As we begin the spring social season, it is the perfect chance to master more social opportunities. Our Ms. Etiquette Expert, Sharon M. Schweitzer, J.D., is always on the scene to lend stellar insight into any modern conundrums that may arise.

 

Dear Ms. Etiquette Expert,
What’s the best way to pay a genuine compliment to a colleague without it seeming like I am too friendly, or worse, a participant in sexual harassment?
Gent at The Office
Dear Gentlemanly Behavior,

Dear Ms. Etiquette Expert,
What’s the best way to pay a genuine compliment to a colleague without it seeming like I am too friendly, or worse, a participant in sexual harassment?

Gent at The Office                                   Dear Gentlemanly Behavior,

An unintended consequence of the #MeToo movement is that many men are unsure of how to interact with women in the workplace. The headlines highlight all the wrong behaviors without mentioning any positive actions. In a perfect world, men will compliment women for their work accomplishments, as opposed to their appearance. Until we reach that pinnacle, the workforce is left in a conundrum with questions about whether it’s appropriate to compliment a new hair design or jacket. So, consider this approach: “Great plaid coat.” or “Slayed that new haircut.” It’s best to avoid commentary about someone’s body, wardrobe suggestions, or your emotions and feelings about their looks.

 

Dear Ms. Etiquette Expert,
Since its spring gala season, can you please settle a bet? I say that if we are guests at a host’s table at a non-profit event, we are obligated to buy a silent or live auction item to support our host’s cause. My wife says no. What say ye?

Gala Going                                                          Dear Gala Goer,
One theory supports your wife’s position that hosts invite guests to charitable events with the hope that they will develop an interest in the charity that blossoms into building a donor relationship–without an expectation, that guests will buy an auction item or write a check that evening. When a host invites someone, there isn’t a fee for accepting. The host’s gala table covers all guest costs unless a prior agreement is made to purchase the table seat. The charity may request a contribution with an auction or compelling verbal appeal. However, a substantial portion of their revenue is earned through table sponsorships. As a guest, if you’re feeling generous, contributing will please your host. Consider the alternative: if an auction item purchase is always expected, then potential guests may be tempted to decline fundraising invitations, or worse yet RSVP yes and then decide to stay home the night of the event.

The alternative position is that accepting an invitation obligates the guest to donate at the charity event. Some argue that the donation was already made, and the guest is offered the tickets as a “gift” because a percentage of the ticket price covers the event costs. Therefore, the host has the right to expect the guest’s support with a donation for the ticket value (or an amount they can afford.) These hosts believe that the guest’s contribution demonstrates the guest’s thanks and good faith and allows the guest to secure a reciprocal opportunity to call in the favor later for their own cause. Sounds complicated, doesn’t it?

Dear Ms. Etiquette Expert,
My dear friend, who is on a tight budget, yet loves to support the community, often asks to borrow and switch gowns. Not only do I not want to, since we’re close, yet different sizes, but also want to retain my individual style. How do I politely refuse?

Gowned & Ready                               Dear Gowned For Glory,
Setting healthy boundaries with friends and family is a life-long endeavor. New requests seem to arrive daily to borrow clothing, attend expensive soirées, or host events. Remember that people-pleasing is also known as “the disease to please.” Saying yes when it’s healthier to say no can cause resentment that undermines a friendship. Avoid doing this disservice by saying no since gowns are investments to you. By declining, one can protect the gown’s investment. A stained gown can ruin a friendship. Consider responding to her request with “thanks for the offer to exchange gowns, what a compliment. However, I don’t lend my clothing to anyone.” Offer an alternative such as shopping online or going gown shopping together. Avoid implying a lack of trust–instead remind her that you’re typically a generous lender of sporting equipment (“Yes, absolutely you can borrow my golf clubs”), but gowns and clothes are off-limits.