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Look at the total package. And because the nonverbal component so outweighs the verbal component of a message, actions will always speak louder than words. This fact was brought home to me at a recent department meeting, when a colleague suddenly closed her notebook and pushed her chair back, crossing her arms. No one at the table had trouble recognizing her displeasure at what the meeting leader had just said.

People sometimes use body language to intimidate, exclude, denigrate, condescend, and humiliate. On the other hand, negative body language is often not deliberate and may just result from insensitivity. Once in a communication class that I was teaching, I led the students in a group decision-making exercise.

Of eight students sitting around one rectangular table, all except one were male. In addition to being the only woman in the group, this student was also relatively new to the United States. She took a seat at the corner, which prevented her from being able to draw her chair under the table. As the discussion progressed, the two people sitting on either side of her shifted their bodies so that their backs more and more were turned to her, in effect, creating a circle from which she was excluded. At the same time, she leaned back in her chair and withdrew from the discussion.

In debriefing the group on some of their decision-making techniques, I showed them a videotape of their meeting. The woman was offended by To a person, they all insisted that they had not acted deliberately. The results, however, were the same as if they had. It is equally true that the woman had not asserted herself during the conversation. In fact, as the meeting progressed, she had become increasingly disengaged, thereby contributing to the outcome. Our nonverbal actions can also display concern, compassion, interest in, and respect for others.

A smile and a nod as you pass someone in the hall, a hearty handshake to congratulate a colleague for a job well done, or obvious attentiveness to what someone is saying all foster positive interpersonal relationships. Even in an adversarial situation, the right nonverbal messages can defuse hostility. For example, maintaining a composed demeanor and restraining your own body language when someone is angry with you can actually have a calming effect on the person.

Keeping your voice low, limiting gestures, and maintaining a relaxed posture will discourage the other person from continuing to rant. For example, if your body language naturally tends to be expressive and dramatic, your style is perfectly suitable for communicating with an animated, enthusiastic person. However, you probably should tone it down when in conversation with a particularly low-key or restrained person.

What if your own style tends to be restrained or low key? If you do try, you will probably feel uncomfortable and your communication will project a degree of insincerity. Common Body Language and Its Meaning As you strive to communicate more clearly, understanding nonverbal communication can be a tremendous asset in your professional as well as personal communications.

Being deliberate in your nonverbal communication and clearly interpreting and appropriately responding to the Body language tells others how you feel about what you say. From the beach to the boardroom, and everywhere in between, our sound waves sizzle with curse words, sexual references, and crude colloquialisms. In business, social, and institutional settings, it sometimes seems that anything goes when it comes to what we say.

Carol White has found that even the hallowed halls of academia ring with an unmistakable increase in cursing, references to the human anatomy, and offensive slang, among both students and faculty. Among students who responded to her survey, 47 percent saw nothing wrong with cursing in class. Obscenity Goes Mainstream At one time, people reserved swearing for those times that they hit their finger with the hammer, wrecked their car, or discovered a negative balance in their checking account. Today, we curse colorfully when we are surprised, delighted, amused, frightened, puzzled, concerned, or sympathetic.

Without a doubt, language once considered vulgar or taboo has become socially acceptable—probably for a variety of reasons. Even in professional settings, people have become more comfortable with explicit language. Perhaps the shift came about because we spend so much time with strangers. At one time, a vast number of people lived most of their lives in a close-knit community where everyone knew everyone else. When surrounded by people with whom they have a personal, even if casual, relationship, people are more concerned about the impression they make and how they are perceived.

Censorship barriers have gradually been chipped away so that what used to be unthinkable language or content on television, radio, or in other mass media has become so commonplace that most of us hardly notice it. The Professional Cost of Cursing Because cursing is often tolerated by society, many of us may believe that crude speech is really no big deal, but if you believe this and use profanity in your professional communication, eventually you may face negative consequences.

Is Vulgarity a First Amendment Right? Many people consider the right to swear anywhere and everywhere part of the freedom-of-speech package. Although you may feel that the First Amendment gives you the right to use whatever words suit you, you should also be aware of the impact your words have on others and of what they communicate about you.

Here are a few points to keep in mind. Because our speech patterns become habitual, we often use words and phrases without giving much thought to how they sound to others. Therefore, be aware that what may seem perfectly harmless to you may be shocking to someone else.


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Consider your audience. Needless to say, this image will not enhance your professional success. Watch your language in public places. Just as you would practice general conventions of courtesy in these situations, such as not pushing, cutting in line, or belching loudly, you should also consider how your words might be offensive to others. As a rule, when in public, keep your voice down, use cell phones with discretion, avoid explicit or intimate conversations, and choose a neutral vocabulary that minimizes the possibility of offending, angering, or embarrassing those within earshot.

A manager in a major media company recently remarked that certain senior officers of her firm were fond of conducting profanity-peppered conversations on crowded elevators. They seem to believe that since they are the power players in the corporation, other people have to put up with their crudeness, like it or not. Those who curse or use offensive language around subordinates and coworkers may be indulging in a form of verbal bullying that borders on abuse.

Aside from creating an unpleasant environment, this behavior also carries legal risks, as it can easily be construed as harassment. Good judgment is always in good taste. Although people may not react overtly to your use of obscenities, they may at some point offend someone who can make or break your career. On the other hand, if your language is always courteous and polished, this might be the trait that gives you the edge when promotion decisions are being made. The woman who works on your floor corners you at an office party and tells you more about her dysfunctional relationship with her mother than people usually tell their analysts.

A loquacious manager turns small talk before a meeting into a play-byplay description of the ugly details of his recent divorce. Perhaps the blurring of the boundaries when it comes to keeping some things private is attributable to the age in which we live, when exhaustive information on just about any topic is just a few key strokes away. At work, this often means that you find out more about your coworkers than you really want to know.

Rebuilding the Barriers at Work Offices without walls and flatter organizations can make maintaining social and professional barriers at work a challenge. This lack of privacy encourages an artificial intimacy that we may grow to regret and resent. All around us we see the effects of living in an age of no-holds-barred self-disclosure. Although open and honest communication certainly is a valuable component in any relationship— business or personal—there is also such a thing as being too open and honest.

Balancing Openness and Privacy Self-revelation helps us define ourselves to others. It provides insights into our personal feelings and emotions and helps other people get to know us and relate to us. Self-disclosure traditionally leads to increased familiarity, and in the right environment, increases over time. However, people sometimes forego the natural progression of a relationship and try to attain instant intimacy, perhaps mistaking that increased knowledge for friendship. For some people this disclosure may stem from a need to fill an emotional void, or out of a misguided belief that their openness will endear them to others.

Although revealing information about yourself may help you build bridges with coworkers, you must maintain a balance between being open and maintaining an appropriate level of privacy. Further, you need to recognize just how much other people are really interested in hearing. We need, however, to take a thoughtful approach that considers everyone involved. Here are some general rules to keep in mind. Think before you speak or write. Revealing personal information can become especially risky when you put it in writing, because once it reaches its destination, the message is out of your control.

You are especially vulnerable when you send e-mail since the receiver could choose to forward your message to others. Avoid gossip. Sharing too much information sometimes involves sharing personal information about others. Know that some subjects may be off limits. Keep in mind that certain subjects, such as religious beliefs, personal finances, details about illnesses, mental health, or personal details about a marriage, divorce, or affair, may make other people uncomfortable.

If someone you only know casually asks about your health, for example, keep your answer short and general, avoiding a detailed account of a specific medical problem. Some people are more open than others to receiving unexpected personal information. An uncomfortable listener may not say so, but his or her body language should make it abundantly clear. Notice a change in stance, In such cases, recognize that your listener may not want to hear what you have to say. Drop the subject once and for all and move on to a new topic. Studies have shown that when we reveal personal information about ourselves, we often expect the other party to give us some juicy information in return.

In the workplace, sharing confidences may seem to be a way to strengthen a professional relationship when in reality we may simply want to satisfy our own curiosity about another person. Consider prefacing your remarks with a statement that allows your audience to choose whether or not to hear. Be sure to divert the conversation graciously, moving on to a neutral topic without making the other person feel guilty for not listening to you. When You Are the Recipient of Unwanted Information When you feel that you are getting too much information, let the other person know it up front.

Although you may feel uncomfortable speaking up, doing so is better than letting things go too far. Another approach might be simply to change the subject. Knowing just how much to share—about yourself and others—might just be one of the biggest indicators of your character. Even though we may not readily admit it, most of us enjoy recognition for our good deeds, accomplishments, and hard work. The positive reinforcement inspires us to keep meeting the challenges and difficulties we face daily.

Yet when given without sincerity, praise might be taken for flattery or manipulation, and the person giving that kind of praise will quickly earn a reputation for being superficial.

Reward Yourself

When heartfelt, however, sincere praise can be a powerful tool for motivating others. People feel valued and recognized for what they are doing well, and often a genuine compliment inspires a person to strive for additional achievement. Thanks for sharing your artistic talents. Staying focused on the action rather than the person is a good way to avoid having our praise perceived as empty flattery.

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Further, people feel more comfortable accepting compliments about what they have done rather than about who they are. There are exceptions, of course. Be specific. Often, people limit praise to vague, general statements, but give pointed, specific criticism. For your praise to count, be sure that your positive feedback is just as specific as any negative you give. Focus on the receiver.

She hardly thanked you. Some people would also like to receive praise in private because they are easily embarrassed by the public attention. Further, people sometimes worry about the resentment that On the other hand, many people love the spotlight. They would be happy if you rented a marching band and turned on the klieg lights.

Most people, obviously, fall somewhere in between. Make sure that you offer praise in a way that is in sync with individual personalities. Avoid following a compliment with a verbal jab, even if you mean it in fun. Not bad for an engineer. Remember, the boss needs praise. Use good judgment in praising higher-ranking colleagues. Everyone—at every level in the corporate hierarchy—needs kind words. Perhaps your manager had to make a particularly difficult announcement to the department about impending layoffs, and she handled the difficult topic clearly and compassionately.

Although complimenting her for handling day-to-day activities is generally inappropriate, she is likely to appreciate your positive response to her difficult task. When praising someone higher up in the organization, keep the focus on a specific behavior or benefit, and pick your spots carefully to deliver these compliments.

Author and consultant Dianna Booher warns that too often praise is a prelude for some kind of appeal. Can you have a great sales pitch ready for our client in Denver day after tomorrow? When you give praise, let the praise stand alone so that the recipient can savor the moment. If you need to ask the person for an additional favor or action, wait until later. Make the request a separate event.

More often, however, people find a lack of response to their actions deflating. People need to know that they are on track and making progress just as much as they need to know when they go astray. Accepting Praise Just as delivering praise effectively can spread goodwill and inspire positive behavior, accepting praise graciously is also a skill worth perfecting.

Save it for another time. This restraint will keep the praise you received from being diluted, and the later accolade will sound sincere, rather than obligatory.

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When did that happen? I might as well be talking to a wall socket. Not that our culture encourages listening. Talk show guests and interviewers fight each other to be heard, speaking all at once. We talk on the telephone while surfing the Web or watching TV. Although we give lip service to its importance, listening gets little attention in a society that rewards the talker. Indeed, we often view listening as a nonactivity.

We learn in school how to read, how to write, how to make speeches, and how to debate. How many of us ever took an academic course in developing the ability to listen to each other? Listen for Success The costs of not listening can run high. In addition to missing important information, you may fail to recognize problems or impending crises, and turn off friends, coworkers, clients, and family members. The following may help you become a more effective listener. Learn to want to listen. Contrary to conventional wisdom, listening is anything but passive. It requires an enormous amount of mental energy, concentration, desire, and a certain degree of unselfishness.

Office Etiquette 101 DOs and DON'Ts

We must commit to using our intellectual and emotional vitality to focus on hearing what someone has to say and then to process that information accurately and completely. One would suppose, given that we think at a speed of about words per minute and most people speak at a rate of about words per minute, that we would use that excess time to digest and integrate the data.

On the contrary, our minds usually grab the available seconds to think about something else. Deciding that listening is an important skill that you need and want to develop is the first step toward being a better listener. Listen with more than your ears. You would be wise to listen with your eyes, mind, and heart, in addition to your ears, because the message consists of more than the words. The verbal portion of a message is often just the tip of the iceberg. If you tend to accept everything at its most literal and surface level, you may miss the more important meanings behind the words.

Identify and eliminate distractions. Distractions stem from both internal and external sources. Maybe you woke up with a migraine, or the blaster burrito you had for lunch is If you find yourself in this situation, consider making an appointment to listen at a later time. Control your hot buttons. No matter how open-minded we claim to be, we all carry emotional baggage that interferes with our ability to listen. For example, the woman making a presentation who looks and sounds alarmingly like your Aunt Carlotta, whose visits you always dreaded, is going to face a particular challenge getting through to you.

Recognize your personal listening inhibitors, and develop a game plan to minimize their effects. For example, if a certain tone of voice or trite expression always sets you off, commit to getting past it and listening to what the speaker has to say. Avoid appearing superior. Being a good listener puts you in the unique position of affirming another person in an active way, but it also opens up countless possibilities for your own development. What you have to say comes from the information, knowledge, and wisdom that you have already accumulated.

When you listen, however, you expand your horizons, increase your understanding, and even gather material for the time when you are doing the talking. Some time ago, at a breakfast meeting I had with a client at a trendy coffee house, I suddenly realized that my guest and I were practically shouting at each other because diners on both our left and right were engaged in cell phone conversations that got increasingly louder.

And, while attending a conference in Europe later that same year, I saw that surprisingly few attendees seemed to be actually conversing with other people at the conference. At every break in the proceedings, scores of people whipped cell phones out of their pockets and handbags and, ignoring everyone around them, talked to someone elsewhere. Today, everywhere you look, people are engaged in cell phone conversations on the street and in cars, offices, shops, restaurants, airports, busses, and trains.

Have these handy devices become an actual necessity or are they just one more way for us to be rude to each other? Without a doubt, cell phones do serve an invaluable function. And they can be a lifesaver when we are in unfamiliar surroundings, having car trouble, or confronting an emergency.

On the other hand, remember when you could get through a meal and talk only to those seated at your table? Keep the Technology in Perspective How can you manage this useful tool in such a way that it enhances communication rather than interferes with it? Here are some guidelines. Of course, exceptions occur. If you know that you might receive a call that you must answer, if possible, inform those around you of the possibility.

I was recently in a meeting in which a participant explained to those attending that his wife was close to the delivery date of their first child, and he needed to keep his cell phone available to take her calls. Put the phone in silent mode. When you really must be on call, consider investing in the vibrator battery. In a growing number of instances, you may have no choice about turning your phone off. Some restaurants and private clubs are beginning to prohibit use of cell phones because of abuse by inconsiderate patrons.

Be sure to check for notices to avoid embarrassment. Have private conversations in private. For many people, cell phone use by others is particularly irritating when the user engages in private, even intimate, conversation in a confined public setting, such as on a bus or train. Further, keep in mind that some cell phones are still vulnerable to electronic eavesdroppers, so be wary of discussing sensitive business issues via that medium. Save your Engaging in phone conversations while driving is just plain dangerous.

Use common sense and common courtesy. Because the cellular telephone phenomenon appeared so quickly on our social and business landscape, we lack a frame of reference or code of conduct to manage cell phone use. Until we come up with some collective guidelines, however, common sense and a concern for those around us will turn out to be the best choice.


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  • To top it all off, you are looking at three days of wall-to-wall meetings and business lunches and dinners. Stressful at best and traumatic at worst, business travel often brings out our evil twin.

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    We become ruder, less tolerant, and shorter-fused than we would normally allow ourselves to be. Keeping the Skies Friendly Much business travel today takes place on airplanes, which involves getting to the airport, negotiating our way through busy terminals, making it through security checks, and boarding planes that attempt to raise efficient use of space to an art form. Not only will you avoid offending others, but also, in the end, you will have a more enjoyable—or at least less stressful—trip, because your outward behavior will influence your outlook and disposition.

    Most people who travel by air have two major complaints about their fellow passengers: they dislike those people who carry too much luggage Here are some ways to minimize stress and make you a welcome travel companion. Consider what you carry. Unless you travel first class, most airplanes are cramped with little room for baggage, but there are some things you can do to make it easier on yourself as well as others. Know when and how to end a conversation. Handling the situation with tact can pose a challenge, but enduring an unwanted situation can make that portion of your trip miserable.

    If the person has nothing to read, offer a paper or recommend an article in the airline magazine. Remember, however, that some people talk from nervousness or outright fear of flying. If you suspect that this might be the case, take a few minutes to lend a bit of emotional support. Look behind you before reclining your seat. If you chew gum, do it quietly. Use good table manners if you are on a flight that involves a meal.

    Many people are allergic to the ingredients and may, consequently, arrive at their destination with a splitting headache. Be courteous to people who work to make your trip comfortable. A lot of people work hard to make your trip as comfortable as possible. For example, if a particular flight attendant has been especially helpful during your flight, mention it to the head flight attendant when you are deplaning. When traveling abroad, keep some basic rules in mind. The Gracious Colleague Remember that courtesy also applies to coworkers who are traveling with you.

    Allow your colleagues the option of having some down time. Give them a choice, if possible, and, if they have no choice, explain the need for the extra hours The Gracious Guest When you arrive at your business destination, make yourself a welcome guest to your clients and customers by following some basic rules of conduct. Remember that you represent your firm, so your social behavior can have as much impact as your carefully planned presentation.

    Even if you choose not to mix business with pleasure, such as by extending the work day with drinks or dinner, being gracious in your interaction with others will leave them feeling positive about your visit. Follow up with a thank-you note or gift. A thank-you note is always appropriate, even if your experience was entirely business, without a social dimension. Business people usually accommodate your schedule by adjusting their own while you are on site, so acknowledging their hospitality can make them feel good about the experience.

    If you are entertained while traveling and wish to say thanks with a gift, you are often safe with flowers. Around the globe, however, types and colors of flowers have different meanings. For example, according to Terri Morrison and Wayne Conaway in Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands, in Germany, one should always give bouquets of uneven-numbered flowers except thirteen and avoid red roses, which are reserved for courting, and certain lilies that are used for funerals. Check with a local florist for a suitable selection. Chocolates are also a widely accepted thank-you gift. Bookstores are filled with excellent information to help us as we venture abroad.

    Make use of these resources. Learn something about the culture and customs of the region to which you will be traveling. At the most basic level, learn the appropriate use of handshakes, eye contact, and other gestures, as traditions vary widely When you are visiting another city, state, or country, remember that this place is home to the people around you. And never make a joke about the place or the people. Demonstrate an appreciation for the region. Develop an admiration for the history of the area you are visiting, and show interest by asking questions about it.

    Fortunately, I had asked a hotel employee about the pronunciation that morning. Dress conservatively. Whenever you travel, particularly if you are alone, avoid calling unnecessary attention to yourself. Although throughout most of the people in the United States are tolerant of expressive attire, hairstyles, and makeup, other cultures may not be so receptive. Both women and men should dress conservatively and modestly, and limit the amount of jewelry they wear.

    Women, in particular, before the trip should check to see if they should avoid wearing certain items of clothing. For example, are pant suits acceptable for female business travelers in a specific country? Someone once said that you should treat everyone as though you were going to have to spend the rest of your life with that person in a very small room. Yet often the person conducting the interview is just as uncomfortable as the interviewee.

    With the right amount of preparation and a realistic perspective, the job interview, handled with professionalism and finesse, can be the key to your success. Needless to say, both parties are under considerable pressure during an interview, and certainly each one has his or her own agenda. Even so, the interviewee and the interviewer have clear responsibilities to each other, and failing to acknowledge and fulfill those obligations can leave a lasting negative impression.

    With preparation and the right outlook, you can differentiate yourself favorably from the other candidates. Here are some guidelines to help you turn your next interview into the event that tips the decision in your favor. Learn about the hiring company. A company has a lot at stake when If the company has recently been recognized for some achievement, be prepared to talk about it.

    Asking insightful questions not only positions you as a thoughtful candidate but also gives you more control of the meeting. However, you need to ask questions that reveal some of your abilities and interests as well as your desire to know more about the workings of the organization. Avoid questions that seem selfserving, such as the number of vacation days during the first year or the robustness of the benefits package. Although you want to appear in the most favorable light, resist the temptation, both on your resume and in your interview, to misrepresent your accomplishments.

    Even stretching the truth can have dire consequences. Did you lead the project or were you a support person? What were your specific duties on the team? Many people have assumed that no one would ever check their resume or their assertions and then found out the hard way that their assumption was a big mistake. Not only is being honest the right thing to do but it also keeps your potential employer from developing unrealistic expectations about future performance. Be prepared for the unexpected. An interview is an appointment that needs to go off without a hitch.

    Try to anticipate the worst and prepare for it. First of all, get on your way in plenty of time to arrive early. Being late for a job interview is generally an unforgivable faux pas. Make sure that you have all the contact information for your appointment with you so that you have the number easily at hand. Most people will try to accommodate you if extenuating circumstances interfere with your arrival and if they have some notice. Unless the sky is cloudless, carry clean, pressed rain gear and a working umbrella with all the spines intact. Bring something to read or work on in case you have to wait.

    Although some interviewers will make an interviewee wait to see how he In the event that you actually have to reschedule because of an extended emergency, accept the change in plans graciously and with good humor. Remember that first impressions are critical. Look sharp. Savvy interviewers know that most people showing up for a job interview are presenting their best professional appearance, probably looking better than they will ever look in the workplace.

    So go all out to create that great first response from your interviewer. Wear an outfit that fits well and is clean and pressed. Choose something professional and conservative; save your flashy fashions for another time. Make sure they are clean, polished, and conservative. Finally, if you need a haircut, get a good one. Relax and project confidence. Even though you may feel nervous, which is natural, be confident in yourself and your abilities. Visualize yourself walking into the interview room with poise, looking the interviewer in the eye, and shaking hands with a firm grip.

    That confidence will translate to a favorable first impression. Treat everyone you meet with respect. You never know who might provide the good word that gives you the advantage over the competition. One executive I know always uses his secretary as a barometer for assessing candidates. Obviously, candidates never knew that they were being tested in the reception area.

    Therefore, if they were genuinely courteous to other staff members, the executive felt fairly confident they would also be courteous on the job. Always send a thank-you note. Although a handwritten note is preferable, at the very least send a thank-you e-mail. The sooner you write it, the more sincere it will be and the more someone will appreciate Writing the note within twenty-four hours will allow you to capture the enthusiasm that the interview generated.

    Sending the note late is far better than not at all. Even some of the social aspects of the visit can be appropriate for inclusion. Guidelines for the Interviewer When conducting an interview, you can boost your hiring effectiveness by adhering to some basic principles.

    Create an atmosphere of comfort and security. When you greet the applicant, help put him or her at ease by making pleasant small talk. Ask if the candidate had trouble finding the location, make a remark about the weather, or chat about any other neutral, nonjob-related topic. Offer the interviewee a soft drink, coffee, or water, and, if he or she accepts the offer for refreshment, you should have something, too. Be prepared for the interview. Although you may have an extremely full schedule, remember that the interview is important both for the applicant and the company.

    In addition to familiarizing yourself with information about the ap Then I would like to take some questions from you. You expect the applicant to come to the interview with thoughtful questions, and you need to be prepared to give succinct and clear answers. Part of building rapport, and for that matter being a good interviewer, involves listening attentively and actively. The ability to listen is critical to making good decisions. Experts tell us one of the biggest mistakes interviewers make is talking too much during the interview.

    Consultant Pat MacMillan, CEO of Team Resources and author of the book, Hiring Excellence, suggests that, ideally, the interviewer should talk about 20 percent of the time and the applicant 80 percent of the time. Asking a perfunctory question and then pondering your next question instead of listening to the answer will quickly make the interviewee uncomfortable, giving the impression that you are not particularly interested in what he or she has to say.

    Further, you will miss the opportunity to learn valuable information about the person— not only from the verbal answer, but from the nonverbal cues as well. Be honest. Are you the hiring manager or the screener? Will you make the decision or will subsequent interviews take place? Are you interviewing a large number of candidates?

    Does the job in question offer opportunity for growth or is it a long term assignment performing the same function? Is the company enjoying great prosperity and expansion, or is cost cutting a big deal? Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. New advice explains how to navigate sticky situations at work, including digital interactions that are easy to misinte Intelligence, ambition, and skill will start you on the road to success, but without strong communications skills, social savvy, and a sense of appropriate behavior Get A Copy.

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