There is a correct response for every social situation. Most of us get it right most of the time. However, when we don’t our Ms. Modern Manners Sharon Schweitzer, JD, is on board to give us a hand up in potentially awkward matters.

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

I‘m a tall female with short, cropped hair. In fact, I saw it on the streets of Paris and had to have the chic look. I’m frequently welcomed to shops or restaurants with a loud “Hello, sir.” Once they realize their faux pas, they stumble awkwardly apologizing and backtracking. This mislabeling is hurtful for those who are transgender or gender-nonconforming. How do I graciously respond?

 Inquiring Mind

Dear Mindfully Inquiring,

Like all things, etiquette evolves with the times. What was appropriate historically may not work as smoothly today. The clerk was more than likely intending respect with their greeting, and it will create a more gracious atmosphere if you give them the benefit of the doubt. Keep in mind that military and Southerners will say sir and ma’am out of habit. If a clerk is unsure about an appropriate greeting, they can leave off the gender tag and say “Good morning” or “Good afternoon.”

The next time this mislabeling occurs, respond with a genuine smile and a warm tone, “Please consider dropping the ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’ from your friendly greeting. It hurts when you get it wrong.” Sales associates will be more cautious or try to break the habit.

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

I have been encouraged to improve my professional protocol since I am losing accounts and the respect of my colleagues because of oversharing on social media and being a jerk. However, I’ve no motivation to do so. It seems overwhelming. Where do I start?

                                                                                                                                      Social Media Boor

Dear Feeling Boorish,

Motivation is the key to achieving our professional and personal goals, succeeding in our careers, and improving ourselves as lifelong works in progress. It can come from anywhere…from our personal relationships, to a desire to overcome adverse circumstances and achieve success. Whatever its source, motivation can make the difference between reaching our dreams, and watching them pass us by.

In order to remain a driving force in our lives, motivation must be maintained as a source of inspiration and resilience. To keep motivation high, it’s important to remind yourself why you began your professional or personal journey in the first place. Are you seeking a promotion that would allow you to exercise your creative abilities? Whatever your reason, here are four easy tips for maintaining motivation and achieving your ambitions:

  1. Write down your end goal and why you want to achieve it, note the date at the top of the page, and re-read your response often. Think of this as a promise every day that you’re making to yourself as a conduit towards fulfilling that commitment.
  2. Keep a source of inspiration somewhere you can see it each day. Make your phone screen a picture of your dream vacation destination, keep a family photo nearby, or tape your dream university’s brochure above your desk. Visualizing your goals will remind you why you’re working so hard and encourage you to stay the course.
  3. Success is a marathon, not a sprint. Instead of setting a long-term goal that may take years to accomplish, come up with a timeline of benchmarks that break down your goal into more feasible steps. When you reach an important milestone, celebrate your achievement; then look forward to the next step in attaining your goal.

Finally, consider finding a coach or mentor with experience in your field who can advise you on how to reach your goal. Set up weekly meetings to decide where you need to improve, and what successes you’ve achieved so far. Not only is a coach or mentor a great source of insight, but they will ask all the right questions and hold you accountable to them.



When taking the high road in life, the view is always better. Here, our Ms. Modern Manners Sharon Schweitzer, J.D. of Access to Culture, helps to demysty current social issues so that we may elevate our understanding.

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

In social situations, I am in a quandary of whether to shake hands or give a quick peck hello. How do I determine which is most appropriate?

Kiss Or Tell?

Dear Kiss, Don’t Tell,

In a social context, it will depend on the situation and group culture. Greetings can be situational. If it’s a more international crowd in the U.S., respond to a greeting in a way comfortable for you that may include a kiss on the cheek or a hug. If you are in the southwestern U.S., hugs and air kisses are common. If you’re traveling outside the U.S., adopt the local customs and observe greetings made by others. Know the comfort level of those around you, and choose the greeting appropriate for the occasion.

In the U.S. business, a warm handshake is the best professional greeting. Only when it is a cultural fit should you go for the quick, friendly side-hug with someone you have previously met. Avoid any potential contact which could be construed as inappropriate behavior, which could include being too touchy with prolonged hugs, kisses on the cheeks, or casual touching of the arm or back that could make others uncomfortable. You don’t know your coworkers’ boundaries, so don’t risk crossing a line.

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

Is it ever okay to ghost? Even after just one date?

Casper the Friendly Ghost

Dear Ghosted,

Ghosting is not only disrespectful to both parties, but it reflects a lack of self respect. Whether you are emailing, texting, calling, or on a dating site, it is best to send a simple acknowledgement that you aren’t interested in pursuing anything further or that there just wasn’t a connection. If you are feeling particularly gracious, wish them luck in their future endeavors. Social graces don’t require you to do anything else. You may un-match or stop communicating at that point without ghosting.

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

We just learned that we will be making regular 17-hour flights to the UAE for business. How can we stay sane and survive these flights if there are children in the business and first-class cabins?

Off To The Middle East

Dear Dubai-Bound,

Just the thought of travel in a sealed steel tube at 30K feet raises the blood pressure for most. Numerous surveys reveal that the top air travel annoyance is “OPK” or other people’s kids. Especially the seat-kicking, misbehaving ones who are behind you. The modern advice for travelers is to come prepared with an inexpensive favorite kid’s book or toy.

When you discover that a child is seated near you, ask the parent if you may give them the book or toy. The idea is to befriend them early on so they are less inclined to act out and interrupt you during the flight. Always ask the parent first if it’s okay to give their child the toy or book. Some travelers bring fruit snacks and ask parents if this is permissible. Many parents disregard home rules regarding screen time and snacks during a flight.