One of the themes in both my manners classes for children and my corporate etiquette programs is behaving with poise in any situation. Today’s post is my take on the meaning of poise. For me that means a story about a four-year old girl and a mullet. (Naturally!)
I was traveling home from a conference in Seattle when I received a phone call from my husband. My husband is a pull the Band-Aid off fast kind of person. So, when he called to tell me the news there was no softening the blow:
Keith: “Emily cut off all her hair.”
Me: “… ALL her hair?”
Keith: “Well, no, there’s some left.”
When I arrived home it turned out that she had NOT, in fact, cut off all her hair. Still, there stood my beautiful, blonde-haired daughter with a mullet.
I picked up the phone and called the most expensive beauty salon in town. (The lesson my husband learned was that mistakes can be costly!) After I reassured the hair dresser that I wasn’t bringing in my daughter to have her mullet trimmed, she worked some magic and Emily ended up with a pixie cut. We’d gone from Achy Breaky Heart to Tinkerbell.
During the following year, I learned some wonderful things about my daughter. I learned that an unexpected haircut was no match for her self-confidence. She wore her new do with self-assurance and grace. When a boy at school asked why she had a boy haircut, Emily simply told him, “It’s a girl haircut because I’m a girl.” Emily so clearly displayed poise.
Poise. It’s a word we toss around frequently in the etiquette world. Dictionary.com says it’s, “a dignified, self-confident manner or bearing.” However, to me, poise will forever be a little girl with a very short haircut. Emily never for one second doubted her self-worth. Her hair may have been cut but her cheer stayed intact. That is dignity, four-year old style. That is confidence. That is poise.
Do we, in our personal and professional lives display that same poise? When our PowerPoint slide disappears into network limbo during a big presentation? When our guests arrive an hour early?
I’ve learned you don’t have to feel poised to act with poise. Even if your inside voice is screaming “Panic!” you can take a deep breath and continue to do your best. So how can you manufacture poise when you hit a bump in the road? Try these steps:
- Hold your head high. (Literally!)
- Sit and stand up straight.
- Look people in the eye.
- Stop fidgeting.
It’s that simple. These four behaviors will give the appearance of poise until you actually begin to feel the real thing!