When did being Polite become an Anomaly?

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In our overly friendly and casual era, filled with too much personal information, when did simply being polite make you strange?

Yesterday, I tried to give up my chair at a table to someone who had a plate full of food (I was finished eating) and my fellow diners thought this was strange. I thought it was polite. I know how difficult it is to eat standing up, especially knife and fork required conference food. I knew if it was me, I would end up wearing more than half of what was on my plate if I had not eaten at the table.

This encounter got me thinking, I say please and thank you and may I, regularly. Only recently did I notice that these civilities make some people look at me strangely. Someone even commented that I would grow tired of using these civilities. I doubt that will happen. After 27 years, I still wave at everyone I pass, ask, “how are you,” and truly wait for the answer. If this makes me strange, I intend to keep being strange.

It’s ok to Decline Invitations

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Even though most work places have a clause in the handbook forbidding employees from soliciting their co-workers for fundraisers, the never-ending invitations to Silpada and Pampered Chef and Avon parties after hours can be dizzying.

While at first it might seem that in order to fit in you have to attend every single party, I’m here to tell you that isn’t true. It is ok to decline an invitation or have a prior engagement. You can choose to only attend the parties you want to and not feel pressured to buy anything.

There are several ways to decline an invitation. You can simply say, “I’m so sorry, but I already have plans for that evening.” You can be truthful and say the parties make you uncomfortable. You can say you’re just not interested i the product. Figure out what works for you, but be honest.

Now, that we have established that you don’t have to attend every after work event, it is a good idea to attend one every now and then. It gives you an opportunity to socialize outside of the office environment and get to know your co-workers in a completely different light. You might be surprised at who you connect with!

Use Your Inside Voice

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A tweet this morning from the wonderful Laura Scholz made me laugh and shudder. She said, “People, please use your indoor voices! #coworkingetiquette”

While we all learned about inside voices from our parents and teachers, I’m surprised how easy it is to forget. I am excitable and can have problems with volume control when I’m particularly amped up. It has become less of a problem as I’ve gotten older, but I admit, I can still forget.

Whether you work in a cubicle farm or are lucky enough to have separate offices, yelling or loudly talking to others can be very disrupting to those around you. Some of your co-workers might be sound sensitive or have a headache. At the very least other people yelling and talking loudly is distracting.


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Like most Millennials, I am a perfectionist. I want everything to be perfect in all aspects of my life.

A colleague commented to me yesterday that if a particular project I’ve worked really hard on, doesn’t have any glitches and doesn’t need any changes, then I’ve set the bar pretty high for myself. I mentioned that what the final version doesn’t show is the several hours of errors that I worked through to make sure the final version was perfect.

That conversation got me thinking about the sheer amount of effort it takes to be perfect or at least perceived as doing things perfectly and how that relates to respect in an office environment.

Would my peers respect me more if they saw the process and knew all the times I failed before I got it right? Maybe. But while my peers might respect me more, I know my superiors would prefer to only see the finished and perfected project and for me not to waste their time.

How do you walk the line between wanting your office mates to respect you and ensuring you maintain the standards you’ve set for yourself and your supervisors expect?

Politely Refusing Food at Work

Some people show appreciation with food at work. Birthdays, promotions, new hires and any other mile stone can easily be celebrated with a cake.

But not everyone can enjoy the food part of the festivities. A co-worker might be diabetic or allergic to an ingredient. Another might be trying hard to lose weight and the temptation is too much to even be in the same room as a cake.

This is where politely learning to refuse the offered food comes in handy. You don’t want to offend the person who thoughtfully brought in the cake or other item, but you don’t want to be wasteful either.

The easiest solution is to bring a dish to share that you know you can and want to eat. If the party is a surprise or you just don’t feel comfortable not partaking in the cake, get a small piece and carry it around with you. Feel free to stick your fork in and mash it up a little.

There is nothing wrong with saying you are full or have had enough. Find a solution that works for you and stick with it. Your co-worker will understand in the long run.