- with terms of endearment in the workplace -- shucks, just about everyplace! Etiquetteer once nicknamed a particular boss "BooBoo" to the delight of all, including the boss in question.But let's face it -- that's not really Perfectly Proper. Oh no.In the Politically Correct New Millennium, it's unwise to use terms Lecherous Old Men used to use for Beautiful Young Women when referring to anyone, especially of the opposite gender. Some overly sensitive person could sue you and you'd end up in front of Judge Judy. And this is especially true in the workplace.That said, a nickname can cement a close working relationship with a colleague. Long story short, save the terms of endearment for close colleagues.
Dear Etiquetteer:It's almost the end of January, and I'm sorry to say that I still have a box of Christmas presents at home that I have to give to people. Most of them are for friends, but one or two are for family members. Obviously I don't want to save these for next Christmas, but I also don't want to make people feel like an afterthought. We just couldn't find time to get together in December. Is it bad to give them their Christmas presents now?Dear Gifting:Yes Virginia, there is a problem here. What you're telling Etiquetteer is that you're too busy at Christmas for Christmas. You could take a tip from a group of friends Etiquetteer knows and have your Christmas celebration after Christmasand New Year's festivities. This group usually gets together for a meal around Twelfth Night (also known as Epiphany, when the Three Kings finally showed up with their gifts) and exchange gifts then. No reason you couldn't host such a gathering with modest refreshments and good cheer, and you could hand people their gifts as they leave.But trust Etiquetteer, if you're still hanging on to those gifts by Valentine's Day, you need to evaluate why you're still buying these folks presents in the first place. They may need to graduate to your card list.Dear Etiquetteer:I think some people in my office talk way too much in group meetings. I don't know if it's because they like hearing themselves, or whether they actually believe they are the only ones amongst us who work hard; either way they are loud, annoying meeting hijackers. The thing is, what they usually say in meetings is often not new because most have been either communicated via e-mail, reported at other meetings, or you've overheard it through the thin office walls. To those of us who work just as hard as these loud domineering colleagues, but are respectful of other people's time and space, we have passed the Advil and Tylenol way too many times to count. Is there a school these people can be sent to to learn that with a little bit of consideration they can actually save us a lot of time by keeping their mouths shut! Any advice you can give will be most appreciated.Dear Fuming:Etiquetteer is very familiar with this type of gasbag, and they can be fun toneedle in large meetings. Start questioning their basic assumptions and seethem lose their control. Try it . . . it's fun!Seriously, though, the person to whom you should speak is the person running themeeting. Large group meetings need to be particularly focused so that everyone'stime is most efficiently used. If you're able to approach this person (andEtiquetteer thinks you should before you lose your cool), work with them tocreate a more specific and tightly focused agenda that will dramatically reducethe bloviation of your colleague.Etiquetteer, who these days has more trouble disguising his impatience intime-wasting meetings, has also taken to announcing a "time check." "I'm very sorry to interrupt you Ermentrude, but it's now 1:37 PM and we have 13 more agenda items before our meeting ends at 2:00 PM." This can be a risky strategy in an organization with a complicated hierarchy, but it's better than blowing up at someone . . . or going out for a drink with gossipy colleagues after work and spilling all your frustrations so they can tell everyone how much you hate Ermentrude the next day.
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