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Newport Manners & Etiquette: Huge Decline In Presidential Standards, Apologies + Phone Safe Box

Thursday, October 12, 2017


The fall and decline of presidential standards, speech preparation tips, trending phone safe boxes, and why the sorriest word should not be sorry were all questions to Didi Lorillard this week at NewportManners.

Really awful downfall of Presidential standards and behavior

Q. It wasn't that long ago when Republicans were bashing Obama for not having presidential manners. It appears that they've lowered their standards for the current occupant of the Oval Office. The alt right press used photos of Obama and his aids playing pickup games of basketball or touch football on the White House lawn to illustrate his lack of appropriate presidential behavior. 

It's true whether shooting pool or bowling, Obama cannot contain his competitive nature, but at least he works it out in a healthy manner. And when photos of him in shirt sleeves appeared, Andrew Card, President George W. Bush's chief of staff, criticized Obama to the press saying, "Wear a suit coat and tie." Do you agree that it is disgraceful how this country has lost dignity through its deterioration of manners and etiquette spiraling downward in this current administration?  MC, Washington, DC

A. The standard of presidential behavior has deteriorated in the disgraceful Trump administration to rock bottom when the president of the United States gets away with mocking foreign leaders and calling them despicable nicknames. He's not even criticized for calling for the firing of a "son of a bitch."

Don't get me started:

  • While playing golf Trump criticizes the mayor of a city underwater from a catastrophic hurricane for "poor leadership." The rest of the world refers to it as a "Medical Crisis," because "The Whole Island Is Critical."
  • To make it worse, without compassion Trump adds insult to injury by complaining that the victims of the hurricane "want everything to be done for them."
  • Further to the insult, after throwing paper towels at the victims, he tells them they should be "very proud" that only 16 victims died already.
  • Whether he's attacking a senator battling cancer or making reference to a supreme court justice as a "judicial prostitute," his behavior is despicable.
  • He stoops so low as to call transgender children part of "Satan's plan." Come on... 
  • What's presidential about calling the White House "a real dump"? And inviting to the Oval Office a friend who threatened to assassinate President Obama and called him a "subhuman mongrel"? Don't forget, Trump called his opponent a "worthless bitch?" Really, who talks like that? Certainly not the president? Even if he is calling for an investigation of his opponent seven months after winning the election.
  • At tax payers' expense, Trump spends one day in three promoting his properties where a photo of him on the cover of Time magazine applauding his business successes is hung on the walls. How tacky is that?
  • He shows no respect whatsoever for the survivors of victims of 9/11 and the 20 school children who were massacred in Newtown, CT., by awarding press credentials to a website that claims both incidents were "a hoax." 
  • Mocking the mayor of London for his cautious, serious reaction to a terrorist attack, doesn't win us friends abroad. 
  • Nor does hogging a photo opportunity with another head of state by shoving him aside during a NATO meeting in Brussels.
  • Did you know that it is a known fact that Trump is caught in a lie on an average of more that five times a day?


Between the tweeting addiction, compulsive lying, firry war and peace rhetoric, meddling with prosecutorial independence, incendiary campaign rallies disguised as presidential addresses, etc., all are breaches of the unofficial etiquette of presidential manners.  

*Many thanks to the New York Times for recent editorials on this subject.

8 great tips for what to do when a speech is interrupted

Q.  In preparing to make a speech, what should I be anticipating?  I've made the speech before, but afterward, I wondered if I would be as lucky next time. My sympathies are with British Prime Minister Theresa May, who certainly hadn't planned on having an allergy attack while making a speech recently.  Edwina, Chicago


A.  Not much more could have gone wrong during a recent conference event that made international headlines, but I have to give Theresa May a lot of credit for soldiering through by keeping posed and not losing her wonderful sense of humor.

A good speech needn't turn bad. Be prepared for the worst possible case scenario by planning accordingly:

  • Don't freeze up or panic.
  • Accept whatever interruption happens.
  • Don't think about how you look, your audience really does want you to succeed.
  • Throw your shoulders back and keep them that way while smiling.
  • Acknowledge the interruption and when your audience is ready continue.
  • Find out who you would turn to if something did go wrong, such as the sound system and remember their first name. Publicly thank them for their help.
  • Never blame anyone for the distraction. Just be polite. Grace under stress is an endearing quality.
  • At the end of the day, you want to roll with the punches and go with the flow. Look at interruptions as distractions for an opportunity for levity and a blessing in disguise to show adaptability, humor, and most of all, that you're human.
  • A really great two minute warm up you can do before any presentation or entrance is to practice Amy Cuddy's Power Pose. View Ms. Cuddy's TED talk on body language here. 


Trending phone safe boxes at the best restaurants

Q. At our upscale restaurant we are investigating the possibility of adding phone 'safe boxes' to assure a more pleasant ambience for our most valued customers who have been complaining about the annoyance of cellphone activity in our restaurant. What do you recommend?  Name Withheld


A.  Better restaurants have recently been exploring the trend of installing 'safe boxes' for diner cellphones to enable customers to give up their cellphone for the duration of the meal. Certainly, I would be willing to give up my cellphone while I eat, but I've made a habit of turning it off when I enter a restaurant, just the way I would turn it to off when arriving a someone's house or office.

These days restaurant dinner tables ring out with buzzes, pings and jingles and one wonders what happened to good old-fashioned conversation. If the business dinner or date is too important to be interrupted by your cellphone or theirs (which may have cost up to $1,000 to replace), a 'safe box' might be a brilliant idea to explore. Here's what we've discovered:

  • Only the wait staff will know the combination to release your phone from the 'safe box,' which apparently is disguised as a book so it won't look too weird and out of place on your table.
  • Additionally, restaurants will be able to make a lock box available for diners to buy so they can try the social experiment at home


Let's ask readers for their input by having them leave a comment below after scrolling down. You can then see for yourself what the climate of the culture around cellphone use while dining really is.

The sorriest word in the universe should not be sorry

Q. I need to apologize to someone and I just can't bring myself around to making the actual apology. It doesn't help that I'm being pressured by others to apologize. The walls are closing in. Any advice?  Name Withheld

A.  Never underestimate the power of a straightforward apology. Even when it wasn't personally your fault. As tiresome as it might be, verbalizing your regret and sympathy for another's adversity demonstrates benevolence and helps to cool a heated exchange -- often preventing unfortunate consequences.

  • Nor does an honest apology mean telling the person that you're "sorry that they feel that way," or that you're "sorry that you've chosen to take offense," because, of course, that puts the blame on the other person.
  • Saying you're sorry is only the first step. Next you've got to make it alright by rectifying the mistake.
  • With a family member, lover, friend or colleague:
  • Don't procrastinate a moment longer, because bad feelings fester.
  • Ask if you can meet in person. When that's not possible, pick up the phone. Remember that a voicemail, text, or email saying that you're sorry won't have the backbone of a one-on-one conversation.
  • Make sure that the apology takes places in private.
  • No matter how awful you feel, do NOT turn the blame around onto the other person.
  • Reiterate with a follow-up message. Sending a gift shouldn't be necessary unless you've inadvertently destroyed something irreplaceable.


You've got the essentials, however, if there is contributory blame, find out if the aggrieved person would help you analyze what went eschew. In going over the incident, during the process their own shortcomings are identified as are those of the person making the apology.

Lastly, it goes without saying that if the incident stemmed from a comment you made or something you did that others were witness to, you probably want to apologize again in front of that same audience.

Didi Lorillard researches manners and etiquette for her upcoming book at NewportManners.


Related Slideshow: 25 Things You Must do This Fall in New England - 2017

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