Category Archives: Margaret Page

Flying the Not-So-Friendly Skies: A Survival Guide

Margaret PageBy Margaret Page

Let’s be honest, being strapped into a tiny seat in a cramped airplane—along with dozens of strangers—35,000 feet above sea level, is nobody’s idea of fun. The Internet is filled with stories of air rage, reclining seat standoffs, and articles with titles like “The Most Annoying Type of Airline Passenger is…”

In Expedia’s 2014 Airplane Etiquette Study, the travel company named rear seat kickers as the top airline etiquette violators—with inattentive parents coming in at a close second. Other offenders called out as irritating to passengers included the “Aromatic Passenger,” the “Chatty Cathy,” and the “Audio Insensitive.”

And yet we fly the not-so-friendly skies — often.

Many people love to fly—to explore new places and new cultures—and there are few things more annoying than a travel experience sullied by fellow passengers.

Here are some air travel etiquette tips to pack with you to make sure you’re not the one doing the annoying the next time you board a plane.

Be patient: It is always surprising to watch the crowds of people who hover around the gate when the first call for boarding is announced. The minute the attendant calls the first boarding zone, everyone seems to pop up and head for the gate—clogging the walkways and blocking access to the desk. Everyone is going to get on the plane. Wait for your zone to be called before lining up. And board with your zone!

Carry it carefully and make room: The rows on the plane are very narrow. As you make your way to your seat, carry your bag in front of you. Turn your rolling suitcase sideways and carry it in front of you to your seat. When it comes time to place your belongings in the overhead bin, ensure that it’s in such a way that allows room for others. If you have two bags, place the smaller one under the seat in front of you.

Think about the stink: This is where the term “Aromatic Passenger” comes into play. This seems like an obvious tip as you’ll be sitting next to someone for hours, shower before you head to the airport. And dousing yourself with a ton of perfume or cologne doesn’t count! Some people are very sensitive to smells, and it can even make them sick.

Leave out the liquid: Mind the contents of your bags—especially liquids. Carry-ons stuffed into crowded luggage bins have been known to shuffle: potentially leading to a mess or spill on your fellow passengers.

Respect the recline: It’s obvious that airlines have been cramming more seats into planes in recent years. Where there was once 33 – 34 inches of leg space, now there is 31 inches—hence the uptick in air rage. People are uncomfortable already, and when you fling your seat back all the way, you’re minimizing leg space for the passenger behind you.

The best—and most courteous—practice is to look behind you, and ask permission of the passenger before you recline. And then recline just a little, leaving them with a comfortable amount of legroom.

Note: Some airlines are now offering the option to “purchase” those three inches of legroom. For an additional fee, round trip, you can have more wiggle room.

Keep your feet to yourself: Seat Kickers were listed as the top onboard etiquette offenders in Expedia’s survey. Again, with such a limited amount of space in front of you, be careful not to kick the seat in front of you. And speaking of feet – keep your shoes and socks on!

Balance yourself: This headlines many passengers’ list of pet peeves: While sitting quietly in their seat, eyes closed, relaxed—and wham, their head is pulled back as the person behind them uses the top of the seat to pull themselves up! Use the armrest to balance yourself when getting up from your seat.

Tone it down: Listening to music or watching a movie on your computer to pass the time is great, but make sure you have good earphones! The same is true for talking too loud. If you’re carrying on a conversation with someone in an airplane, be discreet.

Keep your children in check: Adults get cranky when confined to the tight quarters of an airplane for a long period of time, so it’s no surprise that children unravel in flight. Parents need to prepare for the flight as much as they can, depending on the child’s age—so that everyone, including the child, is as comfortable as possible while in the air. Games, movies, books and a bag of tiny gifts to open every hour during long flights go a long way in distracting children from the fact that they can’t run free!

If there is disruptive behavior, talk to the parents—never scold another person’s child. That will not go over well in the air or on the ground.

Don’t be disruptive: Speaking of disruptive behavior: Adults, this should also go without saying, but profanity, excessive drinking, arguing with flight attendants and other behavior that disrupts others will not go over well onboard.

Leave your inner linebacker at home: When it’s time to deplane, allow people in front of you to get their bag from the overhead compartment and make their way out first. The “hurry up and wait” doesn’t work anyway.

If you have a connecting flight, and there was a delay on your original flight, let the flight attendant know you don’t have a lot of time between flights. Typically, others have the same issue and they will make an announcement asking passengers to let those with connecting flights exit first. This is not an open invitation for you to jump the line, however. Be courteous.

There are certainly a slew of high-flying “violators” out there, but how you handle them says a lot about you, as well. In the Expedia study, when asked how they would react if a fellow passenger behaved badly on a flight, nearly 50 percent said they would remain silent and ignore the issue.

Just 22 percent of those surveyed said they would confront a misbehaving passenger and 12 percent admitted that they would record the bad behavior using their mobile phone or a camera.

This is the practice of “shaming” those passengers who are committing the etiquette violation in the sky. They are snapping pictures and posting the unflattering—and often pretty disgusting—photos to Facebook and Instagram – for entertainment purposes. How rude!

The next time you board a plane, keep these etiquette tips in mind. Common sense, and a little courtesy, goes a long way in making others feel comfortable.

Margaret Page is a recognized etiquette expert, speaker and coach, who helps people and organizations be more professional. She is the author of The Power of Polite, Blueprint for Success and Cognito Cards — Wisdom for Dining & Social Etiquette. She is the founder and CEO of Etiquette Page Enterprises, a leading Western Canadian training organization.

A Roadmap of Manners from Coast to Coast

Margaret PageBy Margaret Page

If you have done any kind of travel, especially for business, you will have noticed there can be huge differences in the way we communicate, ways of dress, leisure activities and business practices from coast to coast. Our cultural norms—how we behave socially or in business from region to region, or age group to age group—can feel as dramatic as visiting a foreign land.

According to social and cultural psychologists, the stereotypes we hear are true – the East is more old and established and the West is more new and free, and this does not change in the business world.

Crossing the Communication Border: The way people speak – the words, tone, and dialect they use – is one of the biggest differences we see from coast to coast. This can be especially challenging in business settings.

How we greet each other is often unique to a region. In the Northeast, people are less likely to greet others with a “hello” while walking to their office, unless they know the person. In the South and the West, however, if you pass someone in the hallway, or are sharing a long elevator ride, it would be odd not to smile or extend a casual greeting to the individual.

And of course, if you are in the South you can expect to be greeted with a cheery “Yes, Ma’am” or a “Hi Ya’ll!” from all levels of the corporate ladder. By simply paying attention to a greeting, you can easily understand where someone’s roots are planted.

Differences within cross-regional communication also apply to indirect communication. In New York City, busy businesspeople move from home to work with purpose. They are accustomed to the busyness around them—to the point where the sounds they encounter from Point A to Point B fall on deaf ears.

Emma Stone solidified this in a recent interview about filming the latest Spiderman movie. Busy New York office workers hustled along and were so oblivious to the action (where cars were literally being blown up) that they had to hire people to react to the situations. You are less likely to see that kind of reaction on the West Coast. Though just as determined and focused in their business life, if cars are blowing up around them, they’re likely to stop and watch the action.

When it comes to business communication, the most important thing to remember is to be open and flexible—and if you’re unsure of what behaviour is expected or appreciated, just ask.

Dressing for Success: Take for example a recent client’s visit to coastal California. In what we would call the business hub of the city, she found businessmen and women dressed in casual attire. Gentlemen rarely wear suits—opting for pressed khakis and a nice polo shirt in its place. Where suits and ties are a rare occurrence in the West, gentlemen seem to shower with them on in the East.

A West Coast businessperson was surprised on a recent business trip to New York City because of how different the corporate culture felt. Men and women in suits scurried from the subway to the office—grabbing a bagel at the local food cart. Said businessperson exclaimed how New Yorkers moved with intention. She, herself, felt that she couldn’t keep up with them, and she wasn’t the one in 3-inch heels! The atmosphere in the West is definitely more laid back and casual.

In the South where temperatures and humidity are higher, you rarely see women wearing pantyhose to the office unless required by a dress code. An interesting tidbit to note: women who work in the White House or on Parliament Hill must wear stockings or hose and closed toed shoes ALL year round. Though this may be surprising, those that work closely with other cultures must set a high standard and respect other’s cultural beliefs around dress codes.

Since wearing inappropriate clothing to a foreign area can sometimes be awkward and embarrassing, there are things you can do to ensure the comfort of others when faced with cultural and regional differences. Do your homework before your next business trip by making Google your go-to resource. Enter in the address or area, such as Downtown Vancouver, where you’ll be prompted with a street view that allows you to see how people are dressed! Or, simply search for the city’s business attire, such as Business Attire Vancouver, for a host of resources that discuss etiquette do’s and don’ts catered to that city.

Mixing Business with Pleasure: It is becoming more and more common to mix “labor” with “leisure” – that is, business with pleasure. Attending a cocktail party at your boss’ home, or gathering the team for a brainstorm session over lunch at a colleague’s apartment is not uncommon nowadays. And if you do visit someone’s home for a business-related function, one of the things that can differ from one coast to the other is whether to remove your shoes. Most likely, if you came from a colder climate where part of the year is under snow, you grew up removing your shoes at the door, before entering someone’s home — winter or summer. It just became a habit. And when you enter someone’s home today, no matter where you live, it’s the first thing you do.

Whereas those that grew up in climates where the walkways remain clean all year round are encouraged to leave their footwear on. Bare feet or sweaty socks on carpets or hardwoods can be damaging and is really not a good practice, but in the battle between dirty shoes and stocking feet – socks wins!

Outdoor leisure activities also differ from region to region. Since the weather in the West is moderate, golf is a popular business leisure activity. It’s also not uncommon for businesspeople in metropolitan cities such as Los Angeles to take their clients to NHL, NFL, or MLB sporting events, or to even experience the city’s nightlife. However in the South, you can expect an invitation for something more adventurous, such as hunting. In the Northeast, leisure activities can range from fishing to a night at the theatre.

If you know your business travels will include an activity that’s unfamiliar to you, it doesn’t hurt to do some light research. If you are feeling uneasy about your abilities to do said sport, expressing a light-hearted joke with your company at the start of the day will help ease your tensions.

Culturally Connected: We’ve all heard the expression that begins, “When in Rome…,” when it comes to travelling for business relations, the expression holds true. It’s important to be respectful of local customs and traditions. Prior to scheduling your business travels, it is essential to check the region’s observed holidays. Where Jewish holidays are honored in Southern Florida and the North East, the Midwest and the Southwest are known to embrace the traditions of Cinco de Mayo. However in cities such as New York and Los Angeles, you will likely find that only traditional holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years are observed. These are all important to keep in mind when scheduling business trips.

Respecting cultural boundaries also takes effect in more intimate circumstances such as hugging and cheek kissing. Some things to consider are how long you have known the person and whether you are friends with them outside of the business arena. The setting also comes into consideration here; what if their boss is present? No matter how well you know the person, a handshake may be the better choice in this situation.

Is the Gap Narrowing?: While it’s true that there are definite cultural nuances, it’s also true that these differences seem to be narrowing as younger generations move into the business world. Co-working spaces are opening across the country—east to west. Millennials and GenYers are slowly changing the way we work and it’s happening everywhere. Working from co-working spaces or coffee shops have become the “norm” for this generation and working traditions are far less formal than what generations before them are accustomed to.

No matter what part of the country you are in, the most important thing to remember is that you are in someone else’s backyard—not yours, so avoid making any judgements. By being respectful, receptive, and inclusive of new cultures and “norms,” it may be a deal breaker for your clients. And when in doubt, let it go! No one is trying to offend you!

Margaret Page is a recognized etiquette expert, speaker and coach, who helps people and organizations be more professional. She is the author of The Power of Polite, Blueprint for Success and Cognito Cards — Wisdom for Dining & Social Etiquette. She is the founder and CEO of Etiquette Page Enterprises, a leading Western Canadian training organization.

What You Need to Know About Social Media Etiquette

Margaret PageBy Margaret Page

Like children with a shiny new toy, adults introduced to social media jumped in and started playing: posting personal photos to Facebook, accepting requests for “friendship” from long-lost high school pals, and checking into everywhere from the coffee shop to their favorite local eatery. What fun! Suddenly we were getting an inside look into the lives of people we hadn’t connected with in years!

But unlike a new toy, social media didn’t come with any real instructions. We unwrapped it, signed up and off we went, sharing our world with… the world. As more and more people glommed onto this new way of communicating, the seeds of chaos were planted.

Rules of Engagement: Without guidelines on how to use social media, disaster is just a tweet away. Many people – and companies — have found this out the hard way. Embarrassing gaffs, impulsive rants, and misguided comments have ensued.

What you post on social media sites is out there forever. The Internet never forgets; a “selfie” posted after a night on the town or a tweet about a colleague can cause more damage than you think. It’s dangerous to assume privacy settings protect you. Even if you’ve locked down your Facebook page, once it’s posted to the web you can guarantee someone who is not directly connected to you will find it. All it takes is for one of your friends to share it with their friends.

And what you say CAN and WILL be held against you! Your future boss, clients, partners, voters and vendor are watching.

A good rule of thumb, whether you are engaging on social media for personal or in business is this: “If you wouldn’t say it loudly, in front of your mother (or boss!), you shouldn’t post it online—anywhere!”

With so many companies supporting BYOD, it’s more important than ever that a clear social media policy is in place for employees. Your employees are representatives of your brand, and in business, perception is everything. To protect yourself from the embarrassment of a social media faux pas, create a policy that clearly states what you expect from your employees when it comes to social media use. Set clear boundaries, especially for those who are part of your brand building process.

Do I Know You? In this world of connectivity, how connected are we really? Has the word “connected” lost its meaning? With our ability to connect to anyone, anytime, anywhere through social media, the term “connected” has been watered down. Think about how many of the generic “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” invitations to connect you receive each month. Very few of them are from people you have truly “connected” with outside of social media. It feels a little like “the person with the most fans and followers” wins. But do they, really?

Before there was LinkedIn, you wouldn’t dream of asking a new acquaintance to buy something from you just minutes after you met. And, you certainly wouldn’t show up at a networking event in yesterday’s outfit. Just like offline networking, building relationships online, follows the same basic etiquette rules.

Here are a few to keep in mind:

  • Be professional. On Twitter, don’t be the egg; post a professional photo of yourself on your profile. This holds true on all social media sites. A business colleague should recognize you from your online picture. Include information about yourself. Your social media profiles are the equivalent of your business card, so be sure you keep it updated as your professional information changes. Always keep your basic contact information updated and link to your other professional profiles.
  • Introduce yourself. Want people to get a sense for who you are? Post interesting, value-added content on your social media accounts to showcase your professional expertise. This is especially true with LinkedIn; when you update your status with useful information, you’re building trust among your network – opening doors for introductions to new connections.
  • Be authentic. Just like in real life, no one wants to connect with “that guy.” You know the one: the guy in the sleazy suit who spends his time schmoozing. One of the biggest mistakes people make when connecting on LinkedIn or Facebook is not personalizing the message in the invitation. Swap out the default message with something like “George. I really enjoy your blog at The leadership content you share is so valuable. I’d like to add you to my professional network and get to know more about your business.” This will let the recipient know how you found them and why you want to connect. In turn, they will know that you aren’t connection for the sake of just adding to their numbers.
  • Listen. Building connections through social media isn’t just about pushing out content on this network or that. If you’re not taking time to listen and engage with influential people (the ones you are hoping to connect with), you’re missing an opportunity. Choose a handful of key people you want to build a business relationship with, read what they are posting, and where there is an opportunity for you to add value—jump in!

Whether you are connecting with people in the online world, or at a dinner party, knowing how to present yourself in a positive way is the same. Think before you speak translates to “think before you tweet.”

Margaret Page is a recognized etiquette expert, speaker and coach, who helps people and organizations be more professional. She is the author of The Power of Polite, Blueprint for Success and Cognito Cards — Wisdom for Dining & Social Etiquette. She is the founder and CEO of Etiquette Page Enterprises, a leading Western Canadian training organization.

The Line Between Labor and Leisure

Margaret PageBy Margaret Page

At one time the line between our labor and our leisure was abundantly clear. 9:00 am to 5:00 pm was work. Evenings and weekends were for play.

Today, in the age of entrepreneurship, new workplace order—where going to the gym happens on the job and chatting at the cooler is encouraged—the line between personal and professional time is blurred.

It’s important to remember that whether you are spending a day on the golf course with a client, or speaking to one of your friends in a board meeting, the rules of the games are still the same.

1. Good grooming is essential. It’s great that you ran 5K with a client during your lunch break or took a spin class with your assistant. Always take the time to have a shower or at the least rinse off. Nothing affects someone’s credibility more than poor grooming. If you worked up a sweat, you need to take time to refresh–no matter how much work you have crammed into your day.

2. Loud language lingers. If you drop a “language bomb,” the effects of it will linger. And like all bombs, language bombs spell danger. The words you use leave a lasting impression on those around you. Although Sandra Bullock’s slip at the 2014 Critics’ Choice Movie Awards may have awarded her a few startled chuckles from the crowd, it also overshadowed her acceptance speech. Do a quick search of “Sandra Bullock + Acceptance Speech” and you’ll find dozens of videos and commentary on the slip, with very few details about the actual monologue.

Drop an “f” bomb and the following occurs: credibility goes down; caution goes up!

3. Meet people in their “Model of the World.” The Golden Rule, “treat others as you would have them treat you,” is no longer enough in this age of connectivity. Instead, the order of the day is the Platinum Rule: “treat others as they would have you treat them.” Some people prefer to use e-mail to communicate, while others use texting, social media and Skype. And, yes, there are still those who prefer a phone call. Everyone has a PMoC (Preferred Mode of Communication), so it’s best to find out what that is for each business contact—and use it.

And that’s just the first step.

If you want to build lasting relationships with clients and colleagues, know and appreciate their model of the world. For example: perhaps you’re working with a client that has specific days of the week blocked off for meetings. Note this so that you are certain to schedule meetings on those specific days. Having this awareness—and meeting people in their model of the world—goes a long way in building strong business relationship.

4. How far do we go? How much of your own personal challenges—or successes—do you share with your clients or colleagues? Even though you’ve become friends with some of your business connections, there needs to be some level of professionalism that is considered when sharing personal information. It would not, for example, be appropriate to share the gruesome details of your spouse’s infidelity with someone you work with—no matter how close you are. Keep the information at a classified level if you’re reaching out for support from co-workers, and refrain from seeking advice from clients or your boss when it comes to your personal life. Instead seek out someone from HR for support, or find a coach or therapist you can work with.

The converse is true here; when you are on the receiving end of the conversation, be available to lend and ear to those that need it. Just be very careful not to get pulled into personal drama. The line can become very blurred if you open the door too wide. Take the time to listen, and encourage them to get professional support if needed.

5. Leave things better than you found them. What things? Everything: people, plans and projects–whatever you are involved in. Sometimes we don’t realize the implications of our interactions. Too often “average” and “good enough” are the standards that people reach for. While average is great for your blood pressure, it is not inspiring in the workplace, and it is not likely to inspire others around you.

How do you want people to feel when they interact with you? Worse? Exactly the same? Or better? You really do have the power to make or break someone’s day. Sometimes it’s the simplest gesture that makes the biggest impact.

Imagine if you approached life, business, and everything else that matters with a vision of leaving it better than you found it. Or each time you did something you wanted to do it better than the time before. If you set the bar at this height you will always have a job, a career, a place to go, and people who want to be connected to you in some way.

While it’s true that the way we conduct business these days has changed, the way we present ourselves is fundamentally the same. If you are well groomed, speak profoundly, connect with others, and make a positive difference in the world you will succeed at work and at play.

Margaret Page is a recognized etiquette expert, speaker and coach, who helps people and organizations be more professional. She is the author of The Power of Polite, Blueprint for Success and Cognito Cards — Wisdom for Dining & Social Etiquette. She is the founder and CEO of Etiquette Page Enterprises, a leading Western Canadian training organization.