Serving Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Conn. Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire

 How to Exchange Business Cards Professionally

Bus Card

In the 17th century, business cards were called “bearer” and ”calling” cards, indicators of social status. The cards later became ”trade cards”,  used as a way to identify oneself as part of an organization and provide contact information.

Today, business cards constitute a  professional staple. Below are a few rules for exchanging them with respect and polish:

  • Extend your business card face up and oriented so that the recipient can read it with a glance.
  • Do not ask a higher ranking person if you may give her (him)  your card.  Wait for that person to offer hers, then exchange. If the higher ranking person does not initiate the exchange, accept the fact that there will not be one.
  • It it correct to write on a business card? Perhaps there is a phone number that is not on your card but you wish the other person to have. Since this is your card, feel free to write a note on it before handing it to your companion. However, be careful about writing on someone else’s card! Etiquette differs with cultures.  In the U.S. it is often acceptable. However, if you are exchanging business cards with someone who is Japanese, don’t even ask!  Your companion would be insulted by the sight of you defacing his/her card!   In all cases, take the safe route by waiting until the person is out of sight  to jot down notes.
  • When accepting a card, take a few seconds to read it, then make a brief comment. This sends a message of acknowledgement interest.

Manners are tools through which we show others they are important. The way we offer and receive a business card can signal that the conversation and, thus, the person, is important to us– or not.








It’s National Thank You Note Day – I’m Celebrating with Janet Parnes!

(Marketing expert Kris K and I collaborated to write this blog for her site THE APPRECIATION FACTOR ) Enjoy!

It's’s that time of year where you may already be writing thank you notes for the generosity of those around you, but did you know there’s an actual “holiday” for Thank you notes? Yep it’s December 26th!  I think it was created as it’s a reminder to get your thank you notes out ASAP after the holidays. (hint hint)

Not to worry I’m here to help.  To celebrate National Thank you Day, I’ve recruited my friend, Janet Parnes, Owner and Etiquette Consultant at Etiquette for  I’m having her share her tips on writing a Thank you note. (I thought it would be great to have someone who counsels these tips to others already, weigh in at The Appreciation Factor. (Plus I’m excited to meet someone who values saying “thank you” as much as I do!)

Before we get to the tips, I thought I’d share a little bit about Janet.

TAF: Janet, Tell me a little bit about you?Janet Parnes Etiquette Consultant

As a child, I thought manners were rules somebody made up for parents to teach their kids. Over time, I realized that manners are powerful tools.  They bring the qualities such kindness, generosity and confidence in ourselves and others to the forefront.  Using manners also makes life more comfortable and harmonious for everyone.

I also believe that manners make up a timeless code of behaviors that lies in the bedrock of a society founded on respect for others and ourselves.  My work around this code fuels me personally and professionally.


TAF: What lead you to starting an etiquette business?   

Twelve years ago, a friend of mine adopted a 7-year-old girl. I decided to celebrate the adoption with a Royal Tea party and created the character Lady J to host the grand affair!  That tea party was the launch pad for my company Royal Tea Parties by Lady J, now called Historical Portrayals by Lady J.  At these children’s events, so many mothers asked about etiquette classes for children, that I attended the Protocol School of Washington® and developed my etiquette-consulting business.  I started with children’s workshops and have since developed workshops for teens, and college students/young adults.


My workshops are built upon the premise that everyone is rich, regardless of size of his/her bank account. That is because use we are all born with innate gems such as respect, confidence, and gratitude.  Students learn how to bring the dignity in themselves and others, to the forefront. They also discover manners are not arbitrary rules, but powerful tools they can use to shape their relationships

As a professional storyteller/character portrayer, I delight in engaging and inspiring my students with workshops that sizzle with tales of hapless mistakes, including my own, intriguing historical trivia and breath-catching tales of real–life rudeness.


TAF: It’s clear your passionate about the subject.  Can you share why you feel it’s still important to teach etiquette in today’s society? Many might say it’s out dated. 

Manners are tools we use to show others that they are important. When we make eye contact while conversing with a friend, hold the door for the stranger, or turn off and tuck away our smart phone while dining, we are silently telling others that they matter.

I believe that conduct today is becoming increasingly casual. I think technology plays a large part in this: smartphones and internet access make life easier and faster.  Texts and emails are replacing face-to-face and phone conversations; and phones have become dining companions. They are often on and at-the-ready for immediate use, causing a distraction from the people around us.

The soft skills, including proper introductions, gracious table manners, and the handwritten thank-you note are getting lost perhaps because they require more time and effort. However if one puts their “gems” such respect, consideration, and appreciation into the limelight, the rewards are substantial — others will feel acknowledged and thus, important.


Here are her 5 Tips on writing a thoughtful thank you note
Now there’s no excuse to send one after receiving that great gift/or assistance this holiday season.

 1. Electronic or Envelope? 
First we have to decide whether to say ‘thank you” via email or handwritten note. Digital thank yous are quick and relatively easy. A handwritten note is requires more of an investment (finding the paper and pen, coming up with the content and writing it legibly, putting it in the mail, etc..) as such, the handwritten note trumps the digital thank you when it comes to a thoughtful expression of gratitude. Even if the recipient does not keep a thank you note, they’ll remember receiving it. An emailed Thank-you can get lost in the In Box


2.  Select Appropriate Note Paper (Avoid the Pre-printed “Thank you” Card)
A thoughtful note scribbled on a piece of paper ripped out of a spiral notebook is absurd. The person we are thanking, and we, deserve better! Instead use note cards: plain cards or cards with a graphic: e.g., seagulls, trees, lilies, balloons—choose an image that is fitting for the person you are thanking. You can even choose a blank card for children to decorate themselves!  It is also best to avoid cards with a pre-printed Thank You on the front. We should be the ones to write it.


3.  Do Not Save Time with a Generic Thank You
“Thank you for the wonderful gift” can be interpreted as “I forgot what you gave me, but thanks anyway.”  Your gratitude factor is pretty weak here. Instead mention the specific gift and say something about it.  e.g., “Thank you for the ice cream maker!  We can’t wait to make chocolate ice cream with it for birthday party!”  Even if the gift does not leave you jumping with excitement, find something positive to say about it.  You can find additional tips from TAF here on writing a thank you note.


4. Start at the top
Many people start their notes just below the fold of the card. If the note is likely to extend onto the back, open the note and start at the inside top instead. Your note will be fully visible from top to bottom when the recipient opens it.


5. Get to it!
Do it by getting to it! Write your note within a couple of days of receiving of the gift. That way, it fresh in your mind as you write the note, and it won’t be left on a never visited “To Do” list.


I’m grateful for Janet’s insight today. I definitely learned something — I’ve always used pre-printed “Thank you” note cards!  Yikes – who knew?    If you’d like to learn more about her services, workshops, or ask your pressing etiquette question, visit her Etiquette for Today website .

(For more ideas and insights around appreciating the people and world around you visit THE APPRECIATION FACTOR).




Morse Institute Library, Janet Parnes to host holiday etiquette for children workshop

MetroWest Daily News
Posted Oct. 23, 2015 at 2:01 AM

Morse Institute Library, Janet Parnes to host holiday etiquette for children workshop

NATICK — The Morse Institute Library, 14 E. Central St., Natick, will host a workshop titled “Holiday Manners for Children” from 10:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Nov. 7.

moorse libraryProtocol School of Washington graduate and etiquette consultant Janet Parnes will teach ages 8-11 why manners matter; how to introduce themselves and others with eye contact and a firm handshake, table manners including how to set a table; utensil and napkin handling; cutting technique; asking for/passing food, ways to compliment the cook; and dilemmas such as a bone in the mouth, sneezing/coughing, foods they don’t like and allergies. Attendees will practice with snacks using china and linens. General social graces such as how to respond to a compliment; holding a door for someone; offering an adult their seat; accepting a gift and writing a thank-you note will also be covered.

Suggested attire for this workshop is dress, skirt or slacks with blouse or sweater for girls and pants with shirt or sweater for boys. The program is sponsored by the Friends of the Morse Public Library. Registration is required. To register, stop into the library or call or email.

To sign up or for more information, call Parnes at 508-376-1110, email her at or visit

THE SPITZ TAKE: Can we still talk?

By Julia Spitz/Daily News staff MetroWest Daily News

Get a group of teens or 20-somethings together, and they won’t talk to one another because they’re all too busy texting other people. They communicate in 140 characters or less, and don’t see any reason for writing a thank-you note rather than messaging TY.

The theory would be a cinch to prove if it weren’t for people like Dwayne and a few eons of history. Oh, there’s plenty of evidence that Millennials/Generation 9/11 are different from the rest of us, that growing up with amazing technology and plenty of parental bubble-wrap affected their standards of social interaction.

Get a group of teens or 20-somethings together, and they won’t talk to one another because they’re all too busy texting other people. They communicate in 140 characters or less, and don’t see any reason for writing a thank-you note rather than messaging TY. They can reconfigure their cellphone apps in seconds flat, but ask them to actually call someone on that phone and you’ll get a look of sheer panic. They have almost no experience engaging in chitchat because they were never encouraged to talk with salesclerks or other people who might be deemed strangers. We’ve all heard observations along those lines. Most of us have made such observations ourselves. They’re not without merit.

“Digital communication allows us to build an enormous community, but the relationships are long distance,” said Janet Parnes, an etiquette expert from Millis whose seminar offerings include job interview preparation for college students.

Not having practice interpreting body language or voice inflection does make a difference when young people enter a workforce where such skills are paramount,” said Parnes, who will soon be conducting a class for local teens being mentored through the John Andrew Mazie Memorial Foundation.

“When I interview new mentors, I always ask, ‘Can you text?’,” said Lauren Kracoff, director of the Mazie Mentoring Program. “With teenagers, that’s how they’re going to communicate, and we have to go with it.”

But the program, which has matched 500 Framingham High students with community mentors in the past 16 years, also shows that kids can and do learn to establish relationships with people of a different generation.

And it’s not as if older generations aren’t guilty of getting glued to cellphones and iPads.

“We need to look at the benefits” of our gadgets as well as the downsides, said Parnes. “They have their place, but we need to realize what that place is.”

When we are so busy sharing updates with our vast network of social media contacts that we don’t take the time to talk with the people at the dinner table, “we lose the opportunities to enrich our lives. … I hope we’re not losing our appreciation for the human touch,” she said.

“We have weather for a reason,” said Jake Livengood, director of Career Services and Employer Relations at Framingham State University. “To give us something to talk about.”

The challenge can be getting a generation less familiar with social chitchat to become more practiced in the art.

Published: Nov. 3, 2013

Taking a Stand for Respect

The Memorial Day Parade in my town was not flashy, the crowd was not crushing, and the speeches not self-aggrandizing. The parade was like a pot of mixed-berry jam: Civil-War soldiers in blue; women in hooped skirts; an American-Legion float skirted in red, white, and blue; Scout troops marching in loose formation; police marching in perfect formation; a WW II tank rumbling; flutists playing; and babies gurgling. The day’s events reeked of small-town charm and offered myriad opportunities for adults to model respect.

The parade made strategic stops to allow for prayers, and brief speeches honoring past and current veterans. A WW II fighter pilot addressed the crowd honoring a fallen comrade. After he spoke, this eighty-something stood, leaning lightly on the back of an empty folding chair, as the names of the veterans we lost over the past year were read, and the National Anthem sounded.

Through the National Anthem people saluted; others held a hand over their heart, and some simply stood straight. The Boy Scouts, hats removed, stood; one distracted Scout twirled his hat; a troop leader gently pushed the boy’s arm down, a silent lesson in respect. A group of elementary-age girls, sitting on a blanket chatted; they didn’t understand the significance of the moment, and the adults with them lost a valuable teaching opportunity. Along with some children, a few adults sat on the curb, setting a fine example of obliviousness, or, perhaps, ignorance.

Memorial Day is an annual opportunity for the town to honor those who protect us, and the families who take on the attendant sacrifices and losses. Opinions on the wars, health-care reform, or the choice of state flower don’t matter; this day is about displaying respect and self-respect and, in the process, utilizing important teachable moments.

MetroWest Daily News
June 6, 2010

How to Greet the Pope

It’s not that I expect to be plucked from some Google search for an audience with Pope Francis this week. I just found myself wondering, “How do you behave when meeting a pontiff?” Below are the results of my research:

  • What to wear. The guidelines are consistent with the Victorian edict to dress in consideration of the company you will be keeping (as opposed to whatever is clean, quick and comfortable). As such, for a papal visit, attire should be conservative. This means a jacket and tie for men and (knee-length or lower) suit, dress or skirt for women. That said, if you are one of the cast-of-thousands hoping to snatch glimpse of Pope Francis, feel free to wear whatever is comfortable.
  • Strand and wait. When the pope enters the room, stand and wait to be introduced. (You will be introduced to him; the pope will not be introduced to you).
  • Hold your tongue! Do not speak until the pope addresses you. Call him “Your Holiness.”
  • What to say? Use the pope’s questions and comments as a launch pad for your input. If you wish to introduce a new topic and have done your homework you will know that Pope Francis cooks his own meals, relishes an occasional slice of pizza, is a soccer fan and was a professor of literature, If you don’t find fertile ground in any of these topics, you might bring up a noncontroversial news story or relevant tidbit of American history. If the silence becomes awkward, you can always resort to the weather. In any case, keep the topics impersonal. Do not talk about yourself unless questioned.
  • No touching! Do not touch the Pope, unless he extends an invitation. As such, if the Pope extends his hand and you are Catholic, you may either kiss his ring or shake his hand. (Note that according to an NPR article, this everyman’s Pope wears a recycled gold-plated silver ring instead of the 35-gram pure gold ring worn by his predecessor.) Non-Catholics would shake his hand.

Do your best. Don’t let the worry of a breach of etiquette taint the pleasure of this experience. After all, this pope routinely steps put of his car to weave through a crowd and co-wrote a song titled So We can All be One (translated from Spanish). It is unlikely he will single out an innocent misstep. Indeed, Pope Francis would probably chock it up to you being, like everyone, including himself, “perfectly imperfect”

Janet Parnes is a first impression & etiquette expert from Millis. She can be reached at

MetroWest Daily News
Sep. 23, 2015

Flight Lost, Friendship Found

Ubiquitous clips of stranded airline travelers remind me of Lisa, a stranger’s flight emergency, and a friendship forged. My friend Lisa, her husband and their two elementary school-age children were on a flight destined for Mexico and stuck on the tarmac. To pass the time they chatted with senior citizen Jim in the window seat. Jim was distraught. His wife was terminally ill, and her condition had suddenly worsened. He was on what he thought was the first plane headed home.

After three hours, the plane returned to the gate. The passengers were directed to disembark and find another flight. There was no way to leave that day, so my friend and her family went home. The next morning at 6 a.m. they skidded along icy roads to return to the airport and placed themselves on the standby list for four seats. Ninety minutes later their name was called – exactly four seats had opened. My friend and her husband passed Jim on their way to the desk, exchanged a few words, and told the reservationist they were declining the opportunity and giving one of the open seats to Jim. They boarded a flight the next day.

Jim keeps in touch and takes Lisa and her family to dinner whenever he comes to Boston. The family has long since forgotten their lost vacation day. Jim never will.

Janet Parnes lives in Millis.

MetroWest Daily News
Feb. 21, 2010

How to Create a Frightfully Polite Halloween

They may have been “creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky,'' but the Addams family was also
courteous. The following tips can be used to teach children that when fairies, freaks, princesses, and
creeps share the sidewalk with courtesy, everyone can have a frightfully polite Halloween:

  • When you see other wizards, gremlins, and goblins smile and say, "Hi.'' Step aside and let
    them pass if there is not enough room for everyone on the sidewalk.
  • Do not approach a house that is dark. The ghouls and ghosts have, undoubtedly, eaten all the
  • Ring the doorbell once; then wait quietly. The people inside are expecting masked visitors and
    will come to the door as soon possible.
  • When someone opens the door, look at her, smile, and say "Trick or Treat.'' When you leave
    with your "loot'' look at her, smile, and say, "Thank you."
  • If you are offered a bowl of candy, take a few pieces (not a handful) off the top. Rifling through
    the bowl can cause candy to fall out; it will also hold up the trick or treaters behind you.
  • If you approach a house and other trick or treaters are filling their bags, wait patiently at the
    edge of the yard. When they pass you, walk up to the door.
  • If you accidentally bump into a ballerina or lion say, "Excuse me.'' They will understand.
  • When trick or treating by car, open the door carefully; you wouldn't want to whack a witch!
  • Leave a sweet impression by putting candy wrappers in your bag and not scattering them
    across the neighborhood lawns.

Finally, as monsters, scarecrows, and kitty cats can certainly be generous, children may want to fill,
not only a bag for themselves, but also a bucket for UNICEF.

Janet Parnes is an etiquette consultant, trained by the Protocol School of Washington® and owner of
Historical Portrayals by Lady J. She lives in Millis.

Visit her Web sites at and

MetroWest Daily News
Oct. 31, 2007

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons Photographer Kevin Dooley

Arguing with Artistry

How do we argue with respect? Drawing from the Crowley/Gates disheveled deck, we can find timeless lessons in the art of arguing. The guidelines below, stemming from time-honored rules of courtesy, help us to show our hand with diplomacy:

1. Listen: do not prepare a response while trying to listen. Giving full attention allows us to offer a thoughtful response.

2. Avoid “you-logizing”: most of us raise our emotional muskets when we hear “you”. So, keep the focus on yourself. Instead of saying, “But you said he was there!” try “I understand he was there”. If that is not possible, soften it: “If I understood you correctly, you said that…”

3. It takes two to tangle: if the other person’s temper rises, yours does not have to spiral with it. Take a breath and observe their behavior, don’t become entangled in it. For example, if I am the one spiraling, my spouse is apt to say “Let’s start this conversation over again…”

4. He’s not me: everyone is a product of his own unique life experience. This colors the way we see a situation and respond. Expect and respect a different frame of reference.

5. It’s not a family affair: an off-handed comment about another’s family member can cause a simmering argument to boil over. If they are not relevant to the conversation keep those who are near and dear out of it. If you must bring them in, do it in a cool, respectful manner.

Our forefathers are still spot-on! The Victorian Code of Etiquette decrees that a successful conversation requires all parties to
1. Listen with full attention
2. Know what NOT to say
3. Speak one’s opinion clearly and concisely

– JANET PARNES Janet Parnes is an etiquette consultant from Millis. For more information, visit

MetroWest Daily News Jul. 31, 2009
By Janet Parnes/ Local columnist

The Consequences of Dropping Courtesy When Responding to a Rude-Ball

rotation velocity imageA news story from this fall illustrates the consequences of responding to a rude pitch without bringing etiquette into play. A Minnesota couple accepted an invitation to a family member’s wedding. At the last minute their babysitter called in sick, preventing the couple from going. The couple did not notify the bride and groom. They may have figured that calling with this news “the day of” would have been more of a disservice than a courtesy. However, they never contacted the bride and groom to explain and apologize, as common sense and manners dictate. As such, three weeks after the wedding, the bride and groom sent them a bill of $75 to cover the cost of their food. The outraged no-shows sent the bill to a friend who posted it to Facebook.

This caused an Internet flare-up! Who’s right? The couple, for “no-showing” with no explanation? The bride and groom room for expecting them to pay for the uneaten food? What about the friend who posted the bill to the Internet? Just deserts for the bride and groom?

The actions showed a lack of manners, which translated into embarrassment for everyone. The bride and groom issued a public apology and rescinded the bill. Everyone lost this game.

How do you handle such a situation? Try courtesy, allowing the comfort and welfare of others to drive your game plan. Had the bride and groom, the guests and friend acted courteously, the outcome would never have hit the news! Below are a few insights:

  • The Guests. The morning of the wedding was probably not the time to deliver the no-show news to the bride or groom. However, this probably left them scratching their heads at the sight of the two empty seats. Did the guests find something better to do? Did something catastrophic happen? A call that morning to a family member, bridesmaid or even the reception facility would have circumvented all of this. That said, it is impossible to understand why the no -shows did not call after the wedding to apologize.
  • The Bride and Groom: The bride and groom could have assumed these family members ran into an insurmountable obstacle and feel terrible that they could not make it. They could have called the couple instead of invoicing them. In that case they may have caused no-shows to blush, but lessened the risk of a family rift.
  • The guests should have kept this matter to themselves and the bride and groom. Sending the invoice to the 3rd party resulted in a public display of embarrassment for all of them!
  • In bringing this private matter into the public arena via Facebook, the friend stepped beyond all bounds of courtesy and good taste. Everyone, including she, must have (or should have) cringed with humiliation!

I can only speculate about the damage these actions inflicted on the family relationships. What is the take-away? If someone pitches you a rude-ball and you throw another one back to even the score, everyone is going to lose. Particularly when it’s family!