Book Four of 94: Zapp! The Lightning of Empowerment

Book 4 of 94: Zapp! – The Lightning of Empowerment by William C. Byham, Ph.D. with Jeff Cox

My mother was a corporate trainer by trade so her house is filled to the brim with leadership and management books.  She may have the same book hoarding problem that I have.  In fact, she is likely responsible for the book hoarding problem that I have.  I went to school for business management and I am always intrigued by new ways to lead people and to help them reach their potential.  So, my bookshelves have always been weighted down by leadership and management books over the years.  This particular book sat on my mother’s shelves for the last twenty years.  (Side note: if you ever sell used books, don’t expect to get much for management books that are older than a year!)

Summary:  Zapp!  Is a fable about Normal Company and it tells the tale of difficult management and how people can work together to overcome the pitfalls of short-sighted managers.  The book was written as a fable to help the concepts seem more applicable to the reader.  I, however, found the fable to be somewhat distracting and would have preferred if the book just used a real world situation, but that’s just my humble opinion.

My Three Takeaways from Zapp!

Number 1:

The company I work for is not unique in its challenges.  It is easy to sit and daydream about how much better life would be if I worked for a different company with group of managers who knew how to lead people.  How harmonious it would be to work on a team that actually functioned as a team.  But, the truth is, there are good managers and bad managers at every organization.  And, no matter how good a team may be, everyone still knows who the top performer is and who the weakest link is. So in that regard, I guess it is comforting to know that every organization struggles with these same issues.

Number 2:

Teams need to have their voices heard and to feel like they have a say in their own success or failure.  I worked closely with my manager last year to develop the plan for the upcoming fiscal year.  We spent hours and hours going over reports, redoing presentation slides, and creating goals for each of the team members that were greater than last year, but still achievable.  During our many, many discussions I presented what I thought was the best way to hold people accountable for meeting their quotas.  My system would automatically increase goals after a lower performing week or decrease goals after a higher performing week.  The goals were in constant flux so that each team member could directly see how their performance impacted the goals for the year.  This system would also give the team members an opportunity to celebrate their success when they exceeded their goals by showing them how the weekly goals for the remainder of the year would decrease as a result of their efforts.  On the opposite side of that coin, if the team members did not have a stellar week, the weekly goals for the remainder of the year would increase accordingly so that they would know what they would need to do to stay on track to reach their annual goal.

My system was immediately rejected and I was told that people wouldn’t work as hard because their mentality would become, “I exceeded my goal by five last week, so I don’t have to work as hard this week.”  I found this assessment to be utterly insulting.  If that were the case, it would stand to reason that team members would not bring in additional numbers once they achieved their goal for the week.  As proof to the contrary: Last week I produced the highest numbers in one week that I have ever produced.  I produced the highest numbers for one period in two weeks than I have ever produced (and I still have two weeks left in the period).  I have exceeded my annual goal (there are still three and a half months left in our fiscal year). And I will likely hit my stretch goal for the year.  Most managers reading this would immediately say that either my goals were too low to begin with, or that I outgrew my goals and it is time to increase them.  However, the truth of the matter is that I worked at a different location for a month and learned some new tricks of the trade, collaborated with people who do my specific job, and was completely reinvigorated by a change in my routine.  My managers don’t want to know that though.  And just like that, I feel Sapped instead of Zapped!

Number 3:

I used to be of the mindset that “doing was learning”.  Of course, I believe in training, mentoring and follow up but I also believed that the best way to learn a job was to do a job.  After reading Zapp!  I learned the problem with this method of teaching.  When you are training someone how to do a job by having them do the job, your next step is to correct everything they did wrong, which is likely to be a lot of errors since they are just learning the job.  So, right off the bat, you have inadvertently made them feel like they don’t know what they’re doing… even though they don’t… because you haven’t taught them anything yet.

Byham suggests the following steps to effective train and coach someone:

  1. Explain purpose and importance of what you are trying to teach.
  2. Explain the process to be used.
  3. Show how it’s done.
  4. Observe while the person practices the process.
  5. Provide immediate and specific feedback (coach again or reinforce success).
  6. Express confidence in the person’s ability to be successful.
  7. Agree on follow-up action.

(Byham & Cox, 1988)

I think a lot of people overlook the importance of the first step.  In fact, I think overlooking the first step is why I always struggled so much with math in school.  But why??!!  Why must I use Pythagorean’s theorem?  The constant response to any of my questions was always, “because that’s just what you do”.  Never once did I have a teacher who could/would explain it any better than that.  When training someone in a new role or function, it is important for them to understand why they are doing what they are doing and how it impacts the greater picture.  Many managers make the mistake of thinking that if the following task is not in a person’s job description they don’t need to know about it.  In truth, when people understand what the next step is in the process, even if they are not the ones who will complete that step, it creates a great sense of ownership over their specific task.

The other major mistake that I see a lot of managers make is that they do not provide follow up.  If they do provide follow up, it is in the form of an annual review, which is neither immediate nor entirely accurate.  If managers made follow up a priority, they would make time to follow up and they would find that they actually had MORE time to complete on other tasks because they would spend LESS time correcting mistakes.

Who should read this book?

  • Anyone who wants something quick to read on a plane ride from Detroit to Chicago (or on another trip of similar distance).
  • Anyone who wants to quickly brush up on their management, training, and team developing skills.

Who should not read this book?

  • Dictators, they don’t have much need for teamwork.
  • Managers who already know the best ways to manage people and therefore have nothing else they could possible ever learn about management and leadership. (Said in a sarcastic tone.)

Four books down, 90 to go!

Byham, W. C., & Cox, J. (1988). Zapp! The Lightning of Empowerment. New York : Ballantine Books.

Book 3 of 94: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

I purchased this book at a Scholastic Warehouse Book Sale back in November and I just got around to reading it.  I was halfway through when I thought, “I have to be missing something.”  As it turns out, this book is the second book in a three part young adult series.  Of course it is.

Summary: Part love story, part werewolf mystery this is the tantalizing tale of one person struggling to not be who they are, and another struggling to be who they are meant to become.  Of course there is the constant undercurrent of teenage angst that accompanies a book of this genre, but honestly it wasn’t distracting from the story at all.

My Three Main Takeaways From Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Number 1:

When a werewolf transforms back into a human they are always naked, thus I will never be a werewolf.  Seriously, who wants to keep waking up in the nude in public places?  That would be awful.  I am good at using humor to diffuse an awkward situation, but I’m sure I would run out of material after the tenth or eleventh time of appearing naked in front of my friends.

Number 2:

I am not unique in my struggle.  I have always felt like there was something bigger, better and more powerful deep within me struggling to surface.  Like there is a life that I am supposed to be living that is just outside my reach.  Like there is a person inside me that I am meant to become, but I fight that person because I’m too afraid to leave who I am right now behind so that I may become this better version of myself.  I wonder if I will have the strength to meet my inner wolf one day.

Number 3:

I will always love a love story.

Who should read this book?

  • Young adults whose parents “just don’t understand”.
  • Anyone who thinks they might have been bit by a werewolf and are curious about the symptoms.

Who should not read this book?

  • Vampires; they would probably be annoyed by the sappy werewolf story line.
  • Hypochondriacs as they will likely be convinced that their next fever is actually a sign that they are turning into a werewolf.

Three books down, 91 to go!

Stiefvater, M. (2011). Linger. Scholastic, Inc.

Book 2 of 94: Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson

This is a book that has sat unread on the family bookshelf for the last 20 years or so.  I remember seeing it while I was growing up, but I never really took an interest in it.  Now seemed like an appropriate time to read it though.

Summary:  The Moomins are Finnish mythical creatures and this book is the first in the Moomintroll series.  Moomintroll, the lead character, goes on a series of adventures with his family and friends.  They find a magical hat which belongs to the Hobgoblin and causes all sorts of trouble.  They travel to an island and weather a storm and wake the next day to find many treasures along the beach.  This book shares tales of family, the bonds of friendship, and doing the right thing.  It is sweet and endearing and a fun read.

My Three Main Takeaways from Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson

Number 1:

“And don’t come home until you’re better tempered.” (Jansson, 1958)

This quote is from Moominmamma.  The Moomin family is in the middle of a hot summer and Momminmamma is at her wits end with the children who are all bored and hot and underfoot.  So, Moominmamma suggests that they all go sleep in a cave for three days where it will be cooler and where they can go on their own little adventures and give her some room to breathe.   I found this sentiment to be entertaining because every adult who has been around small children during a hot summer has had a similar thought to this.  However, I wager that it would be socially unacceptable if we were to tell children now that they should go sleep in a cave for a few days.  Or would it be?  Huh, if someone could answer this for me by June that would be greatly appreciated.

Number 2:

“We will go home,” said the Hemulen.  “Strange adventures, and getting wet, and carrying on alone and that sort of thing are all very well, but they’re not comfortable in the long run.”  (Jansson, 1958)

I like that this thought is universal.  I love going on vacation and getting away from my day to day responsibilities, but there always comes a moment when I just want to go home.  I want the comfort of my own bed, I want to take a shower in my own shower, and I even want to go back to work.  However, I am still counting down the days until I can lay on a beach for an entire week this summer!

Number 3:

As I mentioned earlier, this book has been in my house for at least 20 years, and it has existed in the world even longer than that.  The copyright is from 1958!  My imagination is a bit rusty, so I looked up some of the characters online to see if I could get a better description of them.  I was astonished, ASTONISHED, with what I found.  While I have casually ignored the Moomins for the majority of my life, Finland has been celebrating them for the last 70 years.  There is a Fan Club.  There is an entire collection of books.  There are mugs, plates, umbrellas, and even Moomin sneakers for sale.  There is a Moomin café.  There is a theme park.  There is a ballet.  A ballet!!!  Amazing!  Check out this link to see what I am talking about.  Who knows, maybe you need a Snorkmaiden mobile phone bag and you didn’t even know it.

Who should read this book?

  • Children with a 4th -6th grade reading level who have an active imagination and love the world of make-believe.
  • Parents who want a good chapter book to read to their kids and don’t mind explaining some of the things that their kids won’t understand.
  • Apparently anyone who is Finnish. Seriously, I feel like you might lose your Finnish citizenship if you haven’t read the Moomin series.

Who should not read this book?

  • People who don’t like magic.
  • Parents who just want their kids to go to sleep and don’t want to explain to them why the Groke is so sad.
  • Kids who don’t know how to read yet. They will probably just rip out the pages and ruin the book for everyone else.

If you are interested in this book please let me know, as I am happy to send it along to its next home.

Two books down, 92 to go!

Jansson, T. (1958). Finn Family Moomintroll. Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc.

Book 1 of 94: Yes Please by Amy Poehler

In the interest of full disclosure, I finished this book a week or so ago.  However, just as Cleveland was starting to see signs of a coming Spring (i.e. hope), we were knocked down by a vicious stomach bug, the details of which I will spare you.  By the time the bug reached me, I was in the midst of hosting six family members visiting from Michigan.  At times it felt like I was experiencing gentrification first hand as my house was quickly rearranged to make it “kid friendly”.  This basically means that all of my breakable treasures were placed on high surfaces and gates were erected that forced me to reconsider yoga each time I attempted to summit one.  So once my family departed and my stomach stopped raging war on me, I decided that it was time to sit down and review my first book.

In short, I loved this book!  In short, I love Amy Poehler!  I figure that I should probably elaborate just a tad though if I intend to recommend this book to any of you.  I also figure that I should have some sort of format if I am going to review a total of 94 books.  I have decided to have a list of “takeaways”.  As I mentioned in my first post on this topic, I tend to highlight or take notes on every book I read.  Sometimes I will highlight a phrase that I think is wonderfully written, a sentiment that resonates with me, or a new bit of information that I intend to research further.    After reading each book I will attempt to narrow all of these things down into the THREE main takeaways which I will then present to you along with a brief summary of the book itself.   Here we go!

Summary:

This book isn’t so much a linear autobiography as it is a collection of reflective essays on Poehler’s life (think David Sedaris style).  In Yes Please, Poehler describes her rise to fame, which was hard fought and well earned.  She tells stories of her adventures and tales of her friends.  In fact, I truly enjoyed the times she spoke of her friends (the famous ones that I am familiar with like Seth Meyers, Nick Offerman, and Tina Fey) because she describes them exactly as I hoped they would all be in “real life”.

Poehler reminds us that very few people, if any, are “discovered” and that people achieve success because they work for it every single day and they refuse to give up on their dreams.  She reminds us that famous people still experience the same heartaches and tribulations that those of us who are only famous in our own dreams experience.  She is someone with whom I would like to be friends because I think she is intelligent, funny, and empowering.  Amy Poehler is MY definition of a feminist, someone who believes in and supports the power and strength that women have to create their own happy endings and not the traditional definition of a feminist who supports women’s rights to have a happy ending that is merely equal to the happy ending of a man.

My Three Main Takeaways from Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Number 1:

I didn’t really know who I was, but improv had taught me that I could be anyone.  I didn’t have to wait to be cast – I could give myself the part. (Poehler, 2014)

As people, but especially women, we tend to wait for permission to do things.  We know which roles we play and we act accordingly.  However, if there is ever something that we want in life that exceeds our roles, we tend to wait for someone to give us the permission to pursue those things.  I do this… a lot.  I’m okay with being “good”, but it’s like I’m waiting around for someone to tell me that it is okay to be great.  Amy swopped in like a sparkling little fairy godmother and granted me the permission (that I didn’t need but I still sought) to cast myself in any role that I want.  We all need people in our lives who remind us that while God is still the Producer, by granting us free will, He gave us the role of Director in our own lives.  This is the encouragement I needed to start writing my own script.

Number 2:

I learned that I was getting way too good at a job that was not my life’s passion. (Poehler, 2014)

I have been blessed to work for a great company for the last ten years.  I have learned a tremendous amount, both personally and professionally, and I have grown in ways that I never could have imagined when I first took the job all those years ago.  But the truth is, while I enjoy my job and I am exceptionally good at it, it is not my life’s passion.  In fact, last year I caught the eye and the praise of one of our regional managers and he encouraged me to increase my role within the company.  At the time, I was so flattered by what he saw in me that I believed that moving up in my company was what I actually wanted.  Through a series of events I did not receive a promotion, and while I was devastated at the time, I know now that the Producer stepped in and canceled that production for my own good.

This isn’t all to say that I am going to up and quit tomorrow, far from it.  I have a vested interest in staying where I am for the time being; however, I am spending more time contemplating what I am passionate about.  I have taken steps to align myself with the things that matter to me and I am slowly working those things into my life on a daily basis.  I’m realizing that I can have both, financial stability and rewarding work.  For the time being those things may not come from the same place, but I’m convinced that I will find a way to have financial stability while pursuing my life’s passion when the time is right.

Number 3:

My ideal night out is a dinner party in my backyard with a group of like-minded friends whom I boss around in a gentle and loving way. (Poehler, 2014)

A huge part of being an adult is not just recognizing and accepting who you are, it is also about owning it.  I am bossy.  I like to be social, but on my terms.  I’m not interested in going to clubs or trendy bars; I don’t care for all that noise and, frankly, I don’t really like being that close to strangers.  Any conversation is going to lack some depth when one must yell to be heard.   Instead, I have found that I’ve settled in nicely to enjoying the company of a handful of people at a time.  I force my adult friends into “arts and crafts” hour when I invite them over for a Valentine’s Day party.  They might moan for a moment or two, but eventually they relent and end up having a good time.  This is who I am, and I like who I am.

Who should read this book?

  • People with a sense of humor who enjoy playful sarcasm.
  • People who want to feel empowered about chasing their dreams.
  • People who are friendly and believe that the world could use a touch of friendliness.

Who should not read this book?

  • People who don’t know how to take a joke.
  • People who think that they shouldn’t have to work to make their dreams come true.
  • People who cut in line.

One book down, 93 to go!

Poehler, A. (2014). Yes Please. New York: HarperCollins.

Books, Books, Books: I Am a Hoarder of Books

My name is Erin Elise and I am a hoarder of books. I’ve always known this on one level or another, but I haven’t always been willing to admit it. I’m finally ready to admit it to the world!

The weather in Cleveland, much like everywhere else in the U.S., has been frigid at best and downright murderous at worst. I had to stand outside for a full minute the other day and I was ready to just give up on any hope of feeling warmth ever again and let go of my grasp on this world. It was tragic and it broke my spirit just a little bit. I have a feeling that that is not what Elsa meant when she said, “Let it go.”

While I know there are snow bunnies in this country who feel delight in this weather, I have become less like a bunny and more like a bear, a grouchy bear that is huddling deep in my cave and is angry that I am not sleeping until the world thaws. Seriously though, how long until the world thaws? Today I decided to stop being such a Grumpy Gus and make use of all of the time I am spending indoors. I started the cleaning projects that I have been putting off for too long, like cleaning my craft room, organizing my junk drawer, and finally washing those Tupperware containers in my fridge that have long forgotten what it is that they hold.

During my deep cleaning process I kept finding books all over the place, like in every single room of my house. The thing about these books though is that these are the books that I have been collecting to read “someday”. These books are from bookstores, Amazon, library book sales, and most recently, a Scholastic Warehouse Book Sale. I went to a book sale knowing that I already had plenty of books at home still to read. I can’t help it though. When I see a book sale I start to feel a panicking deep inside. I start to feel like there might be a book there that I HAVE to read, like there might be a book there that could change my life. I will think about it until I drive myself crazy and eventually just go to the damn sale. I know it’s not entirely normal. I know I have a problem.

So today I gathered all of these “someday” books and brought them into one room. I organized them into their own categories and came up with the following inventory:

Fiction – 36
Biographies, Memoirs, Personal Essays – 20
Self-Help / Personal Improvement – 19
Business, Management, Leadership – 12
Random Non-Fiction – 5
Religious – 2

That is a whopping total of 94 books!!! Ninety-four books! I know some people who don’t even have 94 books in their home, let alone 94 in their home on their “someday” shelf. To read all of those books this year I would need to read roughly eight a month, or two a week. Yikes! To make matters worse, most of the biographies are 700-1000 pages long, so that’s not getting done in a week. But, I will give it my best shot.

I, Erin Elise, endeavor to read 94 books by the end of this year. Furthermore, as I need to stop hoarding books, once I am done with them, I will pass them along to their next home. I will make an effort to review each book. This review might be a paragraph, a sentence, or perhaps even just a word. So if you see a book on my page that interests you (if I really enjoyed the book I don’t intend to give it away), let me know and I will send if your way. Be forewarned though that I highlight most of my books.

So, enough writing, I’ve got some serious reading to do!

Books, Books, Books: I Am a Hoarder of Books

My name is Erin Elise and I am a hoarder of books.  I’ve always known this on one level or another, but I haven’t always been willing to admit it.  I’m finally ready to admit it to the world!

The weather in Cleveland, much like everywhere else in the U.S., has been frigid at best and downright murderous at worst.  I had to stand outside for a full minute the other day and I was ready to just give up on any hope of feeling warmth ever again and let go of my grasp on this world.  It was tragic and it broke my spirit just a little bit.  I have a feeling that that is not what Elsa meant when she said, “Let it go.”

While I know there are snow bunnies in this country who feel delight in this weather, I have become less like a bunny and more like a bear, a grouchy bear that is huddling deep in my cave and is angry that I am not sleeping until the world thaws.  Seriously though, how long until the world thaws?  Today I decided to stop being such a Grumpy Gus and make use of all of the time I am spending indoors.  I started the cleaning projects that I have been putting off for too long, like cleaning my craft room, organizing my junk drawer, and finally washing those Tupperware containers in my fridge that have long forgotten what it is that they hold.

During my deep cleaning process I kept finding books all over the place, like in every single room of my house.  The thing about these books though is that these are the books that I have been collecting to read “someday”.  These books are from bookstores, Amazon, library book sales, and most recently, a Scholastic Warehouse Book Sale.  I went to a book sale knowing that I already had plenty of books at home still to read.  I can’t help it though.  When I see a book sale I start to feel a panicking deep inside.  I start to feel like there might be a book there that I HAVE to read, like there might be a book there that could change my life.  I will think about it until I drive myself crazy and eventually just go to the damn sale.  I know it’s not entirely normal.  I know I have a problem.

So today I gathered all of these “someday” books and brought them into one room.  I organized them into their own categories and came up with the following inventory:

Fiction – 36

Biographies, Memoirs, Personal Essays – 20

Self-Help / Personal Improvement – 19

Business, Management, Leadership – 12

Random Non-Fiction – 5

Religious – 2

That is a whopping total of 94 books!!! Ninety-four books!  I know some people who don’t even have 94 books in their home, let alone 94 in their home on their “someday” shelf.  To read all of those books this year I would need to read roughly eight a month, or two a week.  Yikes!  To make matters worse, most of the biographies are 700-1000 pages long, so that’s not getting done in a week.  But, I will give it my best shot.

I, Erin Elise, endeavor to read 94 books by the end of this year.  Furthermore, as I need to stop hoarding books, once I am done with them, I will pass them along to their next home.  I will make an effort to review each book.  This review might be a paragraph, a sentence, or perhaps even just a word.  So if you see a book on my page that interests you (if I really enjoyed the book I don’t intend to give it away), let me know and I will send if your way.  Be forewarned though that I highlight most of my books.

So, enough writing, I’ve got some serious reading to do!

Red Wine

You fight.

You fight and you say things and you end it, not because you necessarily want it to end, but because you don’t know how to fix it.

And in that end you don’t find relief, just more anger and hurt because you don’t know how to go from loving him to hating him.

He makes it easy for you though because he doesn’t know how to go from loving you to hating you either, so he just ignores you.

He ignores you as you walk in the door and is “surprised” when you’re suddenly by his side.

He ignores you when you’re out with mutual friends and he pretends that he didn’t see you arrive.

He ignores you when you try to say a small and quiet hello in an effort to end his icy silence.

He ignores you.

He ignores you, but he sees you.

He sees you when you laugh and smile with your friends and you know that a part of him misses your laughter.

He sees you as you reach out to him, but he doesn’t know how to take your hand.

He sees you, but he let’s you walk away.

Days, weeks, and months pass and you realize that the hurt has faded away.

You say hello with trepidation and he meets your greeting with the timidness of an injured bird; you both know how badly you can hurt one another.

For months you exchange nothing other than your simple hellos, as if your greetings are potentially building a foundation to something more.

You step carefully because you’re not sure if the cement has set.

One day you make a joke, and he laughs, and you laugh, and you see the sparkle in his eyes and you know that, in that moment, you have reached him.

He knows that you are there, standing where you once stood.

But the moment is a flash of light and then it is gone and you both retreat for fear of what that moment could mean.

Leaves fall from the trees and you exist in a world of in-between.

You no longer live in hate, but you know you don’t live in love.

There is a mutual respect for each other, but the boundaries are still set, until one day his hand is on your back and he stands beside you and asks you how you’ve been.

You know what he means.

He’s asking if there’s anything left, if you still care, if you can feel him reaching out to you.

You don’t know how to answer, so you smile and look him in the eyes as you say that you’re well and silently hope that he knows that the door hasn’t closed.

He asks you out for a drink and you say yes.

You enjoy the drink and the moments that follow because you know it is only a matter of time until you fight.

You fight, you say things, and you end it.

Another Year

The day comes and goes each year.

And each year I see it staring at me from its page on the calendar with trepidation? Anticipation? Some expectation of how I should feel?

And each year I am surprised by how I actually feel.

I realize now that the pain of that day has been soothed to an occasional ache, a colorless lingering nightmare, or a quiet sense of longing.

The tears I thought would never end have all flowed down stream to create new life in a pasture that I may never see.

But, no matter how much time passes, I know a part of my heart will always feel lost and far from home and I will always be in search of my lost shadow.

Erin Elise’s Emily Post Post: Introductions

It has been quite some time since I have updated my blog so I figured what better way to update it than by adding a new section?  This new section will be referred to as “Erin Elise’s Emily Post Post”.  It would be easy for me to sit here and say things like, “Kids these days just don’t have manners anymore!” But let’s be honest with ourselves, I think we all know plenty of adults who possess questionable manners as well.  So, since manners are not taught in schools, many adults don’t even know how to teach their kids proper manners, and I don’t expect you to read the 800 and some pages on etiquette from Emily Post, I have decided to share bits and pieces with you through my blog.  I hope that, over time, we will create a more pleasant world full of people who know how to open doors for strangers, reply to an R.S.V.P., and send out a thank-you card in an appropriate time frame. 

The topics in this section will likely follow my frustrations with the world.  So don’t be surprised if many of these posts are related to proper table manners.  I encourage you to comment on my blog with your personal experiences with the topic, your thoughts on if the proposed manner is still current or outdated, and your questions or suggestions for future topics. 

Today we are going to focus on a topic that is near and dear to my heart, introductions.  I am a huge fan of entertaining and I do my best to make sure that all of my guests feel acknowledged and welcomed;  which is why I find it so frustrating when I go to the gathering of another’s and I am not treated with the same regard.  If you are having guests in your home, know that you are mostly responsible for the introductions. 

Emily Post’s section on “Greetings and Introductions” is 20 pages long, which means there are a lot of formalities that would only be used today in the royal palace.  In fact, one whole page discusses how to introduce and address “the help”.  Since no one I know actually has “help”, we will just stick to the basics. 

Let me start by saying that, unless you severely botch an introduction, any introduction is better than no introduction at all.  Introducing someone lets them know that you value their presence and you want them to feel comfortable.  Nothing is worse than standing in a room full of strangers and having NO ONE acknowledge you.  Sure, we’re all grown adults and we can make the introductions on our own, but that can be incredibly uncomfortable and many of us are not that outgoing. 

When should you introduce someone?

Well, according to Post,

“Introductions are required on many, many occasions; and especially when two strangers meet in the company of a mutual friend.  It is inexcusably rude of the one who knows the other two to chat with one and leave the other – unacknowledged and left out – standing by as if they do not exist.” (Post, 1992)

This is the biggest mistake that I see take place in my age group.  I can’t even tell you how many times I have been at a party and I have walked up to two people talking and had that exact situation happen.  Or, they will go on to include me in the conversation and we will talk for the next twenty minutes, but then I will realize that I still have no clue who the other person is and then it just feels awkward to ask.  So, do the courteous thing, when someone new walks up, finish your thought and then promptly introduce them.  Gentlemen, trust me when I say that women will find this to be an attractive an endearing trait. 

While a hostess will generally introduce people when they come to a party, don’t expect her to introduce people that she doesn’t know.  If you have brought a guest with you to an event, it is your responsibility to introduce your guest.  Now, unless your guest is a prized pony, don’t parade them around the room for the sake of introducing them to everyone in attendance.  Do, however, make introductions whenever an introduction is possible.  Again, this is something that I see happen a lot in my age group.  If you are bringing your significant other to a social engagement, know that that person is likely already nervous about meeting all of your friends. Help ease their trepidation by making them feel like a welcomed part of the group. 

How do you introduce someone?

I would be okay if everyone went with the basic, “Erin Elise this is so-and-so, so-and-so this is Erin Elise.”  That would be a huge improvement on its own.  However, why not up the ante? 

Post provides us with three basic rules of introduction:

                1. A man is always introduced to a woman.

                2. A young person is always introduced to an older person.

                3. A less important person is always introduced to a more important person.

                  (Post, 1992)

So how is this done in practice?  Here are some examples:

“Erin Elise, I’d like you to meet Mr. Smith.”

Or, in the reverse:

“Mr. Smith, I’d like to introduce you to Erin Elise.”

You would either start with the woman’s name or start with the man’s name but introduce him to the woman.  In the case of a less important person being introduced to a more important person, this would mostly be done in a professional or official setting.  For example, I wouldn’t try to differentiate which friend in more important to me before I make the introduction. 

If possible, always try to include your relationship to the person whom you are introducing.  Including your relationship let’s both parties know how you know each other and it can aide in them carrying on a conversation with each other if you have to depart.  I like to take it a step further and try to provide information during the introduction that either party might find interesting.  If a friend of mine is a travel journalist and another friend just returned from a trip abroad, I might include that in the introduction.  For example,

“Dave, I’d like you to meet Kelly, she is a travel journalist for XYZ Magazine.  Kelly, Dave just got back from a month long trip backpacking across Europe.”

Again, I have set the scene for them to find something to talk about so that I may go on to greet other guests, fill the punch bowl, or sneak a drink of vodka from the freezer. 

These are some basic guidelines to get you started and to help you become a better host and guest.  As I mentioned above, please feel free to share your comments.  Particularly, I would like to hear about your best or worst introduction ever. 

May tomorrow find you to be a more well-mannered individual. 

 

 

 

Post, E. L. (1992). Emily Post’s Etiquette. New York: HarperCollins.

Oh the Things You Will Hear if You are Willing to Listen

Oh this day last year I was merrily on my way to my most beloved place in the world, Harrisville, MI.  My sister’s family and I had rented a cottage for the entire week on Lake Huron.  They drove up the night before but, due to my work schedule, I had to wait and drive up on Sunday, which was Father’s Day.  It was a four hour drive spent in the sunshine, with my windows down, and the music blaring.  I look forward to drives like this because it gives me a chance to really think about things, really explore my feelings, and ask myself questions that I avoid asking during the buzz and hum of every day life.  

Since it was Father’s Day, my mind and heart naturally drifted to thoughts of fathers.  I thought about, and gave thanks for, the many men in my life who have stood up to be a positive male role model to me, from teachers to family friends to uncles to my step father, and even my D.A.R.E. officer.  I have been blessed to know what a good man is and why I am deserving of the love of a good man.  However, all of the love that has been showered upon is still a close second to the love of my father whom I lost too soon. My father died when he was forty and I was only four which left an aching tenderness in my heart that has never fully healed.  

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As I drove on I went through the normal list of questions: would he be proud of me? would I be proud of him? would he think I’m funny and pretty and smart? would he believe in my dreams and my ability to achieve them?  what would he say to me today? I wiped away tears on and off for the next hour. As I was passing through a little lake shore town I saw a sign in front of an old church that advertised a used book sale.  

Two things you should know about me: 

1.  I will ALWAYS stop for a used book sale, always!

2.  I love happening upon a book that has an inscription in it written to some stranger whom I will never meet.  The trick though is that I can not look for inscriptions; the inscriptions have to find me when I pick up a book that interests me.  Then, if I find a book that I’m interested in AND there is an inscription in it, I HAVE to buy it.  

So, I pulled my car over, rolled down the windows for the lizard in my back seat, and walked in to begin my treasure hunt.  When I got inside I saw that it was a large empty room except for 5 long tables on either side completely filled with books.  The spines of the books were all facing the sealing so that you could not see the cover of any book except the one on the very end.  This isn’t my favorite way of searching for books, as I am heavily swayed by cover art, but I’ve grown accustomed to this type of search and the extra time that it calls for.  I walked directly to the first table, put my hands on the spines, and began my search.  I looked at the books where my left hand had landed and immediately drew my hand back.  I looked around the room as if to question the strangers to see if they saw what I was seeing.  Even if they had though, they would have no idea what it meant.  

The very first book beneath my hand was The Fall of Freddie the Leaf.  If my recollection serves me, I believe that a family friend brought this book over to our house shortly after our father had passed, though I can not recall who that friend may have been.  What I do recall is that this book was read to us in an attempt to explain what we were going through.  Freddie is a leaf on a tree who experiences the four seasons alongside his friend Daniel (which just so happens to be my father’s name).  As Spring turns to Summer and Summer turns to Fall, Daniel guides Freddie through the changes and explains that it is all a part of Life and our larger purpose.  In the Winter, Daniel releases his grip on the tree and falls gently to the ground, leaving Freddie alone.  Freddie is fearful for a period until he accepts that this is all a part of the process, and that he too must let go one day.  When his time comes, Freddie is able to view the entire tree for the first time and he understands in full what his purpose was.  

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I’ll be honest, as a child I don’t think the book had the impact on me that the adults had hoped for; metaphors we lost on me.  Regardless though, I thought the book was an odd find to come across on Father’s Day, in the middle of no where, after I had spent the entire drive thinking about my father.  I pulled the book from its resting place and opened the front cover.  Much to my delight, the front cover was inscribed.  Not only was the front cover inscribed though, it was dated 1986, the exact year that my father died.  

The inscription read as follows:

To Elaine – My friend,

This is one of my very favorite books – and I know it will become one of yours.  It is a gentle reminder to me – of the meaning and “beauty” of death – and a reminder also of our “Purpose” or “Reason for Being”.  Your parents had many “Reasons for Being”. Giving the world a daughter as beautiful as you are is only one “Purpose”. 

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I immediately put the book in my bag as I knew that it had been placed there just for me.  I rounded up a handful of other books, gave my donation, and got back on the road.  My eyes again filled with tears, but this time they were tears of understanding as the message had been received.  

When I got to my final destination, I walked into the lake (which is the one place that I have always felt his presence), looked towards the heavens and wished my father a happy Father’s Day and thanked him for his gift.  

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