Category Archives for "Current Affairs"

Oct 28

Civility vs the 2016 Presidential Election

By Joanne Blake | Current Affairs , Etiquette & Manners

Presidential Manners? How Low Can Donald and Hillary Go?

Has the US election lowered the bar onPicture of boy and girl arguing - illustrating the incivility of presidential election civility?

As a polite Canadian and business etiquette expert, the American election has been both fascinating and disturbing. It makes our Canadian elections seem pretty tame, in a good way. Leaders in Canada debate the issues and rarely let personal differences or personality sidetrack them.

Debates or tantrums

The same cannot be said for the American presidential campaign. I was dismayed watching the presidential debates. It was like watching a couple of kids bad mouthing each other at the school playground. Unfortunately watching this kind of display normalizes bad behaviours and has a trickle-down effect. If leaders can’t control themselves, how can business people or ordinary citizens be expected to take the high road?

Americans are dismayed too

I just listened to a fascinating panel discussion on NPR National Public Radio about the decline of civility in US politics. While the panelists had varying views, none of them lost their cool while discussing it. Below are some of the great points they made. (click here to listen to the 15 minute show on civility and the presidential campaign or read the text).

Lack of civility in politics a crisis

The panelists quoted a recent survey that found 76 percent of surveyed Americans believe the lack of civility in politics is a “crisis.” In that same survey, twice as many voters blame Donald Trump for the rising incivility. Calling his opponent “the devil,” “a liar” and “a nasty woman”, some say reflects a change in the culture of manners and decorum, including a blurring of the lines between private and public talk.

Like slamming a door in your face

One the guests, author Deborah Tannen said it best. “Most of us think of civility as a level of politeness, so for example, holding the door for the person behind you. What we’re dealing with now goes beyond that. It’s a kind of verbal violence, almost. Maybe the metaphor would be not holding the door open but slamming the door in the face of the person behind you.”

Violent consequences?

Tannen took it a step further. “We’re not talking about anybody not being allowed to express any opinion at all. But when it becomes belligerent, when it becomes vitriolic, when it becomes personal, when it becomes threatening — We do see cases where physical fights are breaking out, physical attacks follow because of the level of hatred and animosity that is stirred up by a certain kind of rhetoric.”

Rude Children

As presidential politics degenerates into the caustic realm of reality TV, it’s hard to not follow suit, let alone try to teach etiquette and civility to children. In future, we may have to admonish children when they’re rude to “Stop acting like the President.”

(Click here to listen to the Diane Rehm radio show on civility and the presidential campaign)

Posted by Joanne Blake – the Canadian business etiquette expert and civility in politics and life promoter
Dec 16

Doubling Your Holiday Gifting to Syrian Refugees

By Joanne Blake | Current Affairs , Etiquette & Manners

What do you give someone who has everything?

How about a donation to people who don’t have anything?

Terry and I want to give you a Christmas gift (besides our handy dress for success, networking and business etiquette expert advice).

Giving a donation to a worthy charity seems a good gift idea.

That's what we’re doing this year. In our family we all make donations and only exchange little stocking stuffers, an idea which we’ve carried over into our business & corporate gift giving. We encourage you to do the same.

For every dollar you donate to a registered charity, the Canadian Government
will contribute one dollar to the Syria Emergency Relief Fund

Double the need – double your donation

So we’ve made some donations to help Syrian Refugees thru Oxfam. The nice thing about this donation is our Canadian government is matching donations. 

Here is the Oxfam International link and the Oxfam Canada link

How about some local charities too

But whether it’s Syrian refugees or local food banks, there are many registered charities that would welcome your gift. Support one that is closest to your heart. This holiday season you can give a gift that really counts.

Joys R us

The nice thing about these gifts is they not only make the recipient feel good but they also make you the the donor feel good.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays and all the best in 2016
from Terry and Joanne.

Posted by Joanne Blake – Canadian business etiquette expert and Oxfam supporter

Jul 11

Are You a Breaking Bad Stereotype?

By Joanne Blake | Current Affairs , Dress & Image , Etiquette & Manners

Standout Branding Advice for Professionals

A moose, a beaver, an accountant and a lawyer walk into a bar…

It sounds like a bad joke, but what do a moose, a beaver, an accountant and a lawyer have in common? The answer can help your professional and personal brand.

Corporate image consultants give tips and advice to overcome negative steoreotypesStereotypes R Us

Negative stereotypes aren't just in Breaking Bad. When people think of Canada, certain symbols and stereotypes come to mind, like Mounties, hockey, moose and beavers. During the Vancouver Olympics' brilliant closing ceremonies, organizers acknowledged Canadian stereotypes by trotting out giant moose, beavers and Mounties.

Then they countered the stereotypes with a diverse assortment of Canadian musicians and celebrities that took the world viewers beyond those stereotypes. Professionals should take a tip from that.

The elephant in the room

What stereotypes do you have to overcome in your work? Almost every industry and profession has certain stereotypes in the eyes of their customers and the public. Some are positive and some are negative.

We all know the negative ones exist but often we are afraid to talk about them. But like the elephant in the room, ignoring them doesn't make them go away.

Know thy self

As corporate image consultants in our  business etiquette, dress and networking seminars we are often in-house or at conference giving advice to specific professions such as lawyers, accountants or engineers, helping them with their soft skills and image. We ask them to examine and discuss the positive AND negative stereotypes people have with their profession.

Breaking Bad?

Our lawyer clients come up with stereotypes resembling Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad (in photo above). Let’s look at our accounting clients, who also have no trouble coming up with their own negative typecasts; boring, nerdy, without style and only interested in numbers. Are all accountants like this? Are some? Are some of these traits necessary for the job?

Accounting for stereotypes

When it comes to doing a good job for you, you want an accountant who is business focused and good with numbers. But on top of that, our own accountant is funny, stylish, outgoing and has wide ranging interests including racing his vintage sports car.

Breaking Good?

Our best tip to overcome your profession’s negative stereotypes is to recognize them yourself and act counter to them in all your business/social dealings. In your points of contact with clients or when networking, try to ensure you’re not displaying or reinforcing those adverse traits.

Eliminate the negative

Like the song says, you've got to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. You really have a lot of control over your brand and how others perceive you. Click here to see Bette Midler and Bing Crosby sing the oldie but goodie – Ac-cent-chu-ate the Positive.

Posted by Joanne Blake – Canadian Corporate Image Consultant, Coach and Breaking Bad addict
Feb 11

Royal Fashion Tips To Prevent Wardrobe Malfunctions

By Joanne Blake | Current Affairs , Dress & Image

Oops – something Kate Middleton and I have in common

Rumor has it that Queen Elizabeth has stepped in to preside over Kate Middleton’s fashions to prevent more wardrobe malfunctions.

Kate Middleton's ongoing wardrobe malfunctions tips and advice

Grown-up image

The report by royal correspondent Katie Nicholl in the Mail on Sunday states that the Duchess of Cambridge will be wearing lower hemline dresses and not her usual frilled, girlish frock dresses “in case they detract from the newly grown-up image she needs to project and also to prevent any wardrobe malfunctions”.


These have been happening more frequently, starting in Calgary when a gust of wind caught the skirt of the Duchess’s short dress and flashed her underwear to the world. (Photos above from Daily Mail)


I agree that many of Kate's fashions are a bit “girly” and she looks best and most sophisticated in more tailored dresses. When it comes to her wardrobe malfunctions, they have not been caused so much by her skirts being a tad short but rather her preference for “floaty” fabrics in fuller styles which allow even the slightest breeze to lift them.  

Who hasn’t had a wardrobe malfunction? The queen apparently

Why is it that the Queen has never had a public wardrobe malfunction? She does tend to stay away from short frilly skirts. It is believed that the hems of her dresses have been weighted down (or regally commanded not to flip).


As a female speaker I have to be aware of stage sight lines and especially if sitting down at a panel. An embarrassing wardrobe failure happened to me once. I had purchased an oh-so-soft cashmere knit skirt and wore it proudly to deliver a presentation. But following the presentation, I decided to go shopping.

As I walking around a store, I felt a draft on my behind. When I turned around to see if the door had been left open, I noticed this woman’s face register a look of shock.


I looked down and my skirt was gone. It was down around my ankles. I turned beet red and swiftly hiked my skirt back up to my waist and I didn’t let go of it. When I got home I discovered the waistband was made of knitted material and didn’t have enough structure to stay in place.Thank my lucky stars it didn't happen while on stage delivering my presentation. That might have ended up on YouTube.

Fashion tips learned the hard way: try new garments on at home and anticipate wind gusts before venturing out.

Stuff happens

Wardrobe malfunctions happen to all of us, they rarely kill you… but they sure can embarrass you. My advice, choose your looks and fabrics carefully.  What’s more important is how you recover from them and learn from them so you don’t repeat them (hopefully). My motto is expect the unexpected, but like the scouts, be prepared.

So what about you? Feel free to share your experiences and tips with us so we can all have a laugh and know we’re all human (even the royals).

Posted by Joanne Blake – Canadian corporate image consultant and reformed wardrobe malfunctioner
Dec 19

Our Christmas Gift to You – 20 Percent Discount and a Goat

By Terry Pithers | Current Affairs , Etiquette & Manners

20% off all our resources

Each Christmas Joanne and I have been make donations to Oxfam as a way of saying thank you to our friends and clients. We also do it because it makes us feel good and because it helps others.

A bonus for you

We did it again this year but we also decided to add a little bonus for our blog and newsletter readers.

Oxfam Unwrapped donation program

We've got a special promo code below that will get you 20% off all our books, dining DVDs and online training.

Promo code: 20%dec2013
(good until the goat eats it Dec 25th)

It's a little bit like Cinderella because on midnight Christmas eve the promo code turns into a pumpkin being pulled by mice. Sort of. (Okay the promo code no longer works after Dec 24th.)

What about the goat?

So where does the goat come in? Our donation to Oxfam was for various gifts through Oxfam unwrapped including girls education and some actual farm animals (chickens and goats) to help feed and get people on their feet.

Join us

We encourage you to make a donation to Oxfam either in the Oxfam Uunwrapped program or make a donation to Oxfam and the Philippine relief. (For more charities that are involved in the Philippines read our recent blog post with charity links.)

Warm wishes

So we hope you enjoy your 20% discount and your chickens and goats. Have a Merry Christmas, a happy holiday season. Cherish and hug those that you hold dear.

All the best for 2014, from Terry and Joanne!


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