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Didi’s Manners & Etiquette: Old Fashioned Etiquette + Manners Revisited

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Are old fashioned etiquette and manners effective today for emailing, table manners, climbing the corporate ladder, and applying to schools? All questions to Didi Lorillard at NewportManners this week.

How to get ahead without seeming pushy

Q. Any tips to getting ahead without appearing too pushy? I'm bored with my job and I'm looking to find a more satisfying one within the same organization. I love what I do and I know I could make more money and take on more responsibility, but I lack the confidence to push ahead.

When I asked a colleague higher up on the food chain for advice, he said to keep my nose to the grindstone, but he didn't say how long it would be before I'd see results. I'm taking classes after work and on weekends to strengthen my skills. What more should I be doing? Should I look for another job and quit?  AJ, Miami


A.  Longing for a more fulfilling job is not pushy. Nobody wants to be bored. Or feel undervalued and under-appreciated.

  • Don't quite until you have another job.
  • Don't make excuses for mistakes and negligence.
  • Don't wait for permission to act, steam ahead.
  • Don't be a know-it-all when your boss is older.
  • Don't look for unwanted attention. 
  • Don't duck conflict.
  • Don't be needy for praise.
  • Don't put off tasks.
  • Don't pass judgment on others.
  • Don't let a lack of resources get in your way.
  • Don't act too laid-back and comfortable.


Applying to nursery school

Q. We are applying our eldest son to nursery schools. It is a very competitive environment and because most of the spots are being held for legacies, we're looking to put our best feet forward. There is one school in particular where we've been told Timmy is at the top of the waitlist and we're wondering how to stand out.

Specifically, I would like to know about sending thank-you notes as follow up to the interviews. We have had no paper contact with the schools, meaning no stamped envelopes in the mailbox from them, because all the communication has been on the phone or through email. 

I dutifully sent heartfelt thank-you emails to every school within a week of the interview, but now I'm wondering if I should have written handwritten letters mailed in envelopes and stamped. Should I write a more personal handwritten note?  BM, San Francisco


A. Answering an email with an email is the way to go, but in this case, where you're feeling the pressure to do more, follow your instincts. Take out your best personal writing paper and handwrite a genuinely appreciative thank-you note to the interviewer. Thank the person for the privilege of their time.

You can never thank people enough.


Breast hugs

Q.  Recently I had reconstruction on both of my breasts following mastectomies. Prior to the operations I was a very physical and hug-gy type of person. Like a bear, I warmly responded to practically everyone with outstretched arms. Now I'm afraid to hug people because my reconstructed breasts are too firm. Even my husband and kids tease me. I'm wondering how to use body language to show people that I wanna' hug, but leave my breasts out of it?  Name Withheld


A. Take charge, the left-armed hug could be useful. Depending upon the height of the person who is approaching you for a hug, have a side-by-side hug. With your right arm reaching under their left armpit going around his back to hug the side under the right armpit for a hand hug on his side; or if you're taller, wrap your arm around their neck and hold their shoulder with the palm of your hand. 

By taking control you can stand side-by-side keeping the person at a distance from your breasts but they can still feel the warmth of your arm and hand holding their body. With practice, it will become your new signature hug.


Dating Table Manners

Q.  My bro says I have terrible table manners and I eat like a slob. He thinks one of the reasons women breakup with me is because my manners are anti-social. He says he won't be seen at a restaurant with me. Is he just kidding me?  Bill, Providence


A.  Table manners for formal occasions, business events and in restaurants are more rigid than dining at home with friends. Nonetheless, you should know that surveys found that when millennials were asked whether good or bad table manners were important in a partner, the overwhelming response was clear: bad table manners were a deal-breaker/date-breaker.


  • Why? Because table manners are near impossible to change. We learn eating habits from a very early age; they become so engrained that bad habits are hard to break. 
  • Follow other people's lead. For instance watch how your bro behaves and eats to see what he's complaining about. 
  • Your future partner is not going to fall out of love with you because you have bad table manners, which she knows she won't be able to break.
  • Looking for love? Here are simple tips any bro should know and remember:
  • Bad table manners rank higher on the list of dating no-nos than any other complaint.
  • Don't assume everyone is a sharer, so don't take food off of another person's plate.
  • In a group remember to talk to everyone not just one person.
  •  Put your napkin in your lap and don't leave it on the table until you leave the table.
  • Don't stretch your arm across anyone at the table to reach for anything including the salt and pepper.

Don't talk with your mouth full of food.

Didi Lorillard researches manners and etiquette and NewportManners


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