Tag Archives: Rule of Thumb


2 women talking

I always find it awkward, when addressing my client for the first time. While everyone seems to think that addressing someone by his or her first name is the norm, I’ve found that assuming that’s how the client wants to be addressed is not always true.

I’ve worked with several clients since I started my business Virtual Colleague, LLC in 2013. When I network or speak to a potential client on the phone, he or she lets me know how they want to be addressed by how they introduce themselves to me.  I always use both of my names and let the client decide how he/she wants to address me.

Business Card

For example, my company slogan is “partnering with the client”, so if we’re partners we should address each other by our first names. Right? Some of my clients do not feel comfortable doing this, especially because I do not work in their offices, so they feel we have an extended connection. Although they’re very satisfied with the work I do, they don’t feel a close connection or bond. Therefore, they address me as Ms. Plante.

I don’t really care how my clients address me. I am in partnership with them and I let them decide how they want to interact with me and how we address each other. I want them to be comfortable working with me and sharing ideas and information. As long as we connect on a business level, I let them dictate how we communicate (emails, phone calls, Skype, etc.) and how they want to be addressed.


I’ve found that sometimes my clients’ titles call for a more formal tone. For example, some clients prefer to use their professional titles: Doctor, Vice-President, Director, etc. If they ask me to use those titles, it’s usually to distinguish themselves from the others in their fields and usually I’m asked to use these titles, when working with larger companies.


One rule of thumb: I NEVER use nicknames. I believe they can be demeaning and show a lack of respect for the client. On the other hand, if my client’s name is Richard, I let him tell me how he wants to be addressed: Rich, Richie, Dick, or Rick. If he or she asks me to use a more familiar name like the ones I mentioned, then I would do it, but I would still refuse to use a nickname.

Even though I want to work with them, I also have my own business and reputation to think of. If I’m too casual with my clients, they may not see me as a true professional and my business would suffer. In addition, getting too close or familiar on a personal level with my clients would change our business relationship and the lines of communication may start to blur. It’s important to strike a balance between professional courtesy and personal involvement in business.

What are your thoughts on this topic?


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April’s Fool

Instead of writing about April Fool pranks, this blog post is about how to act and re-act to difficult situations. There are two kinds of pranks: malicious and amusing.

April Fool You

The amusing prank is a simple gesture, such as a touch on the right shoulder from behind, so that when that person turns to their right, the prankster is on their left side. This is harmless and is not meant in a mean–spirited way. It’s just a subtle way of having fun. These can easily be overlooked and may sometimes have a bonding effect with the group or team.

Bee Prank

Malicious pranks, the kind that hurt someone mentally, physically, or emotionally are a different matter altogether. We should all avoid doing those actions that may make someone uncomfortable, but what do you do when this type of prank happens to you?

As a business owner, I meet with people from many different cultures and backgrounds. What some people think is offensive, others think it’s ok to do or say. So how do you deal with all of this?

Rule of Thumb

Here is the rule of thumb I use to determine how I will react to someone or something.

1)      Look at the person who pranked you. Are they joking or do they have a look of revenge or anger?

2)      If they’re relaxed and laughing, this usually means they mean it as a harmless prank. If they look like they’re enjoying your discomfort, this usually means this is a mean-spirited prank, so beware!

3)      If you really find the prank unacceptable, quietly let them know. Take them aside and tell them that in this country or at this event, it is not polite to say or do that to someone. They may not know that it is unacceptable to do or say and you will avoid making a scene and will definitely let them know how you feel.

4)      If it looks like it’s payback for something, smile and remain quiet. They should get your message that you don’t like what happened, you’re not participating in their scheme, and you won’t tolerate it, if it happens again.

I meet most of my clients at gatherings and events. Some people have the gift of gab and always know exactly what to say and do for every occasion. Others seem to stumble over their words or try to tell a funny story that isn’t really funny.

Again, evaluate the person and the setting. If alcohol is involved, it could be the drink that’s talking or their inner demons. You always want to put your best foot forward, so deal with everything that comes your way with class and self-control. No matter what happens, remain calm and then quietly deal with it.

Spilled Wine

A good example of this is the time I went to an after-hours get together and a businessman spilled his full glass of wine all over my suit. Someone bumped into him and the wine flew out of his glass on to me. I was furious, but I kept calm and went to the ladies’ room.

When I came out, he was waiting for me and offered to pay the cleaning bill. He gave me his business card and told me he would be in touch. Of course I didn’t believe him.

I took my suit to the cleaner the next morning, but it was too stained to be cleaned. Two days later, I got a call from this attorney asking about my suit. When I told him about it, he said he would make it up to me and a few days later, he sent me a gift card to Nordstrom’s in the mail.

If I started screaming at him, he could have easily blamed the other person and it would have ended badly. I kept calm and tried to remain professional and was able to replace my suit with a new one at no cost to me.

Best advice: Pranks are —just pranks, but if it turns ugly, don’t lose your cool. Remain calm and deal with it in a calm manner. If you do that, the joke is on them!

How do you handle pranks?

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