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 etiquette expert Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is on board to give us a hand up in potentially awkward matters.

Dear Ms. Etiquette Expert,

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. Etiquette Expert,

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.