Welcome to Positively Proper!

Hey y’all!

Welcome to Positively Proper! I am Alexandra and I am beyond excited to be sharing this adventure in the world of Protocol and Etiquette with you. I first had this idea in 2014 and over the last five years, I have worked on it “here and there” while I focused on other parts of my life. After making another major change this past Fall, I felt the inspiration to start writing and blogging again. So, here I am relaunching Positively Proper on Valentine’s Day because what day is more appropriate to launch a passion project from the heart?!

This journey started while I was working as a Protocol Specialist in the Washington, DC area, a role which taught me A LOT about protocol and etiquette in modern society. Now, I know what some people are thinking… Protocol and Etiquette are stuffy subjects. I am here to show you they are not! Protocol and etiquette can be fun and extremely relatable. What protocol and etiquette are truly about is putting your best foot forward and being confident as you do. Protocol and Etiquette apply in every day life and can truly make a difference at work, at home, with friends, and even during interactions with strangers. They also apply to social events, being a host, personal and professional fashion, and so much more!

Fast forward five years and what am I doing now? I work for an international nonprofit on the Special Events and Partnership team. With, what I like to think is, a decent amount of experience “in the industry,” I continue experiencing and learning more through my job and everyday run-ins with protocol and etiquette matters. So, why not share it all?! I will share my experiences with you and I encourage you to share your thoughts and questions with me! I am sure we all encounter similar situations and have some of the same questions as we meet new people, venture to new places, and attend fabulous events! This blogging adventure is all about learning and helping each other shine even brighter!

Cheers y’all!

AB

How to Have a Friendly Debate

I recently had a difference of opinion on a “manners moment” with someone close to me. We both believed different actions should have been taken and that got us to talking about seeing other people’s points of view. As a result, we had a casual, light-hearted banter to present our own viewpoint. After our discussion, I got to thinking… How do you have a “friendly debate” without it turning into an all-out brawl where every stakeholder has dug in and refuses to agree or see another opinion?

***NOTE: This post is indeed about “friendly debates” and not about matters of great importance such as financial issues, health matters, family decisions, political debates, romantic relationships, or business deals. However, some of these tips may help!***

  1. Keep the Topic “Light”
    • A common saying is, “Never discuss money, politics, or personal life (aka sex).” If a topic you are uncomfortable with gets brought up, politely decline to engage in the conversation.
    • Ensure the conversation/debate stays on topic and does not turn into a discussion about other issues or previous grievances.
    • Laugh about things, laugh at yourself! Sometimes when you get into a debate and outlandish ideas are being discussed, you have to take a step back and just laugh at the crazy debate you have somehow ended up having.
      • NOTE: If someone is strongly expressing an opinion, be cautious about laughing. Some people get extremely offended if they feel like they are being laughed at or mocked for their viewpoint.
  2. Present Your View Strongly, Yet Democratically
    • If you are expressing something you truly care about, ensure you express that sentiment while still making it OK for the other person to potentially disagree with you.
    • Do not force your opinion/viewpoint on the other person.
    • Be knowledgeable of what you are discussing. If you are not knowledgeable on the subject, politely decline the conversation and never make up information you are unsure is true.
    • Never act like you are better than the other person’s opinion and be sure you are truly ready to hear their side.
  3. What Do You Do If Someone Offends You?
    • First, ask him/her to clarify what they meant by the comment. Sometimes, people say something without thinking about how it will come across or they simply use the wrong words. Before getting upset with someone, be sure you have the same understanding of what was said.
    • After clarifying, if what was said truly offends you, stand up for yourself. Be confident in yourself yet gracious when you say, “Excuse me, the comment you just made is extremely offensive/hurtful/unkind of you to say.”
    • Explain why. It does not have to be a lengthy or personal description, but explaining why something is offensive/hurtful in a polite way allows the other person to learn how to correct the behavior in the future.
    • If the person refuses to back-down from the comment, it is time to end the conversation.
  4. When It Is Over, It Is OVER.
    • After both parties have described their thoughts/viewpoints allow each other to ask and answer questions.
    • Once the conversation is done, move onto something else. Do not continue to rehash the same argument.
    • Do not be the person who has to “have the last word.” No one likes someone who always has to prove a point or have the last say on a matter.

Often times, you most likely will not come to a solid answer/compromise. What is important to recognize is that you have the ability to not only standup for your own opinions/viewpoints democratically, but you also have the ability respect for others who may be different than you. Many of these “friendly debates” will teach you something new and push you to think in ways or consider things you have not. Just remember to keep an open-mind and always be cordial during a difference of opinion.

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Email Etiquette: Handling a Busy Inbox

In both our professional and personal lives, we often receive a high volume of emails on a daily basis. On those days when your inbox is so full you are almost scared to open it, how should you handle the massive amount of inquiries that need a response? Here are my tips for managing a busy inbox!

  1. Wait at least 30 minutes before checking your email in the morning
    • Help yourself to start the day on the right foot. No one wants to wake up and start answering emails right away. So, give yourself 30 minutes to get your day started without the distraction of technology. If there is a work or personal emergency that requires your immediate attention, you will get a phone call about it, not an email.
    • If you start answering emails, I am rather sure you will never be ready for work on time. Get yourself ready to conquer the day then go conquer!
  2. Skim your inbox to find the high priority subjects
    • When you first open your inbox, start by looking through the recipients and the subject lines to ensure you read the high priority emails first.
    • Make a mental list of the priority of the rest of your emails and work from that point.
    • If you know it is junk mail, delete it.
  3. Read your inbox emails and your written replies more than once
    • If you have an email that you know requires your undivided attention or further research, mark it is as unread and return to it once you have all the information you need. Nothing is worse than responding to an email and realizing you missed the key questions that needed a response or you left out the bulk of your reasoning and needed follow-up questions.
    • Read your reply more than once to ensure you hit the key points and your grammar, delivery, and thought process come across as you wish.
    • If you have an assistant or co-worker, ask them to proofread your reply if you are unsure about something.
    • If you are writing about a sensitive or emotional topic, write a draft response then step away from it for a while. Come back to it when you have thought about it more and then edit it. If you need to, do this a few times to ensure your email reads as you wish.
  4. Unsubscribe to the hordes of advertisements you receive
    • Every store, news outlet, etc. wants you to be part of their listserv… It is OK to say no or to unsubscribe.
    • Keep the places/sources you regularly use and unsubscribe from those that simply clog your inbox with the daily/weekly reminders.
  5. If you are going out town or will be unavailable by email, use an out-of-office automatic reply
    • Not only does this help to manage people’s expectations of when they will receive a response, it will also provide them with contact information in case of an emergency.
    • An example of a simple, yet effective out-of-office reply is:
      “Sir/Ma’am,

      Thank you for you for contacting me. I am out of the office without access to/with limited access to my email and will not return until Monday, 23 February. If this is an urgent matter, please contact my office (or specify a co-worker if he/she is taking over your work in your absence) at (xxx) xxx-xxxx.

      I look forward to speaking with you soon. Have a great day!”

  6. Keep all your emails in archived/organized folders
    • You never know when you may need to reference an old email or find someone’s contact information.
    • Once you have responded to an email, move it into the proper folder. This will let you know you have replied to the email, reduce the number of emails in your inbox, and give you a place to look back to if you need to review a message in the future.
  7. Some emails need an in-person or phone response
    • If you receive an email you know you need to respond to, but do not feel it is appropriate to respond via email or that a more in-depth conversation should be had, call the person or schedule a meeting to discuss the matter.
  8. Have a technology curfew
    • Set a time for yourself when you put your phone/tablet/laptop away at night.
    • Do one final review of your inbox and ensure nothing urgent came in or that you missed anything from earlier in the day then turn it off until tomorrow! As I said about the morning email check, if there is a work or personal emergency that requires your immediate attention, you will get a phone call about it, not an email.
    • A lot of research has been showing exposure to blue-light (the light in tech gadgets) at night, prevents a good night’s sleep and reduces the amount of time you spend in REM sleep. A recent Washington Post article speaks to research on the matter.

I hope these tips help you to manage your busy inbox more successfully! Most importantly, remember everyone deserves a response, but be mindful of how and when you respond.

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Sharing the Love!

Photo Credit: Parrot Design Studio

Photo Credit: Parrot Design Studio

In honor of Valentine’s Day on Saturday, I am sharing the love this week and highlighting some of my favorite etiquette experts and notable figures for their Valentine’s Day articles. Here are my top 5 picks – There is a little something for everyone no matter how you are celebrating this year!

  1. All My Single Ladies! Check out “Cupid’s Corner: The Single Girl’s Guide to Valentine’s Day” by Allison Norton of LaurenConrad.com
  2. It’s Just a Date – If you are going out with someone new or it is just a date for the evening, read “Dating Etiquette: 7 Ways to Engage in Intellectual Foreplay on Valentine’s Day” by Jacqueline Whitmore
  3. For the Couple – Be sure to read “7 Commons Mistakes Couples Make on Valentine’s Day” by Jacqueline Whitmore
  4. Girl’s Night In! Get some great ideas from “A Valentine’s Dinner Party with Your Girlfriends” by Diane Gottsman
  5. And for all the gentlemen out there, read a great article from Good Guy Swag titled “Valentine’s Day Checklist: 5 Things to Make it Instaworthy” by Kris Wolfe

Wishing you all a wonderful day full of love, laughter, and lots of pink! Happy Valentine’s!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Sitting Like a Lady

The other night, I was watching an entertainment news show and noticed a small, yet very prominent difference about the three women on camera. Two were sitting with their leg over the other knee while the third sat with her legs crossed at her ankles.

Crossing at the Knee vs. Crossing at the Ankle

Crossing at the Knee vs. Crossing at the Ankle

Seeing this difference, it hit me.. Sitting like a lady truly makes a difference!

Photo Credit: Zimbio

Photo Credit: Zimbio

To sit like a lady,

  1. Cross your legs at your ankles and keep your knees together.
    • Aside from the idea that this is the “traditional” way to sit like a lady, it really matters in today’s world of changing fashion. As shorter hems and high leg slits have become fashionable, crossing at your ankles prevents you from showing too much leg and saves you the embarrassment of someone seeing up your skirt.
    • Side note: Crossing at your ankles relieves pressure on your knee and can help to prevent spider veins!
  2. Sit up tall with your shoulders straight.
    • Not only is this good for your posture and a way to reduce back strain, this is a much more inviting and attentive posture than being hunched over in your seat.
  3. Keep your head up.
    • Your chin should be slightly up to ensure you are looking forward rather than down which can also lead to slouching.
  4. Place your hands in your lap.
    • Keeping your hands in your lap helps to maintain your upright posture by avoiding leaning on one of the arm rests.
  5. Face the person to whom you are giving your attention.
    • This may require you turn slightly in your chair, but it signals the individual that you are giving them your attention and are focused on what they are saying.
  6. Smile! 🙂
    • Everything looks better with a smile!
  7. Variations?
    • Leaving Legs Uncrossed: If you choose not to cross your legs, ensure you keep your knees and ankles together with your legs straight or slightly off to the side.
      Photo Credit: People

      Photo Credit: People

      Photo Credit: Beaumont Etiquette

      Photo Credit: Beaumont Etiquette

As you can see, the one lady who has this truly mastered is the Duchess of Cambridge. So, let us all take a lesson from her and add this piece of etiquette into our repertoire!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

New Year, Confident You

Welcome to 2015! The typical January/New Year post is about resolutions and a new you, so I am taking a bit of a different twist on this idea. In 2015, let’s focus on improving the amazing qualities you already have and putting your best foot forward in all situations!

The following are a few of my thoughts on the basic things you can do to improve yourself everyday:

  1. Be Positive
    • Think happy, be happy. The power of positive thought truly is amazing!

      Photo Credit: Ascension Kitchen

      Photo Credit: Ascension Kitchen

  2. Dress the Part – Always!
    • Whether I am getting all dolled up for a fabulous event or just running a quick errand, this has always been a favorite guiding principle of mine…

      Photo Credit: Beauty Woo Me

      Photo Credit: Beauty Woo Me

  3. Present Yourself
  4. Perfect Your Table Manners
  5. Be Knowledgeable of Current Events
    • If you do not already watch the news or read the paper daily, I highly suggest signing up for the Skimm! It is a daily newsletter delivered to your inbox that summarizes the biggest stories and adds a little fun to your morning news report.

As we embark on this new year, let’s all do so by promoting the best versions of ourselves. As I have said from the beginning of this blogging journey, protocol and etiquette are really about putting your best foot forward and being confident as you do. Being positively proper gives you that touch of polish to make you stand out from the rest. Stayed tuned for my protocol and etiquette posts so we all conquer 2015 with grace, elegance, and style! 😉

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

Happy New Year!

I cannot believe it is already time to say goodbye to 2014 and ring in 2015. This year has flown by, but it has been a great one. I am incredibly blessed!

To everyone who has been on my blogging journey with me, thank you! I am truly looking forward to continuing my writing in 2015. I have already started brainstorming topics, but I would love to hear questions, suggestions, and topics from all of you as well. Please send them my way!

As I say goodbye to 2014 and welcome a fabulous new year, I leave you with one of my favorite pieces of NYE advice 😉

Wishing you all love, laughter, happiness, good health, and lots of sparkles in 2015! Happy New Year!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra