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Archive -‘Communication Etiquette’










Truly…I thought the “cell phone talking” in the grocery line was at the top of my list.  You know, the person who stands staring at the same can of beans for 20 minutes while holding a long personal conversation as you try to negotiate around his/her basket to get your can of beans???  Ever notice how the offender smiles nicely and steps away just a bit, but then continues on with their conversation – until a second shopper needs something in the offender’s invisible  territory box?  You’ll notice the offender get a little put out now because, after all, you are invading their “talking space” and they ARE trying to have a conversation!  At this point, the offender moves about 3′ down and begins staring at another product he/she doesn’t intend to purchase…and the dance begins again.  At least I have the option to navigate around this person, and quite often, I will say “excuse me” and point right into the product that I need to purchase.  Of course, I’ve interrupted their very important conversation so I’m not usually met with a gracious smile. 

On the other hand, topping my list now, is the REALLY OFFENSIVE act of people sitting in medical offices waiting to be called in or waiting on a family member.  Seriously, I was at my son’s orthodontist recently when a woman came and sat 2 chairs down from me – talking on her cell phone from the time she entered the office until….well…until I could no longer read in somewhat of a quiet environment and had to move into another back area of the medical office to escape the intrusion. 

Honestly, remember when the doctor’s office was a quiet place where you could catch up on reading?  Sure, there may have been a few crying kids that were sick, but you had sympathy for them; and the occasional coughs and sneezes that penetrated the stillness, were only moments for you to exercise your good manners and give the usual “Bless you” or “Gesundheit” – and back to your reading you would go. 

I am just amazed at the lack of respect some people have for those around them and particularly, for those that work at the reception desk?  They have work to do.  They are on the phone making appointments, looking up information on the computer, talking to pharmacists, checking out parents….all the while having to listen to an annoying ongoing conversation by someone who apparently thinks their business should be EVERYBODY’S business.  

Is it that difficult to step outside and finish your conversation?  I mean, it’s not like we are EVER in below-freezing conditions here in Southern CA….and even if one does live in such a place and season where it is…then if it’s TOO DARN COLD to hang outside chatting up with your friend, then it’s not THAT URGENT!   After all, no one minds the brief moments of someone on a call who is politely ending it as quickly as possible – showing obvious respect for those around them – but to just ignore everyone around you…and air your dirty laundry???  Okay, maybe it’s clean laundry, I don’t really care.  I just don’t want to hear it.   

Maybe I should start a campaign like the non-smokers did.  “Second hand cell communication causes irritation to the nerve endings”!

Okay, I got that off of my chest – and I see no point in listing several tips for good cell phone etiquette here.  There are posts on this blog that already cover that.  It’s pretty simple.

Hang up and read. 

Ps:  Don’t get me started on bathroom stalls!

With the recent passing of my mother-in-law, I was asked by MY mother, “how should I address the card to your family?”  Good question. Considering we talk every day and are obviously very “familiar”, the idea of formality seems awkward. Should she just send the card to my husband for his loss?  Should the card be sent to the whole family and if so, how does she address her grandson in the card?  Is he the “and family” part?

It seems much easier to address a card to someone more distant or not related,such as a co-worker or church acquaintance, so I thought I would share a few tips with my readers as to the appropriate form of address when sending a Sympathy card to the:


Widow of deceased:  Mrs. Robert Jones

Widow of deceased with children living at home:  Mrs. Robert Jones (on top line) followed by:  Jack, Mary, and John Jones (less acquainted with family: use The family of Robert Jones)

Single friend:  Mr. Robert Jones or Ms. Roberta Jones.  

Married friend:  Mr. and Mrs. Robert Jones or your friend and their family as in: John and Mary Smith or Mary Smith and family.

Colleague:  The family of Robert Jones

Parents:  Mr. and Mrs. Robert Jones

While we all understand that death is part of life, and that our belief system will help us through the journey, the simple gesture of sending thoughts to a bereaved can be very healing.  

Often times we are unsure of what to say or do when the annual date of a loss approaches. While it is not necessary to send a paper/mailed card every year, it is appropriate in our technological age to send a “thought” via email.  There are many “free card” and “pay cards” from which to choose.  Blue Mountain has a nice assortment of support cards that can lend comfort to a friend or family member as they remember their loved ones over the years.


The following information is provided by The Rochester Funeral Home:

Anyone who presented or sent a gift or card to the family, deserves a thank you note. Examples would be to thank anyone who has sent in a memorial contribution, brought food to the house of the grieving family, sent flowers, or in some other tangible way acknowledged the death. Those visitors who attend the calling hours do not require a thank you card.

It is suggested that thank you notes be sent within two weeks of the death. In the past, thank you notes included a personal letter from the grieving family, but today a simple thank you card with a signature, is accepted. Many people include a personal note or a hand written thank you, but that is a personal choice.

A personal note is recommended for thanking your clergy person. If an honorarium or offering is sent, send it in a separate envelope. Do not include it with the thank you note.

A separate note to each pallbearer is recommended. Personal messages of thanks will be appreciated by each individual who graciously assisted in this important task.

For individuals, you may wish to include a personal word or two of thanks on the acknowledgement card. For groups or organizations, send the note to the leader of the group and remember to include all the members of the group in your note. If individual member names appear on the floral card, a separate note should be sent to each one. You do not have to include a personal message in this instance.

Flowers that were sent from a group of neighbors or employees, require a separate thank you to each name included on the floral card. You may or may not include a hand written message of thanks.

Friends who have volunteered their help in any way-such as driving a car in the funeral procession, helping the family with arrangements or food, etc. deserve a separate written thank you.

As stated earlier, it is not necessary to send thank you cards to friends or visitors that stop in at the home of the grieving family or that attend the calling hours at the funeral home.

If the neighbors or friends who have volunteered their help are close to the family, you may feel better thanking them in person. In this instance, use your own judgment to determine if a written note is necessary.


Recently I had to visit a local county courthouse to file some business papers.  The lobby area was similar to your typical DMV office only less crowded and noticably cleaner.  I noticed a diverse group of people ranging from “excitedly happy photo-shooting about to get married” couples to construction workers, business associates and more.  I arrived as early as possible but not quite early enough so I had to stand in line for about 45 minutes.  I didn’t mind.  I always bring a book or magazine when I visit any government office!  Unfortunately, I could hardly hear myself think or absorb the written word because one of the  seated customers, who apparently had complete disregard for every person in the place including the staff, decided to show a video clip of her dancing grandchild boldly displayed from her cell phone!  The  music was turned up as loud as her Blackberry or whatever she had would allow and one could’t help but see the little dancing creature on the screen, because she kept holding it up and showing other members of the family on either side of her chair.

Now I didn’t mind so much that someone wanted to share in their grand-ternal joy, but after about 20 minutes of hearing this scratchy loud music and the incessant chatter of the performer,  I had to use all the grace I could muster to tune it out and count the minutes before my turn was next at the window.

Clearly it even disturbed the staff, who needed to concentrate on the various business licenses, marriage documents, and more that they were processing at the time.  I even told the service agent when I reached her window…”someone on your staff should make it clear that this is disturbing everyone and that cell phones should be used only outside the lobby area”; and while she seemed just as annoyed, apathy is the prevailing emotion of many government employees.

I think cell phone etiquette is at the top of the list for the most common display of ill-manners.

Writing a Thank You note is a very simple gesture of showing appreciation for something one has received from another.  It could be a service, gift, meeting,  lunch, dinner, or time spent in someone’s home or office.  It should be sent the same or next day when possible and need only be a sincere and thoughtful expression of how grateful one is for whatever was received.

Try picking up a couple of boxes of different style “Thank You” note cards from dollar stores or fine stationers if you choose.  I like to keep a variety of simple styles, elegant cards, and also business or professional appearing cards.  This way, if one is thanking a gentlemen, business associate or employer, choosing a less feminine card might be more appropriate; however, all Thank You cards are appreciated.  Two to three lines of communication is appropriate and should always mention the particular gift or event.

It is impolite to use your cell phone when in the company of others, unless they are partner to the conversation, i.e.,  you are calling for dinner reservations for those in your company at the time.  In today’s business climate, people inappropriately use their cell phones in airport seating areas, restaurants, bars, commuter trains, and even in line at the bank .

There is rarely such an urgency to take or make a call that cannot wait until more private circumstances permit.   Turn off your ringer when dining or meeting with someone.  No matter if it’s a friend, client, or family member…vibration works fine…at which time you may subtly glance down to see if the call is urgent.  At that time, excuse yourself and take your phone to a private area to make your call.

Here are some great tips on Cell Phone Etiquette from my friend Diane Gottsman of The Protocol School of  Texas:


  • Do avoid checking your cell phone or smart device during a business meeting. Admittedly, the urge to check the time on your phone, leads to checking your emails and text messages, which leads to answering correspondence while sitting in an important meeting with your client of boss.
  • Do notify the presenter before the meeting begins if you’re expecting an urgent call. By doing so, he/she won’t be offended (they still will feel the sting!) if you have to excuse yourself to take a call. Sit in the back so you can exit discreetly.
  • Do turn your cell phone on silent whenever possible before entering a presentation or meeting. The vibrate setting is still disturbing when your phone is on a conference table, in your bag, or on the floor but at least shows you were attempting to show good manners.
  • Do carefully select a discreet ring tone and set your ringer volume on the lowest setting possible. Save the latest Lady Gaga for your personal time.
  • Do remember to include an email signature for all email messages you send/reply to via phone. The email signature that you’ve set up on your computer will likely not carry over. You may also wish to remove the “sent from my iPhone” or similar message that is automatically included at the end of emails you send from your cell phone.


  • Don’t text or email during a business meeting or presentation. If you must email, wait for a scheduled break in the agenda and step outside to send your quick communication.
  • Don’t update social networks during a business meeting. Although Facebook, Twitter, and other networks/apps may be tempting (especially during longer presentations) practice good cell phone etiquette by just saying “no.” Unless you’ve been designated to LIVE tweet from a conference, keep your hands off your cell phone.
  • Don’t bring personal cell phone calls into the office when returning from your lunch break. End the call before you enter the building whenever possible or you’ll risk your colleagues catching the end of an otherwise private conversation.
  • Don’t deck out your cell phone in bling or otherwise tacky skins or cases. Your phone is an extension of your personal brand. Hot pink, diamond-encrusted phone accessories can take away from an otherwise professional appearance. Choose a sleek and understated cover instead.
  • Don’t assume clients or coworkers text. Email or telephone is more professional and appropriate for office communication unless you know for certain that texting is the preferred method of choice.
  • Don’t send out mass text messages or photos to your entire contact list. Not everyone will be interested in your latest vacation photo or the picture of your best friend’s new baby girl.

When writing a sympathy note, the most thoughtful way is to say what you truly feel.  A brief and heart-felt line or two expressing the genuine feeling you had for the deceased is always appreciated by those who are mourning their loss.  Try not to dwell on the details of an illness or the manner of death.  Other common but well-intended mistakes,  are saying such things as the loss is a “blessing in disguise” or “they’re in a better place now”.  This is little comfort to the emptiness the family is experiencing.  Always ask if there is anything you can do to help.  Often, just bringing a casserole or providing a dinner now and then in the first few weeks or months can be a huge help to the family.

R.S.V.P. is an abbreviation for the French phrase “respondez s’il vous plait”, which translated, means “Respond if you please”, or more loosly, “Please respond”.  One should respond to an invitation, whether it is by snail mail, electronic, or telephone – as soon as possible.  More formal invitations will sometimes have a deadline for responding so that the host can provide caterers and other vendors with head-count information.


Even a casual invitation – or a request of a friend or business associate – should be replied to promptly when possible.  To RSVP  is the polite and respectful way of “answering” your neighbor, friend, or host in the most timely manner so they can move forward with their plans.

If the invitation is formal, as in a wedding or reception event, usually a self-addressed and stamped envelope with the details will be provided for one to return with great ease, albeit replacing a once beautiful tradition of handwriting one’s reply.  Other less formal invitations and requests may come electronically…and may also be answered in the same manner. Following up with a phone call to an electronic reply is always a good idea just to make sure your recipient received the information.

With travels and the busy schedules of so many, emails get lost, forgotten, or missed so it is always a good idea to follow up if one hasn’t received a reply when needed.