Today’s post is courtesy of speech and communication specialist, Marjorie Feinstein-Whittaker, of The Whittaker Group. I was introduced to Marjorie by a client and have been thoroughly impressed by the progress she’s made with his communication skills throughout the course of my work with him.
Many of us spend a significant amount of work time in meetings ranging from routine staff and management meetings, to client presentations, and more. Unfortunately, these frequent opportunities for education, collaboration, and communication are often perceived as boring, unproductive, and even contentious. One of the most important things you can do to make your participation in meetings positive is to be a good listener. By offering your full and focused attention, and conveying respectful and socially appropriate behaviors, you can build and maintain healthy long-term business relationships. This is easier said than done. Many of us have both verbal and non-verbal habits that can sabotage our best efforts. However, if you identify and address some of these behaviors, you can learn how to exude confidence, competence and poise.
If you typically:
1. Interrupt others – If you have an enthusiastic, perhaps impulsive personality, it may be difficult not to blurt out comments at inopportune times. Take a slow, deep breath, or silently count to three before you speak. If you inadvertently interrupt someone, acknowledge it by apologizing, and encouraging the speaker to go on. For example, “I am sorry for interrupting. Please finish what you were saying.” If you need to interrupt a speaker to get a meeting back on track, or give another participant time to reply, raise your hand slightly (to chest level), and acknowledge the speaker by name. “James, I’m sorry to have to cut you off, but I promised I would leave 10 minutes for Q and A.”
2. Have a trash-mouth –
If you are a person who litters their speech with expletives to get attention or express extremes of emotions, you are negatively affecting your professionalism and credibility. It is best to refrain from inappropriate or potentially offensive remarks. Work on expanding your vocabulary so you can explicitly and appropriately convey your thoughts and emotions. Instead of saying, “It was a damn good meeting,” try something like, “The meeting exceeded all of our expectations.” Learn how to choose your words carefully. Rehearse alternative ways of expressing your feelings and ideas in a more professional manner. If your colleagues include nonnative English speakers, be careful not to use unfamiliar figurative expressions, slang or colloquialisms which may be misunderstood or misinterpreted. Also avoid jargon or acronyms that might be unfamiliar to some members of the group.
3. See the glass as half-empty –
If you are the nay-sayer in the group, think of ways to re-frame what you say with a more positive spin. Instead of remarking, “That is never going to work,” or “That is a ridiculous proposal,” try something like, “This project is going to be challenging. Perhaps if we delegate the responsibilities, we can meet the deadline.”
4. Have “monkey-brain” –
If you sit in meetings and your mind jumps from one thing to another as if you were swinging from tree to tree by your tail in the jungle, you need to learn how to focus. Of course there are a myriad of external distractors, such as people walking past your office, interesting things outside the window, office chatter, and buzzing smart phones. There are also internal thoughts that may range from a growling stomach to how you feel about your co-worker on a given day. Learn how to be in the moment. Look at the person who is speaking, and really listen with your eyes, body and mind. Offer to take the minutes. This task will ensure that you are really engaged and listening mindfully.
5. Ramble, mumble, or speak too softly or rapidly –
Sometimes it is difficult to get to the point, especially if you are asked a question that you didn’t anticipate. Instead of answering immediately, take a breath, and organize your thoughts silently. Create a mini outline in your mind so you can stay on topic and avoid rambling. A convenient acronym to help you achieve this is T-I-E-S. T= re-state or paraphrase the question or topic I= introduce your main idea E= cite 2-3 supporting facts or examples S=summarize
Make sure you speak at a reasonable pace (not too fast or slow), and at an adequate volume (not too soft or loud). Finish the ends of your words, and don’t let your voice trail off at the ends of words. Try to minimize stereotypical and meaningless remarks such as, “Do you hear what I am saying,” and empty fillers such as “you know,” “It was like,” “uh,” etc. Pause silently, and speak when you have something worthwhile to say. Make sure you speak with varied pitch and intonation, and avoid a monotone (boring) delivery.
6. Send the wrong message without saying a word –
It is extremely important to be aware of what kinds of non-verbal messages you are sending through eye contact, gestures, and body language. For example, bouncing your leg, drumming your fingers, or rolling your eyes could convey impatience or frustration. Closing your eyes/pinching the bridge of your nose, looking away and yawning could convey boredom, and raising your eyebrows, covering your mouth with your hands could convey disbelief. Much of what we say isn’t spoken at all. Try to maintain appropriate eye contact with speakers, lean forward with your body, and nod to convey interest and attentiveness.
Of course, you cannot control what other colleagues or clients say or do in meetings, but you can control your reactions. You will find that being a good listener who is in the moment will have benefits that go beyond the Boardroom.
Marjorie Feinstein-Whittaker is owner and principal consultant at The Whittaker Group in Boston and is co-founder of ESL RULES. Her companies provide assessment and consultation services to both native and nonnative English speakers in a variety of fields. She develops and delivers specialized foreign and regional accent modification programs and customized workplace communication programs for those seeking to improve the clarity and effectiveness of their speech and communication. Marjorie works with clients from all over the world, both in person and via distance learning. Her training programs have been featured on The Today Show and many local media outlets.
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Oh, excuse me, someone was talking to me about navy blazers, and I fell asleep.
The idea of navy blazers typically conjures memories of a first trip to Brooks Brothers for a rite of passage Sunday jacket, gold buttons and all. But not all navy blazers have to be a snoozefest. In fact, there are ways to take this conservative stalwart and give it a good shake-up. Read on for 5 tips on how to make a navy blazer your own:
1) Get it tailored so that it FITS you. I’ve you’re a current Rath & Co. client, or if you’ve been following me for some time, you know I’m a stickler for clothes that fit perfectly. So if you have a navy blazer that’s been hanging around your closet for a while, and the fit is within striking distance (the first thing to check is if it’s right across the shoulders), take it to a tailor you trust, and have him or her check the rest, including waist, arms and length, and make adjustments as needed. You’d be amazed at the 180 a jacket can take with a few nips and tucks.
2) Swap out those trad gold buttons for ones made of horn or gunmetal, like in the image above of a blazer I designed for a client. You’ll go from preppy to polished in no time.
3) Rather than standard navy, consider a blue with some kick to it, like midnight, cobalt or royal. Check out the same shot above of my client in his spanking new bright blue blazer. (His fiancée wasn’t complaining.)
4) Instead of a solid, try a subtly patterned fabric, like this tone-on-tone windowpane (above left — you have to expand the image to see the pattern) I just picked out for a different client. A blue hounds-tooth or pin-dot (above center and right) would also work, as would blue tweed in cold weather. From 4 + feet away, these fabrics read as solid, but up close you can see the extra oomph.
Read the rest of… Julie Rath: Wake Up that Navy Blazer
No matter how tempting it might be to squeeze, dig or pick at a pimple, word life: don’t do it. It will only irritate the area and make it more likely to spread. Below is an anti-zit concoction I discovered a few years back, and it always comes through. It’s made up of items that are probably hanging around your kitchen already and is super easy to assemble.
1/8 cup powdered oatmeal
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 c egg whites
3 drops honey
1. Dab cotton swab in hydrogen peroxide and clean blemish area (this keeps the pimple from spreading).
2. Mix everything else in a small bowl to create a paste.
3. Cover pimple with mixture and leave on for twenty minutes.
4. Rinse with warm water.
5. Apply twice a day until zit disappears. (Leftovers will keep in fridge for up to one week.)
There’s nothing better than a well-dressed man in a suit. And yet, while suiting is one of my favorite things to style, many Rath & Co. clients work in casual environments and don’t have the need or opportunity to wear dressy clothes very often. For these clients, the challenge becomes how to be well-dressed and get noticed without looking out of place among their peers. There’s a fine line between putting some effort into your appearance and seeming like you’re trying too hard (which can often result in getting busted on by coworkers – never fun). Those offices where jeans, t-shirts and sneakers are more common than a jacket and tie can range from tech startups to laboratories.
With these challenges in mind, I’ve created the below list of 8 tips on how to step up your style just enough so that it improves your self-image and the way you’re perceived by others, but not to the degree that you overdo it and become the object of skepticism or even ridicule.
1) If you’re wearing sneakers, make sure they’re not ones you’d actually exercise in but rather what I call “social sneaks.” These are sneakers you wear for every day, not working out. They should be clean and fresh-looking. Wash or replace them as soon as they start to look grungy. Converse Jack Purcell’s are a great choice.
2) Same goes for any other kind of footwear you might find yourself in: keep it classy and avoid anything with the word “hybrid” in its description. The place where the sneaker meets any other kind of shoe (i.e., dress shoe, boot or sandal) is like a dark alley late at night — nowhere you’d want to be.
3) Just because you’re wearing a casual shoe, you don’t need to wear white gym socks or plain black dress socks. In fact, wearing more interesting socks is a great way to inject style into your look without going over the top. Try different colors or patterns, like those above from Drumohr. And even simply switching from black to navy or grey is a big improvement.
Read the rest of… Julie Rath: Bringing Your Style A-Game in a Casual Work Environment
A big thank you to The Wall Street Journal for including me in the recent article, Spring Shoes for Men Step Brightly. The piece discusses how men’s footwear is trending toward colorful uppers or soles and “statement” elements like spikes and wild patterns; my advice on how to incorporate this trend into your wardrobe is included at the end of the article.
After speaking with the WSJ reporter, I had an outfit brainstorm, and below I share with you a few specific looks that incorporate Spring 2012′s shoe trends.
1) A great Spring combo would include a pair of neutral shoes with a neon sole like the bucks, above, from T&F Slack. Pair them with white straight-leg jeans and a denim shirt for a casual night out.
2) If the shoe itself is brightly colored, like Tods’ royal blue Competition Shoe, go with a dark wash, straight-leg jean, a grey henley shirt and a navy vest.
3) If neon shoes are too much of a commitment for you, you might dip your toes in the trend by adding color via your laces, as with the Esquivel shoes above. Because the color pop is not too prominent, you can play around by incorporating other colors into your look. Pair these boots with dressy jeans and a sport shirt that has some yellow in the pattern, like the one below from Polo Ralph Lauren. The reason yellow and purple work together is that they are complementary colors, meaning that they live opposite from each other on the color wheel. When used together, complementary colors intensify each other and create a harmonious color scheme.
4) For a shoe where the detail (as opposed to the color) is the statement, like Jimmy Choo’s “provocative paisley” slippers above, you want to keep the rest of your look tailored and simple. Wear these with a midnight three-piece suit for a posh night out, or for a more casual event, try a medium grey dress shirt and black or charcoal grey pants. The important thing to keep in mind with shoes like this is that they need to be in line with your personality, and wearing them with confidence is key. (As an aside, check out this fun Bond-style video detailing the Burlesque silhouettes hidden in the print.)
You want the latest when it comes to skis and other equipment, but do you look the part when it comes to your ski clothes?
Even if you’re not arriving via helicopter (à la Fiat Group founder Gianni Agnelli), there are plenty of ways to stay stylish on the slopes.
If you look like the Michelin Man when you ski, it’s likely you haven’t rethought your attire since the late 90′s. Fortunately, along with advancements in skis, poles and other gear, there’s a lot new in the style department with plenty of excellent options that serve both form and function. Ski-wear designers have been heavily influenced by the more fitted cuts on the runways. And new fabric technologies allow for close fits that still provide warmth and flexibility. Bottom line: you can project a flattering physique on the slopes while staying warm and maintaining mobility.
When dressing for the slopes, you should wear a baselayer, midlayer, insulating layer, and coat or shell. Below are my suggestions within each category, plus accessories.
A baselayer is skin tight (or close to), thin- to medium-weight, and synthetic or wool. For wool, try brands like Ibex and Icebreaker. And for a high-performance synthetic, check out X-Bionic products, which are moisture-wicking, anti-bacterial, and designed to optimize circulation. All three brands even make boxer shorts. (Better safe than sorry.)
A midlayer is a sweater, fleece or thicker base layer like a turtleneck. Dale Norway (above left) makes very sharp-looking ski sweaters. And for something sportier, check out the half-zip options from Kjus (above right).
This is a thin, light down jacket worn beneath your shell (note: this layer is not always needed in non-frigid temps and/or if your winter jacket is very warm; it can also be a vest as opposed to having full sleeves). I like Kjus for this, along with Peak Performance.
For heavy-duty insulated pants, try Peak Performance’s Supreme Aosta. They’re highly wind- and waterproof and also have ankle guards, which is good if you ski with your ankles together (most intermediate or advanced skiers do). A good-looking lighter-weight option with more stretch and ankle reinforcement is Frauenschuh’s Alex pant.
For your outermost top layer, you can’t go wrong with a Canada Goose duck-down parka (above left). If you’re not a fan of logos, Moorer (above right) makes absolutely gorgeous, luxurious (and splurgy) parkas that sacrifice nothing in terms of protection from the elements.
Gloves or Mittens
Black Diamond is by the far the highest-ranking winter company for accessories by outdoor enthusiasts. These mittens are warm in sub-zero temps, are fully waterproof, and have removal liners, which is great because you can use them on warmer days without the liners. Liners are key also if you’re skiing multiple days because you can dry and/or wash them more easily. For gloves, if you’re really popular, these are integrated with Bluetooth technology and a vibration alarm for incoming calls.
A single layer is best because it preserves the “micro climate” between your foot and boot, circulating air and keeping your feet warm. Go with 100% wool. DarnTough is great quality and has a lifetime guarantee.
You can’t go wrong with one of these in a color that coordinates with the rest of your gear.
Wear a beanie like this one above under your helmet.
In very cold weather, it’s nice to have something that goes over your face, like this face mask or buff. If you wear one of these, you may not need a scarf.
Goggles Smith I/O Recon goggles have a micro-optics display where you can view your speed, real-time jump analytics, weather and buddy tracking, GPS mapping, and even a music playlist mode.
A note on combining: don’t go nuts mixing too many colors. If you wear a pop of color like bright red or orange, have it be on either top or bottom, with the remaining colors in the look neutral and coordinating with one another.
PSA: make sure to wear sunblock when skiing. The sun reflects off the snow onto your face, so you need to take extra precaution. I like Armada Sport 70 for all outdoor activities.
Are you ready to hit the slopes in style? I’d love to hear what you’ll be wearing – let me know in the comments below. And if you’re more about hot chocolate than black diamonds, stay tuned for an upcoming post on one of my favorite activities to style: après-ski.
A lot of guys have a “uniform” – something they wear throughout the year, no matter what the weather is. I know one guy (not a Rath & Co. client) who wears the same logo’d windbreaker everyday to work over his dress shirt and keeps it on all day. On really cold days, he wears another jacket over it. Oh, and did I mention he even wore it to a holiday party I attended at his home — with shorts and flip-flops? He’s evidently missing the chip that handles distinctions for situational dressing.
To say the least, the “uniform” of the guy described above has room for improvement. However, in some cases, having a set look serves a positive purpose and is even desirable, but only if it’s well thought-out and well-executed. I get requests for this quite often from prospective clients – they want their own personal, iconic look, à la Steve Jobs. I get the appeal of this. First of all, it streamlines their getting-dressed routine. Also significant is that it can help cement one’s identity and give a solid sense of self both internally and outwardly with others. My only caveat here is that this needs to done in a way where a) it’s not boring (perhaps there are slight variations within what you wear each day – black v-neck sweater vs. black turtleneck sweater), and b) even though you’re sticking with the same theme each day, it shouldn’t look sloppy or as though you don’t care about your appearance (think Mark Zuckerberg’s hoody).
Matthew McConaughey in his signature fitted Dolce & Gabbana suit (he appears in their fragrance ads).
How to develop that look? Well, that’s easier said than done and, I’ll be honest, you may need help from a professional. But I’ve outlined four steps below on how to move toward creating your own.
1) Make a list of words that describe the look you’re going for and how you want to be received by others. Then narrow that list down to three or four. If you’re not a wordsmith, spend quality time on Google looking at images of other guys who embody what you’re going for. Then describe that look verbally. You may also want to consult the thesaurus for ideas once you come up with an initial word or two.
2) If you haven’t already found visual examples of others who give off the same vibe you’re looking for, do that now. Then ask yourself, what are the identifying characteristics in those outfits that create that sensibility? It may only be parts of different looks (the shirt fabric, or the way patterns are combined, as two examples) that resonate with you. Make a list of those items. This is the source list that you’ll be pulling from when you test things out.
3) Using the list above, test each of these things out one at a time. If your financial resources are limited, you can do this in a dressing room without purchasing items. Ask friends whose opinions you trust and who you know will be honest whether the look works for you or not. (Generally, this is not going to be a store salesperson.) Doing this will allow you to narrow down your source list to your final choice(s). A word of caution: if the elements you’re trying out make a really bold statement, like brightly colored bracelets or socks with a standout pattern, limit yourself to a max of 3-4 items along these lines per outfit.
4) Whatever you go with, have CONVICTION about it. This is important because if you don’t feel confident about your appearance, most likely others won’t either. And remember, everyone looks at himself more critically than other people do (honing in on specific perceived flaws like a thick midsection or short legs – which others might not notice as acutely as you do), so try to take a more macro approach as I mentioned in this article on defining your personal style.
I know this can sound like a big undertaking, but if you follow these steps above and get advice from a professional or people you trust, you can absolutely achieve it. If defining your style is something you’re working on, let me know how it goes for you. I’d love to hear about your hits and your misses.
How did 2013 go for you style-wise? Were you totally on point, or was there room for improvement? I’ve been traveling over the past month visiting out of town clients and doing some serious people-watching while on the road. I was sitting in LaGuardia Airport at 6AM one day, and I started a list of don’ts, which grew at each of my stops (Minneapolis, Chicago, North Dakota, and Palm Springs), evolving into the New Year’s Bad Style Cleanse below. Read on for 14 habits to purge from your style diet.
1) Don’t wear a crewneck undershirt with your button-up shirt. Showing your undershirt collar is like showing your underwear, something you don’t want to do in public (I hope). This goes for both casual and dress button-ups. I like Tommy John for great undershirts with v-necks that are low enough not to be visible. Here is my review of the brand.
2) Even if you’re traveling, you shouldn’t wear loafers with a suit. Try monk straps instead, as they can slip on and off easily when going through security (tip: packing a travel-size shoe horn will make your life easier).
3) You can leave the top button of your dress shirt undone with a tie, but don’t have the tie hanging down below your collarbone. Your tie knot should be no more than an inch lower than the top of where your shirt collar closes.
4) Never wear a backpack with a suit or sportcoat. It’s terrible for the shoulders. Also, you are going to work, not for a trail run.
5) Don’t wear a striped jacket as though it’s a sportcoat. A striped jacket is only worn as part of a suit, never as a separate.
6) Don’t wear a Hawaiian shirt unless you are going to an actual luau.
7) Avoid those hybrid sneakers-shoes at all costs. It’s a sneaker or a shoe. Not both.
8) While you’re at it, say no to those hiking-type sneakers for anything other than an actual mountain trek.
9) Skip the strong colognes or aftershaves (Old Spice, I’m talking to you) if you know you’re going to be on an airplane. This is a courtesy to those around you!
10) Grab the waistband of your pants (yes, right now) and yank on it. If you can pull it away from your body more than half an inch, your pants are too big. Go down in size until you find the right fit.
11) Avoid pocket square and tie combos that match too closely (and especially ones that come in sets!).
12) A t-shirt is too tight if it pulls such that the fabric creates a diagonal crease from your collarbone to your armpit. Go up a size if this happens to you.
13) Don’t be that guy who wears a parka with ski tags dangling from the zips out to a restaurant. Technical/athletic gear is meant for just that – not date night. This includes outerwear and accessories like hats and gloves. One of my favorite brands of outerwear that gets the job done sharply is Aether.
a lobster bib in the truest sense of the term
14) Don’t wear ties that are too wide for you. This is true even if you paid a lot for it/wide ties may come back in style someday/your Aunt Edna gave it to you. Either donate or send them to somewhere like Tiecrafters to have it narrowed. Here’s my guide on how to choose the best proportion for you.
Now that you’ve effectively cleansed yourself of bad style habits, check out this list of 8 style resolutions to embrace for the new year. Out with the old and in with the new! What are you adding and removing from your style repertoire this year?
Today’s article is courtesy of the queen of romantic planning, Sarah Pease, The Proposal Planner (TM). Whether she’s taking over the flight deck of the Intrepid for an epic proposal, or organizing the perfect picnic in Central Park, Sarah knows what’s what when it comes to making romance happen.
For some, Valentine’s Day is the most romantic day of the year filled with love, red roses and candlelit dinners. For others, it’s a commercialized, manufactured holiday rife with cheesy teddy bears, silk boxer shorts and exorbitantly priced prix fixe menus. Regardless of your opinion, it’s a great excuse for organizing a fun date with your loved one (even if it’s just your most-loved friend!). Here are five of my favorite ideas for Valentine’s Day:
1) For the Wallet-Conscious: Create your own wine tasting. With a little research done online or with your local wine shop, select 2 reds and 2 whites and pair them with cheeses or chocolates. Using a scarf from your closet, conduct an official blind tasting by candlelight. Not only will you expand your knowledge of wines, but you’ll also enjoy the flirty part of blindfolding each other! Budget not an issue? Hire a sommelier to do a private tasting!
2) Starry Night: Research the hours at your local planetarium or night-sky observatory and arrange to have a private tour. Whether you’re strapped into an IMAX seat watching the latest space-themed movie, or gazing at real stars in other galaxies, you’ll be in a romantic mood under all those stars.
3) Love is all Around: Plan an entire evening around love. Meet your sweetheart at the Museum of Sex near the Flatiron Building – who says a museum can’t be fun? Once you’ve explored all the newest exhibits, head to your favorite cocktail bar to sip on the cocktails she loves. From there, treat her to her guilty-pleasure food – is it cheesy biscuits from Red Lobster? Coconut Invasion cake from Asia de Cuba? Tonight is the night to indulge. End the evening by sharing three reasons why you love each other.
4) Futuristic Love: Want to know what the universe has in store for you? Do a psychic reading together! Make an appointment or stop in to see what the crystal ball or tarot cards say. If you really want to tempt fate, try a few different fortune tellers to see if their predictions overlap.
5) Ice Skating and Hot Chocolate: Strap on your skates and join the crowds for a lively spin around the ice rink. If you’re in New York, you can blend in with the tourists in Central Park, Rockefeller Center or Bryant Park, or discover some of the smaller rinks around the city. Reward all of your activity with a cab ride to City Bakery and test out the “drinkable chocolate” of the day. Got a sweet tooth? Plan to come back every other day for the rest of their Hot Chocolate Festival which runs the entire month of February. That way you can try a new flavor every night.
Many thanks to Sarah for sharing her fantastic ideas. For more info on Sarah, check out her website.
And now that you’ve got the best date ever planned, read here for what to wear.