A relentless, competitive business strategy:


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A relentless, competitive business strategy:

  1. 1. A relentless, competitive business strategy: Being Nice. { Extreme Etiquette B Y J AY H E I N R I C H S PHOTOGR A PH Y BY CE DR IC A NGE L E S } 98 | Spirit
  2. 2. Spirit | 99
  3. 3. IMPROVEMENT at the Emily A F T E R PA R K I NG Post Institute in Burlington, Vermont, I check my teeth in the mirror, make sure my hair isn’t sticking out, and brush potato- chip crumbs off my lap. I’m Seven Posts currently work there full- time, comprising more than half of the about to meet Anna Post, great- employee roster. Anna and her younger sister, Lizzie, both in their twenties, represent the youngest generation, and great-granddaughter of Emily the one that will take the Post manners juggernaut well into this cantankerous Post, the woman who did for century. Anna has served as a spokes- person for the Web phone service Skype and for Hyatt Place hotels, telling American manners what Noah people how to be polite to each other in their phone calls and travels. She her- Webster did for dictionaries. self travels a couple dozen times a year, conducting business politeness semi- nars, teaching brides the formalities, Not that Anna or any other Post would and doing media interviews. She’s living stoop to humiliate anyone. Their mis- proof that in our lives and business, eti- sion in life is to put everyone at ease, quette is alive and well. and make everyone put everyone else Either that or she’s living proof that at ease. But I don’t know that yet. I’ve we all desperately need some. even borrowed my wife’s Prius, the politest car in America, instead of driv- W H E N I WA L K through the door of the ing my own beat-up, reeking SUV. Can’t Institute—a suite of brick-walled offices be too careful, I think. I have a lot to in a former school building—I startle at learn. (As we shall see, it turns out that the sight of several dogs of the Labrador you can be too careful.) and German Shepherd variety. Would The Emily Post Institute authors Emily Emily have approved? Still, I’ve never Post’s indispensable Etiquette, now in seen politer dogs. One black lab rises to its 17th edition, along with books on a sitting position and pants in greeting. business manners, manners for men, It waits hopefully for me to pat it on the and coping strategies for brides and head. I wonder if the Posts also have this young singles. It’s a family business: effect on humans. 100 | Spirit
  4. 4. Emily Posed Anna bears the portrait, and genes, of her aristocratic ancestor.
  5. 5. Anna comes out of her office with because they’re unaware or because beets in a restaurant. “Emily Post would the sort of smile someone gives an old they feel justified,” she says. “‘I’m run- eat her beets!” the grandmother said. friend. Tall, dark-haired young women ning late because my sitter was late so Anna says she responded by throwing like Anna never smile at a guy like me I’m going to cut you off.’ Or, ‘I didn’t up on her dinner plate. You have to love unless I’ve given them a big tip in a res- sleep well.’” Talk about sympathy. this woman. taurant. As she introduces me around, Anna herself grew up in a family When Anna was in elementary I get a warmer reception than I have at that ensured she would never, ever be school, an occasional student would some weddings. They all have perfect unaware. When she was a little girl her tease her on the playground by mak- posture, great smiles, direct eye contact, Aunt Peggy asked what she wanted to ing slurping noises with an imaginary firm but not crushing handshakes, and, be when she grew up, and she said, “I spoon. After graduating from the Uni- most of all, an interest in their visitor— want to be Emily Post.” Not that she was versity of Vermont, Anna went to work or at least the appearance of it. the perfect little lady herself. Her grand- for Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy in All that can be taught, but then I mother once tried to make Anna eat Washington. A job at the Motion Pic- notice something deeper. Early on in our conversation, Anna and I are talking You’re Welcome about rudeness in movie theaters when Anna, Lizzie, and she brings up a good example. “I saw father Peter pro- March of the Penguins,” she says, “and fessionally put people at ease there was a woman in the row in front of from their Ver- me filing her nails with an emery board. mont HQ (left). She probably had OCD.” Talk about sympathy for others: Some woman adds a rasp rasp rasp to the cute-penguin soundtrack, and Anna manages to spec- ulate that the obnoxious jerk has a psy- chological condition. “People are rude Emily and her descendents are right. Etiquette is not about the rules. It’s about adaptation to any environ- ment. Survival of the fittest. 102 | Spirit
  6. 6. ture Association of America followed, until the call of etiquette drew her back to Vermont. Anna has big ideas for the Post Institute, involving etiquette Are You Polite around the world. She embraces the Web; both Anna and Lizzie keep blogs. Enough for Business? Test your etiquette prowess. (Answers adapted from The T H E P O S T W HO B E G AT all the others Etiquette Advantage in Business by Peggy Post and Peter Post) grew up in New York society, where anyone who was anyone knew every- one, and everyone kept vigilant for the slightest nuances that determined where one stood. (Anna’s grandparents made the move to Vermont.) Born Emily Price in 1872, she was the daughter of a famous architect. She attended finishing school and married a rich stockbroker at age 19. A life-sized oil portrait, painted about that time, hangs in the Post Institute. She was—forgive me, Emily—a babe: dark hair, brilliant 1. Should you ask a top executive 7. Which way should you pass gray-blue eyes, and a figure that must who clearly outranks you for his food? have caused whiplash on Park Avenue. business card? A) To your left. B) To your right. She had two sons in rapid succession, A) Yes. B) No. C) What are you doing passing but her marriage was a disappointment food in the first place? and her husband, Edwin, often absent. 2. Which of these chivalries are Emily took up writing, and family con- gender-free? 8. Can you tip your soup bowl or nections landed her her first magazine A) Holding a door. B) Getting off cup? story. She would pen novels that had an elevator. C) Helping put on a A) Yes. B) No. such comfy titles as Purple and Fine coat. D) Paying for a meal. 9. What should you do if you Linen and Woven in the Tapestry. Edwin E) Shaking hands. F) Helping have something in your mouth had affairs with fledgling actresses and to carry something. you want to remove? chorus girls; in 1905, a gossip sheet tried 3. Is it all right to call a fellow A) Bring your napkin to your to blackmail him to keep one particular employee “Sweetie”? mouth and quietly spit the item indiscretion silent. The Posts refused to A) Yes. B) No. out. B) Raise your fork or spoon pay and instead helped to expose the to your lips and gently push scheme that had netted other society 4. How far away should you be the offending article onto the folk; the sting turned the incident into when you talk face to face with utensil. Then deposit it on the a public scandal. By 1906, Emily found someone? edge of your plate. c) Discreetly herself a divorcee. A) One foot. B) 18 inches. remove the thing with your fin- Please try to digest this. Emily Post, C) Two feet. D) The next state. gers and place it on the edge of the woman who taught America how 5. Can you wear white suede your plate. to live gracefully, divorced her husband pumps in November? after a public scandal. Emily later wrote 10. How far should you fill a glass A) Yes. B) No. that “the man who publicly besmirches of red wine? his wife’s name, besmirches still more 6. Which topics should you steer A) Half full. B) Two-thirds full. his own, and proves that he is not, was away from at a business social C) One-third full. D) To one inch not, and never will be, a gentleman.” occasion? below the rim. E) To the brim (Edith Wharton, also no stranger to A) Your educational background. Quiz answers are on page 110. New York society, would have been a B) Golf. C) Politics. D) Sex. consolation: “A New York divorce is in E) Religion. itself a diploma of virtue,” she wrote.) An editor friend at Vanity Fair, Frank Spirit | 103
  7. 7. Crowninshield, talked her into writing the “Best Society” simply by behaving a book on etiquette. And in 1922, Funk as if she or he belonged in it. And just and Wagnalls published Etiquette in what was Best Society? Emily described Society, in Business, in Politics, and at it as “an unlimited brotherhood which Home—all 627 pages of it. It turned spreads over the entire surface of the out to be one of the most revolutionary globe, the members of which are invari- books in American history. ably people of cultivation and worldly Emily Post’s book allowed millions knowledge, who have not only perfect of Americans to dream of becoming manners but a perfect manner.” Mean- an aristocrat by dint of their manners, ing that you don’t just want to know the even while telling them that becom- rules but to do and say “those things ing an aristocrat wasn’t important. only which will be agreeable to others.” Whereas in Europe good manners Yet what most likely made Etiquette would get you nowhere unless you such a success—it was an instant best were an aristocrat by birth, in America, seller—was not people’s desire to make so the hope went, an aspiring lady or themselves more agreeable. People gentleman could earn membership in bought the book in hope that they Petiquette Even the dogs practice the polite art at the Institute. 104 | Spirit
  8. 8. It’s Fine to Wear Very Few Clothes: The Wisdom of Emily Post From Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home (1922) SKIN IN THE GAME That young people of today prefer games to conversation scarcely proves degenera- tion. That they wear very few clothes is not a symptom of decline. There have always been recurring cycles of undress, followed by muffling from shoe-soles to chin. MONE Y TALK Most of those thrown much in contact with millionaires will agree that an attitude of infallibility is typical of a fair majority. HIGHER LE ARNING Education that does not confer flexibility of mind is an obviously limited education; the man of broadest education tunes himself in unison with whomever he happens to be. The more subjects he knows about, the more people he is in sympathy with, and therefore the more customers or associates or constituents he is sure to have. WA SSUP The fact that slang is apt and forceful makes its use irresistibly tempting. Coarse or pro- fane slang is beside the mark, but “flivver,” “taxi,” the “movies,” “deadly” (meaning dull), “feeling fit,” “feeling blue,” “grafter,” a “fake,” “grouch,” “hunch,” and “right o!” are typical of words that it would make our spoken language stilted to exclude. POKER FACING A gentleman does not lose control of his temper. In fact, in his own self-control under difficult or dangerous circumstances, lies his chief ascendancy over others who impul- sively betray every emotion which animates them. Exhibitions of anger, fear, hatred, embarrassment, ardor, or hilarity are all bad form in public. SHINING E X AMPLE At the same time it is no idle boast that the world is at present looking toward America; and whatever we become is bound to lower or raise the standards of life. The other countries are old, we are youth personified! We have all youth’s glorious beauty and strength and vitality and courage. If we can keep these attributes and add finish and understanding and perfect taste in living and thinking, we need not dwell on the Golden Age that is past, but believe in the Golden Age that is sure to be. Spirit | 105
  9. 9. could join the social elite, or at least not condemn themselves to social Siberia. Now Read the Book A great yarn about the politest revoluionary. In England they used to say that a person The woman who revolution- The absorbing new biography of Emily Post who failed to comport himself properly ized American manners was by Laura Claridge contains plenty of eyebrow was “not quite the thing.” Emily Post gave born seven years before the raising facts like these. But the book goes far Americans hope that they could become end of the Civil War and beyond a woman’s life, or even etiquette. Clar- became one of the early idge, a former English professor at the Naval quite the thing. radio celebrities. She used Academy, uses Emily Post to drill a fascinating But let’s suppose I don’t care a fig for the base of the Statue of cross-section through American culture—from social success, or even consideration. In Liberty as a personal play- the Gilded Age right up to the swinging Sixties. house. When she was a girl, (Oh, behave!) business, you could argue, consideration she aspired to be an actress and was, accord- In the midst of it all stood one of history’s and respect for others can seem like ing to one newspaper, “perhaps the best most remarkable women, a reassuring light- unilateral disarmament—or capitula- banjoist in fashionable society.” She thought house on the rocky shore of human conduct. slang such as “swell” and “you betcha” –J.H. tion. Anna Post begs to disagree. “If your were fine, but insisted on calling a tomato a Emily Post: Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mis- boss is worth half his salt, and he’s think- “tomahto.” And she knew practically every- tress of American Manners, by Laura Claridge. ing of two employees to send out—the body who was anybody. (Random House, $30.) pig or the nice one—which would you choose?” Not only that, but etiquette can Sounds like a prudent strategy, but managed to flub six rules of etiquette— be crucial in a job interview, she says. what does that have to do with etiquette? at least the 1952 version that my wife She recounts the legend that McDonald’s “Salting your food insults the cook. uses as her social bible: founder Ray Kroc would take executive It shows you assume it won’t be to your prospects out to lunch, “and he would taste.” 1. Don’t blow your nose at the table. (I judge them by whether they salted their The topic made me hungry, and so thought turning and doing it discreetly food before tasting it.” began my greatest etiquette test of all, was enough. Anna, on the other hand, You’re not supposed to salt your food? eating out. had a cold, and not once did I see her “Not before tasting it,” Anna said. During lunch at an outdoor café, I blow her nose.)
  10. 10. 2. Wipe your mouth before drinking from a glass. (What can I say? Any boss of mine wouldn’t have sent me.) 3. Don’t discuss business right away. Make chitchat first. (I immediately raised the subject of officemates who smell bad.) 4. Let the host pay. Never insist. (Anna proposed the restaurant and took me there, but I demanded to pay.) 5. Loosely fold your napkin and leave it to the left of your plate before you leave for the bathroom. (Sheesh.) 6. When you want the waiter to clear your plate, place your knife and fork * on it as if they were clock hands show- ing 4:20. (As consolation, my daughter, who waited tables to help pay for col- lege, didn’t know this.) I learned all that from a seminar Anna gave that evening, not from her grimaces during the meal. To illustrate just how polite Anna is, she told me later that I hadn’t broken any really important rules—just esoteric ones that don’t mean that much today. How kind of her to say so. You can tell who’s truly polite by how they handle unruly types like me. Still, some rules—what to do with an oyster fork, for example—make me want to eat with my hands. I think it’s possible to be polite to the point of rudeness. The Posts would doubtless agree. Anna tells a story that the Institute received on its website. “A man who was new to the office called men by their first names and women ‘Mrs. Jones.’ He said his mother taught him that,” Anna says. This old-school approach understandably upset some of his officemates. “In strange situations, it’s best to err on the formal side,” she says. “But when you do know people’s prefer- ences, their wishes should be respected.” * 22" EXPANDABLE SPINNER CARRY-ON It’s the rules that make people buy Durable Tricore nylon fabric. 4 Easy-maneuver spinner wheels. TSA-approved etiquette books, and the rules that locking system. Removable garment sleeve. 10 Year warranty. make people ridicule etiquette. In the *Free shipping on orders over $99. No sales tax except PA/NJ. While supplies last. 1980s, the wonderfully snarky writer P.J. O’Rourke wrote a book making fun of the whole topic. Modern Manners: An Etiquette Book for Rude People asserts that etiquette is “a combination of intelli- gence, education, taste, and style mixed Brands and counting. All priced to move. www.LuggageOnline.com/sw 800.958.4424
  11. 11. together so that you don’t need any of Maybe this is what Heaven is like: a place where consider- those things.” His book contains handy tips like these: ation has been elevated to the sacred. If so, I’m doomed. “Never do anything to your partner with there weren’t any standards for behavior. be fashionably late,” she said to the stu- your teeth that you wouldn’t do to an Now things are far from perfect, but I dents later. expensive waterproof wristwatch.” think it’s gotten a little better.” Like a good executive, she showed “If your drink runs up your nose, you may The rules also remain important for PowerPoint slides. One said, “Etiquette be lying on the floor.” young people aspiring to employment. = Manners + Principles.” She illustrated “Most men do not look trustworthy with Anna often teaches proper comportment the importance of rules that everyone fol- their pants off.” to executive wannabes. I got to see her lows by having a student stand up. Anna “Never wear anything that panics the cat.” in action during a rare event near her extended her hand and told the student “A hat should be taken off when you greet office. The University of Vermont holds not to shake. Her hand lingered in a lady and left off for the rest of your intensive two-week seminars to prepare space, and an awkward silence ensued. life.” liberal arts majors for the business world. “There’s a tension out there,” she said, One might think that the Posts would feel Besides resume work, job hunting strate- and the students nodded. Anna showed insulted by the book, but the person who gies, and field trips to nearby companies, another slide, this one of a 2005 poll put me onto it was Anna Post herself. the students spend an evening with asking Americans if they frequently saw Nonetheless, etiquette instruction Anna. people using their cell phones rudely. remains in high demand. That’s because She appeared in a tailored jacket in a Fifty-five percent said yes. (The other 45 we have rules for a reason. If we didn’t hot, spare meeting room on campus. The percent clearly don’t use mass transpor- have them, then people would walk students—some 20 of them—arrived five tation.) But only 8 percent admitted to around doing clueless things. “Look at minutes early, a feat that may be unprec- being rude with their cell phones them- cellphones,” Anna said. “A few years ago, edented in the history of academia and selves. they were out of control. That’s because one that pleased Anna. “It’s not good to “Etiquette gives us a code for how to
  12. 12. behave so we can focus on more impor- tant things,” Anna said. It’s like being an experienced driver. “We drive everyday, so we don’t have to think about it, letting us think and use the radio, hopefully without crashing into one another.” Eti- quette also helps us avoid looking like pigs. “When you think about it, eating is gross,” she continued. “Etiquette keeps us from grossing each other out.” She got the biggest student buzz when she demonstrated how to hold a knife and fork. As students practiced, the clat- ter of dropped silverware filled the room. “If you can’t do it, just do the best you can,” Anna said. “I don’t want to see food flying across the table Pretty Woman style.” To my surprise, Anna herself uses the European style, eating with the left hand after cutting her food. Turns out Emily herself did this, preferring the method to what she called “zig-zag eat- ing.” Anna’s other tips to the students: If you get lousy service in a restaurant, leave a tip anyway. “You can leave less than 15%, but talk to management. Otherwise it doesn’t resolve anything.” When the wine steward hands you the cork, just look at it. If the wine is more than halfway up the cork, it hasn’t been sealed properly. Pass the bread bowl to the right after offering to the left. Eat cherry tomatoes with a fork. “Better to squirt someone from your plate than from your mouth.” If you see spinach on someone’s teeth, tell them by discreetly pointing to your own teeth. (“Or you could text mes- sage them,” one student says pragmati- cally.) Anna insists, though, that the rules should help us, not restrict us. “Worlds won’t end if you do it differently,” she told the students. “Sometimes the rules get in the way, because people follow the letter of the law. Short of putting your face on the plate, you really can’t go wrong. But if you wouldn’t be comfortable seeing yourself do something on video after- ward, then you shouldn’t do it.” Etiquette takes on particular impor-
  13. 13. tance in the business world because business is more formal than most of the Quiz Answers From the Emily Post Institute rest of our lives. And being formal means 1. (b) If a senior person wants your card, or ment-starters that can backfire on you. you follow the “forms”: suitable dress and wants you to have hers, she will tell you so. 7. (b) Practicality comes into play here, how- behavior. This has always been true. The 2. All are gender-free. The first person to the ever: If someone nearby to your left asks you ancient Romans published books about door, and anyone who is encountering dif- for an item, it’s perfectly okay to take the ficulty, take precedence. And whoever invites shorter route and pass the item to your left. decorum, the art of fitting in with the rul- does the paying. 8. (a) Yes, it is acceptable to tip the bowl— ing elite. They meant “fitting in” not just 3. (b) The simplest test is, if he or she but only for the last drop or two. Again, tip socially but in a Darwinian sense as well: wouldn’t say it to a man, he/she shouldn’t the bowl away from you rather than toward say it to a woman. you” so as “to avoid inadvertently directing a only the fittest, the ones who most close- 4. (b) About 18 inches is reasonable. drip into your lap. ly fit themselves into their social environ- 5. (a) These days, the old seasonal injunction 9. (b) Believe it or not, the easiest—and most ment, thrived. Cicero said that decorum against the color white no longer applies. The appropriate—thing to do is to raise the uten- determinant applies only to white fabrics and sil you are using to your lips and gently push was the most important, as well as the materials—and loosely, at that. White suede the offending article onto the utensil. Then most difficult, of all leadership skills. pumps in November? Sure, if they go with deposit it on the edge of your plate. He himself was a novus homo, a “new your outfit. 10. (a) White wine glass: about two-thirds 6. (c), (d), and (e). These are potential argu- full. Red wine glass: about one-half full. man” who rose to the top rank by talent and etiquette. He was clearly not alone: If you got 8 or more correct, kind sir or madam, we thank you for your extraordinary polite- Books on manners followed through the ness. If you got 5–7 correct, you might want to study up on your etiquette books. If you got less centuries. Many of the books published than 5 correct, would you mind eating at the next table? in nineteenth century America were about elocution—the skill of speaking art of fitting in. Emily and her descen- field—whatever that field is. like a lady or gentleman. dents are right. It’s not about the rules. It’s nice to think about a world in It’s about adapting to any environment. which everyone followed the Posts. If A ND T H AT ’ S R E A L LY what etiquette Survival of the fittest. In that sense, Eti- everyone suddenly turned polite, dicta- is all about, I have come to realize: the quette is a manual for surviving in the tors would issue a formal apology for Anyone can play and win! Win cash and great prizes in every show! Tuesday – Thursday and Saturday at 2:30 pm Friday at 7:30 pm Call Bally’s Box Office: 702-967-4567 www.ballyslasvegas.com THE PRICE IS RIGHT™ is a trademark of FremantleMedia Operations B.V. Based on the FremantleMedia television programme ‘The Price is Right’. Licensed by FremantleMedia Licensing Worldwide. www.fremantlemedia.com Must be 21 or older to gamble. Know When To Stop Before You Start.® Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-522-4700. ©2008, Harrah’s License Company, LLC. B8-035