Moving on . . . For Now

Hello everyone,

Sorry that posts have been so long in coming. I had a small health problem earlier this year and landed in the hospital (don’t worry I am fine now). However, after my medical hiatus I realized that I wasn’t really ready at this point in my writing career to start a blog. In fact, it was draining a lot of my marketing time for McCauley Writing and Consulting. Believing that I needed to commit 100% to my freelancing leaves Pearls Before Bling at a stand still for now. But I have some ideas percolating and in a few more years I may be running the blog again. Thanks for joining me in this fun experiment and let me know if you need a writer. Check out my business website McCauleyWriters.com

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4 Ways to Meet Your Goals

I came home last Tuesday a little lost. As I had gone about my day in the gray drizzle that defines winter in Virginia a little piece of me wandered away and didn’t make it back. I was melancholy, frustrated, tired and questioning. It was January and I felt bombarded with newness. It’s a fresh start! Make something of it! Time to get in shape for bikini season. It’s a whole new year. You have all this time to do something with yourself. I know what I’ll do, I’ll pull the covers over my head until the month is over. Take that January.

Classy, Classic, Old-fashioned, Success

Make a Plan to Succeed

But you can’t do that in real life, at least not for long (I’ll admit to spending a few hours curled up with my imaginary pity party friends). But I was stuck. I had Goals for this year and now, to use a sports term, I was choking. Not the dramatic in the moment choking of big league games. Nope, I was everyday choking by choosing the easy way out, the errands, the chores, the “stress relief” time; anything, but facing those Goals.

The good thing though? It IS January and though I lost two weeks I have a whole year. In fact I have as many years as I want (and God provides) to see these dreams come true, but it’s going to take work and a lot of it. So how to get unstuck? I needed to take smaller bites and have a better understanding of myself. Here are 4 things I thought of to help me stay on track and hopefully they will help you too, whether you’re building a business like me or trying to lose those extra Christmas cookies (ok, again like me).

Make Daily To-Do Lists: Sit down on the weekend and make a brief list of goals or tasks for each day. It might seem elementary, but this usually helps me understand exactly what needs to be done and gives me a schedule so I don’t waste time, or make excuses, because I don’t have anything planned. C.J. Hayden in her book Get Clients Now! A 28-Day Marketing Program for Professional, Consultants and Coaches suggests organizing your tasks by priority (A-C) and finishing your A-list items first.

Understand your Habits – I hope to eventually write a whole piece on this topic, but for now I’ll just apply the general idea here. With a little bit of trial and error you can figure out if your behavior is due to a habit and then you can modify the actions and rewards that are part of a habit loop (cue – action – reward) as explained by Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. For example, your habit might be that you come home from work (cue) and snack while watching T.V. (action) to fill yourself up (reward), but you’re trying to restrict your calories and the snacking is blowing your diet. To stop that habit you might find that waiting until after dinner to turn the T.V. on will help you not to snack. It’s not a fool-proof method and may take some time to discover your cues, is it coming home or turning on the T.V. that cues snacking? At the very least you’ll have to do a detailed analysis of your own actions and what you perceive as rewards, always good things to understand. As for myself, since I am trying to start a business by working after my 9-5 job I need to break the habit that tells my brain that coming home means the work day is over.

Have Measurable Goals and Dead Lines: Both elements here, measurable and finite, help to ensure goals are met. Measurable goals give you the ability to watch your progress. How close to meeting the goal are you? 50%? 20? Being able to mark your progress will help to motivate you to keep going. Setting realistic deadlines for yourself is also important. This means you are going to have to do something now to accomplish the goal in time. Following C.J. Hayden’s advice I made 4 goals. A one month goal, a six month goal and a year goal, all with set dates. The final goal is my big shiny “in a perfect world” goal. I set a two year time limit for this goal, but will reassess once progress on the others has been made.

Make an Action Plan: I really like action plans because they call for you to be strategic in your plan to reach your – measurable and finite – goals. As an example, we’ll use this since it’s the most common new year’s resolution, let’s say you are trying to lose weight. How many ways are there to lose weight? Well if you skip fad diets there really are only two tried-and-true methods: eat less and exercise. So break these down into smaller pieces. Eating less can be: cut out added sugar, eating more vegetables, eating healthier snacks, C.J Hayden describes these as “Success ingredients”. Then make a daily plan to accomplish these smaller goals. Choose at least one daily/weekly task which will help prepare you to succeed, say shopping once a week and only eating what you bought during that trip. Then choose 5-7 tasks which will keep you on track, dump all your change out of your wallet so you can’t use the vending machine, spend half an hour each day cataloguing your food consumption, etc. You can tailor these to items that work for you whether it’s calling a motivational buddy or eating all the veggies on your plate first. You then get to add a “dessert” item. These are items that will help you feel good about yourself or will help prepare you to succeed. Good options for desserts are getting 8 hours of sleep (to help keep your self-control – which is limited – at its peak), pray or meditate about your goals for 15 minutes, buy yourself flowers if that motivates you. By the end of this action plan exercise you should have several (I have 11) things you can do daily/weekly to help yourself stay on track.

Lastly, if you are feeling unmotivated, frustrated or self-conscious DO SOMETHING to meet your goals. Take a walk or do some yoga (my go-tos) and then do one of your action items. For me it was putting my butt down in a chair and writing this. You will be one step closer to your goal and though it may take 1,000 more, at least you will be moving forward.

Do you have a goal for this year? I would love to hear about it in the comments! What is your action plan for reaching your goal? How do you motivate yourself? Maybe your methods will help someone else.

Fewer Toys: Give a Different Gift This Season

Let’s talk toys. How many children do you know that have a room full of toys? How many do they play with on a weekly basis? If they are anything like the children I have known they have between 10-20 toys that they use on a regular basis. I will admit, I do not have kids (yet) and do not have tons of experience with a wide range of ages. However, I want to offer some alternative ideas to save you space and give your kids something different: skills and experience, instead of toys.

Skills

This group includes anything, even if picked up at the toy store, which helps children to develop adult skills. Some things that I think are particularly important for today’s youth include: cooking, gardening, and building. If some of these things seem too difficult for the child you have in mind, then check out this list from the New York Times of age appropriate chores. Kids can often do a lot more than we think they can.

If the child you are buying a present for loves helping in the kitchen, buy them a whisk or their own set of cookie cutters (These dinosaur cookie cutters are awesome!). Most parents I know actively look for ways to teach their kids to cook, but many of my friends from college were at a loss when they began cooking for themselves (there really is a reason Easy Mac was invented). Why not give a child something grown up of their own to spark a greater interest in cooking?

Gardening is something I wish my own parents had spent a little more time teaching me. I suspect

Terrarium on my desk.

 

that we never did because my mom was somewhat infamous for having a black thumb. Perhaps because of my lack of experience I was fascinated by the families I met, after moving to Virginia, who grew their own vegetables. There is even a trend now called agriscaping which encourages combining agriculture and landscaping, so no need to worry that adding edible food will make your yard look bad. For kids you can purchase seed packs and trowels, even families without land can have successful container gardens. You can even give them the items necessary to make a terrarium (I made the one pictured).

Building is a little trickier, because adult supervision and experience is needed. However, you can give a child the tools and experiences that will DEFINITELY come in handy. This was easy for me since my dad has a shockingly vast amount of knowledge about building things. I have helped my Dad build an observatory, wire electrical sockets, varnish boats, paint walls and finish a basement. One idea for those of you without my Dad’s skills would be to volunteer with a group that does construction for the needy, like habitat for humanity. Also, see if your local home depot is hosting any DIY classes that kids can attend, then everyone can learn together. That being said, basic tools like screwdrivers and wrenches are always needed and even come in fun colors now.

Experiences

My co-worker just told me she got her two daughters (who are college aged) a dog sledding trip. They will get to spend two days out in the woods dog sledding. What a great experience. Some of my best childhood memories are the experiences my parents gave us, singing lessons for my sister, ballet for me and (because we’re from Southern California) sailing camp in the summer. One great place to look for affordable things to do is on Groupon. A brief search of our local “Things to Do” section yielded dance classes, laser tag, kids’ art parties, and martial arts lessons.

These are just a few ideas. Here is a list of 60 alternative toy ideas for more inspiration. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas.

Are You Letting Informality and Personality Rule Your Interactions With Others?

Is a polite, well-mannered person actually at a disadvantage in today’s society? One of my readers sent me this article by Robert Scruton, “Real Men Have Manners,” which discusses this interesting point.

It would seem that the answer is “yes.” People who adhere to the old, rigid rules which govern the realm of manners cannot, by the very nature of manners, be first in line. They cannot pursue the cut-throat practices that so many of us have encountered in business today. They also struggle to create the informal business relationships that millennials seem to constantly encourage.

Why? Because manners require some distance and formality. They require giving up your seat and helping the elderly; in short, they require putting others first. I will admit sometimes as Americans the formality and ceremony of manners can seem strange to us. We hear stories of Japanese etiquette which dictates toilet slippers must be worn (http://www.askmen.com/top_10/travel/top-10-japanese-etiquette-mistakes_7.html), even when in a public place. But the ceremonial and formal aspects of manners are what made them so easy to follow. Everyone knew what was expected of them and a person was shamed publically if they did not adhere to these standards. Some of you will no doubt be shouting “Outrageous!” at this point. What about individual expression and personal freedom? Choosing your own path, marching to your own drum? What if I were to tell you that social shaming is actually seeing a revival? Some types of public shaming include: Passenger Shaming , State Sponsored Shaming and even Dog Shaming. The trouble is that many of these are passive-aggressive forms of shaming; they do not directly tell the person what they are doing wrong at the time the action is taken.

Informality Over Manners:

I would agree with Roger Scruton in stating that this is because manners have been replaced with informality: “Thus arises a substitute for manners that, while it generates an inferior ideal of human life, nevertheless enables us to avoid the worst of our frictions. This substitute is informality.” Which I would argue forces us into the passive-aggressive behavior displayed on social media sites. We must pretend that things do not bother us, or that we hold someone in a higher regard than we actually do, for the sake of informality. It would be as if you invited a stranger in declaring, “Oh don’t worry, we’re pretty informal around here,” and then the person props up their muddy shoes on your coffee table. You can’t really get mad; how was this person to know what the rules were? You might say, “But that’s just rude!” I would agree, based on the standards of an old code of manners.

Culture of Personality:

Informality also encourages and creates the culture of personality we live in today. I love the explanation that Susan Cain gives in her talk about the Power of Introverts (also given to me by a reader, thanks JoAnn). Susan explains that because we spend so much time dealing with strangers our society now emphasizes personality over character, because we value charismatic easy-to-know people. This is a distinct change from the Culture of Character that we had before informality and personality became so encouraged. I don’t think it’s a necessary one either. One reason why we are now focused on personality is because we are forcing ourselves to make snap decisions about a person. People in cities today cannot possibly know everyone and so frequently we must deal with strangers in our business and personal lives. We have developed tools to help ourselves, such as Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau for example. Most of the time these tools are supplemental; usually we meet the person and have to decide by the end of the meeting if they are someone we want to work with.

How to Make Real Connections with Real People:

I would like to see a shift away from informality and personality and instead have manners and character be the primary sources of our culture. So let’s start by using these methods to make real connections with people of character:

  • The next time you feel yourself drawn to someone new, a co-worker or a stranger on the street, ask yourself why. Is it their personality? Did you observe anything in their actions that might indicate a poor character? What did they spend time talking about? A good book? A project? Themselves? How irritating their spouse is? By teaching yourself to look for character over personality you are less likely to be swayed by charisma and cheap talk.

 

  • Build relationships with people before you will need their services. If you think in the future you might need to work with a real estate agent, lawyer, banker, doctor, etc. Start looking to connect with them now. It is important that you recognize and build relationships with good business people in your community. Join a networking group with the intention of building relationships with good people of character and see how your business relations improve.

 

  • Identify people of character in your social groups and spend more time with them. Susan Cain tells us that we emulate the people that we spend time with. Therefore, if you want to be a person of character you must spend time with people of character. If you’re seeing more personality than character in your social groups, then it’s time to look elsewhere.

3 Important Habits of Classy People

Have you ever passed the time with someone and then walked away and remarked on how classy they were? Or even how polite? If you would like people to say the same about you, then follow these simple tips.

  1. Saying please and thank you: I know that this point seems obvious, but have you ever thought about how infrequently people in the modern age say “please,” “thank you,” or “excuse me” to one another? In fact it is as if we walk around pretending the people around us don’t exist. I am rather guilty of this myself being an introvert and preferring to pretend others aren’t around. Using these polite phrases however, can help you interact on a different level with strangers. After all, people are more likely to be polite and helpful if you have first indicated (by saying please and thank you) that their efforts are appreciated. Try using these phrases more frequently and see if people begin responding differently.
  2. Being conscious of others: This point is similar to the previous one, but it’s possible to drive other people bonkers without ever interacting with them (trust me, I lived seven years of my life in student housing).

    Just be aware of how your actions may be disturbing other people. For example, keep your music to a reasonable level (even in your car), especially when in residential areas. This is not to say that you should sit meekly in a corner, hands folded, trying to never be in the way, but try to live by the golden rule “do unto others as you would have done to you”. This should be applied to even the small things in life.

  3. Presenting a well groomed appearance: I am sure that most Pearls Before Bling readers have this down pat, but let me briefly remind you; people will assess you based on what you are wearing and treat you according to this assessment. There really is an appropriate time and place for all forms of attire. Though I can be caught on occasion wearing yoga pants to the grocery store, I am a firm believer that “lounge wear” is best kept at home. Being termed “a hot mess” (a slang phrase I still do not fully comprehend) is generally not a good thing, nor something ladies or gentlemen should aspire to. Therefore, in casual settings, you should dress as if you might run into an important client, or your mother in-law, or your boss (whoever most intimidates you). This way you will never walk into the parking lot bemoaning the fact that you just ran into (insert your person of choice here) while wearing torn sweatpants and bunny slippers. . . or leopard print booty shorts.

These three things are so easy to do, with a little practice they will come to you without even trying. I think life, especially in the city, would be much more pleasant for everyone if we all tried to act according to these principles all the time.

6 Ways to Have a Happier and Stress Free Thanksgiving

Etiquette, Thanksgiving, classy

Thanksgiving Pie

Oh Thanksgiving — the long abused holiday. The holiday where we perform various traditional tasks, stress out over them because tradition dictates they must be done, and then promptly go shopping. This year I want to refocus on what is important, the reason for this holiday, and I want to stop stressing about it all.

You see this year is the first Thanksgiving that we will be hosting at our house. That makes me hostess, in charge of the bird, the table settings, and general cleanliness of the house. It’s also the first year that we will be trying to combine family traditions. It’s a bit of a balancing act I’ll admit, to make sure everyone gets their favorite dish and has enough time with family members. I am so pleased to take on this responsibility, but it was also beginning to stress me out a little.

So if you are a hostess reading this and feeling the same, trust me, I get it. It’s ok to want everything to be perfect and to do your best to make it so, but will you take my advice and try at least one of these tips for a less stressful holiday? And if you are not hosting will you try the tips to show your thankfulness?

  • Dump a tradition: I think by now you may have gathered from my blog that I love traditions. I love the connection to the past and the rhythms that traditions create in our lives. But if you are like me and have an overwhelming number of traditions, food or otherwise, choose one right now and discard it. Pick one that isn’t that meaningful, or a dish that only one person likes, and tell yourself this isn’t adding to the overall experience. Don’t feel guilty because everyone in your family has done it for years and you’ll be breaking tradition; just allow yourself the extra space. One less thing to worry about.
  • Turn off the TV: Speaking of dumping a tradition, and right now half of you hate me for saying this, turn off the T.V. I don’t care if you are watching the Macy’s parade or the football game, just turn it off. Thanksgiving should be about spending quality time with your family, talking with one another. Don’t know what to say? Take 5 minutes and have everyone write down an interesting question on a piece of paper, throw them in a mixing bowl and grab one at random. Take turns going around the table and answering the questions. Who knows? You might even learn something new about one another.
  • Leave the dirty dishes in the sink: Yes I know this one was a little unexpected for me to say, but do the dishes really have to be done right after dinner? Why don’t you sit down with your cup of coffee enjoy your pie, or several varieties of pie, and don’t think about the dishes for at least an hour. Agreed?

For those of you not hosting:

  • If you are not cooking, bring a hostess gift: This used to be SOP (standard operating procedure) for any guest coming into someone’s home. Now when someone actually does this it comes as a shock. Even if you are eating Thanksgiving at your parent’s house, bring a gift. This of course is not necessary if you are bringing or helping to make a dish, but for everyone else there is no excuse. Bring a bottle of wine, practically everyone likes wine, or for your teetotaling friends (like me!) bring some flowers. Heck I would be excited if someone brought saran wrap for leftovers.
  • Help clean the kitchen (or watch the kids etc): Take some of the load off your other family members by agreeing to clean the kitchen or watch the kids while they clean. Try to be as helpful as possible so everyone can enjoy the holiday.
  • Tell your host they did a good job: Maybe the mashed potatoes were cold or Aunty Patty’s pie isn’t as good as Mom’s, whatever the faults of the meal, tell your host and hostess that you appreciated the invitation and that they did a good job. On Thanksgiving of all holidays try to be gracious and give thanks to those who worked hard so you could enjoy a feast.

So enjoy your Thanksgiving, enjoy spending this precious time with your family, and enjoy the blessings that you have.

5 Steps to Being a Classy Conversationalist

Actively Listen

Have you ever felt that while you were talking, the person you are talking to is not actually listening to what you are saying, but simply waiting for a pause in the conversation to start talking? They are listening to you, but not engaging with what you are saying. This is because they are not actively listening. Active listening is “fully conce

Classy, Conversationalist,

Classy Conversations

ntrating on what is being said rather than just passively ‘hearing’ the message of the speaker.” Obviously a classy person would never want to give the impression to another that they were not listening, but active listening is more than the passive listening that we do when we watch T.V. or listen to the radio. It requires engaging with the other person’s statements by asking questions or offering clarification. Listeners can also engage by reflecting on or summarizing what has been said to show the other speaker that clear communication is taking place. Active listening may not make you the life of the party, but it will help you have meaningful and memorable conversations.

If you struggle with this like I do the good news is that these skills can be learned. Most of us are not born with this innate ability and time spent passively listening to the T.V. can corrupt even the most apt person’s skills. Try asking a friend to coffee and practice. Focus on your body language first, look them in the eyes, keep your focus at your table and do not look around the room, sit up straight to help convey and maintain attentiveness, try really hard not to play with things at the table (I am infamous for playing with paper napkins). Once you have your body language down begin to practice questioning, reflecting and summarizing as the conversation drifts from topic to topic. In a few weeks you will find that these things will begin to take less effort, keep at it and you may even have people compliment you on being a good listener.

 

Make The Conversation About Them

Just as it takes two to tango it also takes two to have a conversation. A classy conversationalist will not hog the conversation by speaking only of themselves. Instead when you are speaking to others ask about them. Ask basic questions when meeting someone for the first time: What do they do? What are their hobbies? Asking questions to draw someone out and then actively listening will make the other person feel easy around you and hopefully they will walk away with the impression that you are a friendly and inviting person. For someone that you have met previously, a friend or acquaintance, try to ask about something brought up in a previous conversation (a good use of your active listening skills). This will show them that you cared enough to remember a small detail of their life. As everyone likes to feel important even in a small way, doing this will make the other person feel good about themselves.

 

Give Compliments

I don’t mean meaningless “I like your tie” kinds of compliments, but if you notice something about the other person that strikes you, then tell them. Tailor the compliment to them by not simply saying “I like your tie,” but instead say that “the tie looks great with your suit.” Guys don’t be afraid of giving reasonable compliments; it’s ok to compliment someone’s knowledge of a subject or their personality. This will not make you seem less manly, I promise. Genuine compliments are one of the best ways to uplift another person and can help you be a classy conversationalist.

 

Speak Clearly

If you have ever had a conversation with someone you can barely understand you know it’s frustrating and easily causes communication problems. Speaking clearly prevents both of these things and can give you self-confidence. That’s right, even if you aren’t the most confident person you can help yourself look and feel more confident by speaking clearly and enunciating properly. You don’t need to roll your “R’s” like Patrick Stewart, but you should try to pronounce words as clearly as possible. Also, don’t use large vocabulary words unless you know how to properly pronounce them. For example I was walking around saying niche as nit-ch (as in rhymes with itch) until my husband informed me that niche is neeesh – darn those French words.

 

Avoid being Argumentative

This one can be difficult for people. I am not going to tell you not to talk about politics or religion, because I believe that these can be some of the most interesting aspects of people and make the most interesting conversations. That being said, asking someone to share a religious or political opinion should not lead to an argument or even a debate where one party is trying to convince the other the error of their ways. Showing respect for another’s beliefs and opinions is an important part of being a classy conversationalist. If you feel you must debate with a person instead of exchanging viewpoints, then avoid difficult topics. Use a conversation to learn about the other person’s life and reserve debates until you are good enough friends that your friendship can survive the debate process.

 

Trying to be a better conversationalist? Why don’t you practice these things and let us know how you’re doing in the comments below?

Who Else Wants To Use Their Dreams To Start A Business?

Do you sometimes wish you could just stand up from your desk and walk away? Have you always dreamed of doing something and never actually started? This article is about a friend of mine, Qwynne Winslow, who asked herself these questions and came up with one simple answer: “You never know if you don’t try”.

Silk Scarfs from Q's Clothiers

Silk Scarfs from Q’s Clothiers

This answer led her to creating Q’s Clothiers. Currently offering a selection of handmade silk and blended fabric scarfs, Qwynne intends to eventually expand her company to deliver beautiful and well-made clothes to her customers. She has a surprising twist to her business plan though. 10% of everything Q’s Clothiers sells will be donated to non-profits and eventually even the clothing will be made by refugees and women rescued from sex trafficking. As Qwynne told me, “I want to give back to the global community and help marginalized women provide for themselves.”

But how did she get started and how can you do the same?

  1. Have a vision

Qwynne’s dream of combining her passions for fashion and non-profit work actually sprang from on offhand comment someone made to her. “Someone asked me what brand of clothes I liked to wear and a friend answered – she wants to have her own line of clothing.” After realizing the truth in that statement Qwynne got to work, she “sat down in a coffee shop, wrote down ideas, and started researching and talking to others in the field.” She even moved to a different city to be closer to a hub of the fashion industry. After making some connections in the fashion community Qwynne contacted people she knew who were part of non-profit organizations to help women. The goal had always been to combine her passions and this vision gave her the drive she needed to take the next steps.

  1. Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks

She saved what she could from her day job and eventually made the jump, quit her job and moved to Florida. “It’s a risk, but I don’t think I am made for a typical desk job and I had this idea I wanted to pursue and was at a point when I could, so I just thought I’d try.” After making a “vision” plan and registering her LLC she began to research fabric, the best kind of scarfs, packaging, branding, and marketing. She encourages anyone who wants to start their own business to do as much research as possible and, “not be overwhelmed by everything and take small steps, take one task at a time.”

  1. Have a plan

After several months work she has sold her first products (yes I own one!), hired her first employees and will have her debut event – to show case her collection – in a few weeks. “My debut event is a house party, but I didn’t want it to be a party where I was just pushing my product on people. Q’s Clothiers is supposed to be about more than that. So for a more value added experience I am having an inspirational speaker come, as well as, a photographer for mini photo-shoots. That way everyone can have fun trying on the accessories and getting their photographs taken.” Qwynne will also be launching her website soon. The site will likely provide the bulk of her sales, though she will also be partnering with local boutiques.

I know for many of us this appears to be an impossible dream. Student loans, family duties, and lack of experience seem insurmountable odds, but when I asked Qwynne what surprised her about starting her own business she admitted that, “everything I have done has been so brand new it’s all been a surprise.” But that she was also surprised by “how supportive and helpful and encouraging everyone has been. That’s really been a blessing.” Qwynne’s idea of combining luxury and charity is just one reason I wanted to feature her on Pearls Before Bling, because really – how much classier can you get? But I also wanted to encourage you to be inventive and see what you can do by combining your own passions. You might just surprise yourself.

One Simple Step to Improve Your Image: Stop Swearing

My great-grandfather was a soft spoken man; he never uttered a swear word in his life. Until one day, in the middle of an argument, he said “D-mn it” and the world stopped. No one dared to breath and no one dared move. This man was mad. Not just mad, but furious.  Image Credit: http://www.sodahead.com/fun/i-speak-fluent-profanity-do-you/question-2570163/?link=ibaf&q=&imgurl=http://images.sodahead.com/polls/002570163/profanity-73809626759_xlarge.png

Now compare that to Carol Bartz, former CEO of Yahoo!, who was famous for her profanity (caution: linked article includes strong language). One incident in particular stands out to me. This incident is when she declared on a live conference call with Wall Street analysts, “Nobody’s f-ing doing anything.” She then followed her exclamation with “Excuse me. I knew that would slip out one of these times.” Incidents like this were a PR nightmare for the company and many speculate that Carol’s language was part of the reason she was fired.

So let’s get to the “who cares” of the matter: you should. Who would you rather be? The man who grabs everyone’s attention and makes people listen or someone who is famous for not having enough self-control to prevent embarrassing herself and her company?

Some of you may be thinking that this approach is stuffy and outdated, but I have found that if you replace your swearing with language that has positive and meaningful content people will rarely find you stuffy. If you have to rely on the sensationalist tactics of foul language in order to avoid being stuffy you may want to consider learning how to improve as a conversationalist.

This is why I stopped swearing. I wanted people to focus on what I was saying, not which words were coming out of my mouth. I wanted to break myself of the habit so that I could use my language intentionally. Swearing is not only a bad habit, but one that has the potential to offend people around you and tells people you don’t have any self-control. It can even lead to losing your job as “thirty-eight percent of the managers who have fired employees for violating office etiquette cited cursing as the reason for the termination.”

There are a plethora of articles available on why swearing is good for you. Pain relief, control, retribution, humor, social bonding, self-expression and personal health are all reasons given in the article 7 Best Reasons for Swearing. The one thing that they all mention however is that most of these “benefits” only work if you don’t swear very often. “The key is to do it sparingly and not to get angry at the same time, which would be very bad for you—as well as terribly vulgar.” I would go a step further and claim that these benefits are irrelevant. The benefit of not swearing far surpasses the possibility of a brief surge of adrenaline or the self-satisfaction of “non-violent” retribution. That benefit is respect. Having the self-control to monitor your language and only swear when the situation calls for it gains the respect of those around you. Not only do you end up looking more professional and more in control, but no one will ever compare your language to the people on Jersey Shore.

How do you kick the habit? The first step of breaking any habit is to remove or limit triggers. For most people this means limiting the amount of swearing you hear in a day. Generally the easiest way to do this is by changing the media you are consuming. If you limit yourself to songs and movies without cussing in them you may be cutting the number of swear words you hear in a week by more than half. Ask your friends and family to limit their swearing around you. This doesn’t have to be an awkward conversation, simply tell them that you are trying to develop a more professional persona and it would help if they lessened the amount of swearing they did around you. The key is to not be condemning of their behavior (after all you were using the language too) as this can cause people to become defensive. You can also use replacements (“goodness gracious” is a personal favorite) just be careful to use these sparingly as the point of the exercise is to control which words you are using and not just blurt things out.

Ultimately you will find that you are no longer even thinking swear words anymore. You may even find that people will unconsciously stop swearing around you so that co-workers who don’t know you are trying to quit will stop swearing at work. I can tell you from personal experience that this makes for a calmer and less emotional environment. Once you have achieved the ability to stub your toe and shout “drat” instead of the alternative you can use your new found self-control to help break other bad habits.

 

3 Ways To Keep It Classy

Have you ever walked away from an interaction with someone else and wondered,”What must that person think of me?”

Audrey Hepburn - Classic Style

Audrey Hepburn – Classic Style

Have you ever wished to have a better understanding of how to be like the classy people you admire? Behavior is so important, because as Benjamin Rush tells us, “Remember at all times that while you are seeing the world, the world will see you.” At this point, like me, you may be asking yourself, “But how do you do it right?” Let’s take a look at a few classy people from history and see what they have to say.

1) Considered one of the premier fashion designers for classy clothing, Ralph Lauren actually started his company by selling ties and spent more time learning business than fashion design (don’t worry guys, Lauren also has an awesome car collection). Here is what he says about his style,  “I know I have a signature. I know there’s a New England sensibility. I know there’s a cowboy sensibility. I think there’s a sports sensibility. They’re all mixed. But they all come from non-fashion. They all have an origin of being natural, timeless, real—comfortable sensibilities.” Natural, timeless and real, pretty good advice for achieving your own classy image, even if you don’t wear Ralph Lauren. To be truly classy you cannot simply follow trends, but you have to incorporate these elements and be yourself. This way the world is looking at you and not a concoction of other people’s ideas.

2) Audrey Hepburn is another American icon. Known for more than her good looks and style, she is considered by many to be The Example of class. Probably because of quotes like this: “For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.” This quote shows that the backbone of being classy is character, a positive attitude (looking for the good in others), self-control (prevent yourself from speaking negatively), and confidence. These qualities will go a long way towards keeping it classy and will certainly help you in other aspects of your life.

3) It might surprise you to find this last person on my list, George Washington. Most commonly known as the first President of the United States, as a young man he wrote out multiple times the Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. This work, thought to be his school writings, has 110 rules about etiquette and though many are no longer applicable (how does one politely deal with fleas?) he covers some of the most important aspects of being classy. For example, “Every action done in company, ought to be with some sign of respect, to those that are present.” This is one of the best rules to follow if you want to be classy. It’s so simple too – be respectful to people around you; not only will you win friends this way, but you will never be seen as trashy or obnoxious.

These are just a few people with some good advice for you on how to keep it classy. Check out Pearls Before Bling next week for an article on Coffee Shops and intellectual discourse.