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How to Honor the American Flag

This Memorial Day weekend, communities all over the USA will honor those who have given their lives in service to our country. As such, the Flag should be honored through protocols that include the following:

The Flag should be raised all the way up the pole, before being lowered to half-mast

The Flag should fly at half-mast from Friday at 6 AM through Monday at 6 PM

The Flag should remain displayed at night only if there is a light shining on it

When the Flag is taken down, it should be raised to the top of the pole, then lowered

When the Flag is put away or retired permanently, it should be compressed into 13 folds. There is a procedure for doing this at Each fold has a significance; the first fold is a symbol of life. The Flag should be folded into a triangle. The reason is that the cap of Naval Cmdr. John Paul Jones was a triangle.

The Flag should never touch the ground.

Wishing you a weekend of friends, fun and, most important–grateful reflection.


Photo by Mark Goebel. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, PO Box 1866, Mountain View​

Courtesy, Brazilian Style

The Olympic Games offer us easy access to a worldwide display of athleticism, talent and grit!  The Games also give us a glimpse into the culture of the host country. Below are rules that help define etiquette in Brazil:

Meeting and greeting

Men shake hands. By U.S. standards, the Brazilian handshake is lengthy; eye contact is sustained throughout.

Women kiss each other on cheeks, starting with the left.  A man and woman may shake hands, but the woman extends her hand first.

Brazilians stand close to each other when speaking .Their “comfort zone” is “too close for comfort” for many of us.  (Resist the urge to back away.)  In addition, interrupting another is common and acceptable.


 Parents teach children to clean their plates.  Leaving food in considered rude!

At a restaurant, expect to share your table with another party.

A 10% service charge (tip) is added to the bill. There is no need to add to that. Tips are pooled and distributed among the staff.

Gift Giving

If you visit a Brazilian home it is mandatory to bring a gift or send one later with a thank-you note. Candy (or any food/beverage) is appropriate for an afternoon visit or informal meal. For a formal dinner, step it up—bring a bottle of wine.

Flowers are acceptable for any occasion, with the exception of a formal dinner (go with wine).

When selecting a gift, avoid anything that is purple and black; these are mourning colors.

Late is Great!

A savvy Brazilian who is invited to a small social event to start at 6:00 knows enough to arrive no earlier than 6:30. If the gathering were to be large, he /she would arrive at 7:00. To be “on time” you need to be late!

Competition is essential to the Olympics.  Respect for the traditions of the host country and its citizens are at the essence of the Olympic spirit.






     Three Disappearing Manners Worth a Rescue


In the early days of commercial flying, decorum dictated that passengers dress up. Now that air travel is common, people dress for comfort. Manners change with society; some, however, are timeless. Below are three courtesies that are fading and warrant a rescue:

1 Training children to be comfortable calling adults by a title: (Mr. Ms. Mrs.  etc.) Calling adults by a title helps instill a fundamental respect for adults and authority. It also develops an important instinct: children learn to recognize situations in which it is important to sit straighter and choose words more carefully;these include a summer-job interview or introduction to a parent’s boss.

There is also a safety factor: calling someone by his/her first name sets a tone of familiarity. Do we want our children to perceive an adult they do not know as a friend?

Of course, there are adults, such as close family friends, in which the first-name-basis is appropriate. Parents decide this.

2 Standing to greet someone: At a recent event, I walked up to three high-school girls and introduced myself. They jumped to their feet. I was surprised and impressed. This brought to mind the fact that standing to greet someone is no longer common behavior. Doing so, when it is not disruptive, is a simple way to show respect and acknowledgment.

3 Offering Your Seat  I’ll never forget the elderly man I saw enter a packed train; hunched over his quivering cane, he disappeared into the crowd. When we later disembarked, I saw that nobody had offered him a seat! Why? Have we become so absorbed in our smartphones and to-dos that we have lost consciousness of those around us?  Four words that go a long way to showing consideration:  “Please have a seat.”

When we see a time –honored tradition disappearing, we would be wise to ask ourselves if it served an important purpose; if so, what's the replacement?.





Simple No-Cost Ways Kids Can Show Dad That He is Important


Are you pulling at your hair, trying to think of something special to give your  father on Fathers’ Day?  Try the gift of appreciation. There are simple actions you can take to show Dad that he is important. Read below to find out how Fathers’ Day came to be. You'll also see a few appreciation-gift tips:

 A West Virginia church planted the Fathers’ Day seed in July 1908 when it created an event to honor fathers. The church did this to recognize the 362 men who had died in a recent coal-mine explosion. In 1909, Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children raised by her widowed father, tried to establish a day to parallel Mothers’ Day, already a national holiday. Presidents Wilson and Coolidge urged states to make Fathers’ Day a state holiday. Finally, in 1972 Richard Nixon proclaimed it a national holiday.

 Here are a few simple ways you can remind Dad that he is important:

  •  When Dad comes home at the end of the day, turn off the tv, put down the iPad, walk up to Dad, smile and say “Hi”. Why do I suggest this? A visiting college roommate of mine wondered how my father could come home from work in such a good mood.  After all, he was coming home, likely worn out, to the tumult of a household with eight kids! She finally figured it out—eight kids greeted him with hugs! A warm welcome can do a lot towards brightening a tired-dad’s day.
  • Ask Dad about his day. Dad likes to hear about your Turn the tables: show an interest in the comings and goings of his day—then watch him smile! 
  • At dinner, offer to pass the bowl of potatoes around the table, starting with Dad. Explain that he is the guest of honor and, thus, comes first! 
  • Show Dad that his time and efforts pay off. For example, if you are taking piano lessons, choose a song to practice and play it for him. He’ll see that the lessons mean something to you and that his money is well spent. Or maybe, he been working with you on your (baseball) pitch. Practice, practice, practice and pick this day to toss a ball to him in your new and improved style!
  • When friends come over and you see Dad, stop and say, “Hi” (or introduce them). Dad will see that you are proud to be his kid. He’ll be reminded of his pride in being your dad!’

Great gifts come in innumerable shapes and sizes. Sometimes, the gifts that mean the most are the ones wrapped with recognition and appreciation. These are gifts can be given over and over.  I wish your dad a happy Fathers' Day!



 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).




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!

​​​How to Have a Frightfully Polite Halloween!

Witch 2
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, already eaten all the goodies!
  • 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 him, smile, and say, “Trick or Treat”!. When you leave with your “loot” look at him, 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”. She 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; do not scatter 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!

Cozy Coffin Motel photo courtesy of Creative Commons  Photographer Kevin Dooley

How to Greet the Pope

Pope FrancisIt’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 tid-bit 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 etiqyette 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”!

(Printed in the MetroWest Daily News. September 24, 2015)

The Art of Regifting

It’s your birthday! Once again, you have circled around the sun and earned a day that revolves around you! You’re surrounded by family and friends, balloons blowing in the breeze and a flaming, “Atta Girl {Boy}!” cake.  It’s time for gifts! One by one, you open them to find the following:

    • A book – a clone of the one you just finished reading.
    • A barbeque meat thermometer that is a dead ringer for the one you just opened.
    • A cream-colored scarf—which, seeing as your skin tone is decidedly winter, you couldn’t possibly wear!

This places you in a tight spot. The disappointment is stabbing, but there are the feelings of others to consider. As such, you lead everyone to believe that you are thrilled with this thoughtful gift, saying something like the following:

The book: “I ‘ve heard this is a great read!”

The thermometer: “Perfect!  With the amount of grilling I do I can never have too many of these! “

The scarf: “How pretty! Cream is a universal color! It goes with everything!”

If a duplicate or useless gift is from a close friend, it may be appropriate to speak to him. In the case of the thermometer you might say, “Would you mind if I exchange your thermometer for a grille spatula? I could use a new one!”

Once  everyone leaves, you are free to regift. Again, however, you want to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings! Below are a few tips that will allow you to send an unwanted gift to new home and keep your relationships intact:

  • Only regift an item if you are reasonably certain the receiver will enjoy it. Don’t give your barbeque meat thermometer to a vegetarian.
  • Regift soon after receiving the gift. Items tend to show their age.
  • Do not “try out” the gift you intend to regift.
  • Wrap the gift as if it were new. Don’t reuse a rumpled gift bag.
  • Be sure the person who gave you the gift and the person to who you are regifting travel in different social/business circles. If a colleague at work gave you the scarf, regift it to someone who works for a different organization. Same with family and friends.
  • Check to ensure that the regifted present does not include something that discloses your secret, You do not want your friend receiving  your book to find a card from your Aunt Nan in the bag.

We give gifts to each other in a spirit to generosity and friendliness. The gift may not be your cup of tea, but the relationship is something you probably want to steep for many years to come.