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Forest Trees

Have a fun 50's Party at home!

Edited by Gena Martine Santoni

a magical mixture for a meaningful life

Manners & Mayhem is the blog of the Martine Cotillions and is devoted to supporting families who value courtesy, character, high personal standards, respect for self and others, and of course, good manners! As life moves faster and faster, we offer ways to slow down and focus on those who matter most in our lives. We hope you find much to enjoy!  

Powerful Magic

         by Gena Martine Santoni

Do you believe in magic?  I must confess I do.  I see it all the time.  People use this magic without really even knowing what they are doing.  But the results are powerful all the same.  Now I’m not talking about a hocus-pocus, abracadabra kind of magic.  Actually, if you want to get picky, it’s more like “The Force.” What is this mysterious magical power?  Expectation.


Expectations:  the beliefs we hold in our minds about how events will proceed.  Expectation shapes our world as we go along.   We expect to have a wonderful time - and we do.  We expect to fail the test, or get tongue tied before our speech, or that no one will notice us, and as if we have clairvoyant abilities, our premonitions come true.  We expect people to be rude (or at least annoying), and they are.  We expect our “whole day to go like this,” and it does.  But it is not only ourselves we are affecting with our expectations, because though they start as mere thoughts in our minds they soon turn into actions, facial expressions, tone of voice and, most powerfully, words, that not only shape our immediate futures, but the futures of those around us as well.


If we enter into a situation convinced we will not enjoy ourselves, our mood and demeanor will affect everyone with whom we come into contact.  If we approach a salesperson expecting to get the run around, most likely it will show and they will feel defensive right off the bat - proving us right.  These everyday encounters can easily be improved by checking our expectations and reminding ourselves that the future isn’t set - yet.


Where expectations have the most power to do good or evil is with children.  As adults we must be careful because our expectations can become adopted by our child.  Obviously, we know that calling a child stupid is not only cruel, but counterproductive.  But even when we think we are helping by anticipating a problem, we can create a problem where it might not have sprouted, or exacerbate a sleeping bean stock of a problem that might have lain dormant.  For instance:  telling a child, “you won’t like this, but you have to eat it anyway,”  or, “don’t drop that!”  or,  “you’re so stubborn!”  We are putting ideas into their heads and our expectations become theirs.


Ironically we can do even more harm with positive expectations.  If they are unreasonable, out of reach, or based upon what our desires are rather than who our children are, these unreachable goals we had our hearts set on can really hurt our children and their self-images.   We expect A’s from our B student.  We expect our shy one to become the team leader.  And when they struggle the message they get from us, though not specifically said,  is that there is something wrong with them.  After all, if my parents think I should be able to, they must be right, right?


The best way to use our incredible powers for good is to expect things to go well, and to say so.  I’m not suggesting we go around trying to convince others of our point of view.  We can spread our positive influence simply by noticing what is going right, instead of pointing out what is lacking.  We can approach people as though we expect to get a positive response.  When we do these types of things we are setting up the next moment - with our smile, our energy, our upbeat attitude, and people tend to respond in kind.  


The real fun comes when you turn around your expectations in the moment, and in doing so, change everything.  In minutes I have personally seen groups of over 100 children increase their effort, improve their attitudes and become more careful in their responsibilities after I (mentally) raised my expectations (reasonably!) for them.  No lectures, no criticism.  But because I changed, so did they.  Sometimes, it really does seem like magic.


Expectation is a powerful thing.  If we can become aware how we are using it - and use it wisely - we have the power to change the future.  •GMS

Recommended Reading for Parents

Soft Skills are Hard to Find

         by Gena Martine Santoni

Over the summer I came across more and more articles about young people entering the workforce at a distinct disadvantage.  The potential weakness in question was not in the areas of education, intelligence or potential.  It was what is now commonly referred to as soft skills, and what many of us would call social or interpersonal skills.  Repercussions from pandemic lockdowns, remote learning and the increasing lack of focus on respectful behavior in many schools and universities has robbed many young people of invaluable life experience necessary to succeed in various walks of life.


One article published in the Wall Street Journal was entitled, “New Grads Have No Idea How to Behave in the Office”.1  “Recent graduates might be great at accounting or coding,” author Lindsay Ellis writes, “but they need a little help when it comes to dinner parties and dress codes.”  According to the article, KPMG announced they will provide training for new full-time hires that includes, “the basics of talking in person - as simple as how to introduce yourself to [someone]. Key tips include maintaining eye contact, taking pauses and avoiding jargon.”  Also included are listening skills.  “The company has found that some young professionals are stiff, talk too fast, or rely too much on filler words like “um.”  


It is certainly a win-win for companies to offer such coaching.  But it is a tall order to think that someone can suddenly become adept at the subtleties of unspoken communication and social awareness.


“We tend to think that hard skills are the must-haves and soft skills are the nice-to-haves.  But the pace of technology has reversed this,” a recent Forbes article by Anna Kowal Smith proclaims. “Soft skills are tougher to define, harder to teach and learn, and require a much more customized approach. But the payoff is immense. Technical skills and expertise become obsolete much more rapidly, while soft skills grow with you throughout your entire career—relevant, transferable, and valuable.”2  I would add that they grow not just over your career, but over your lifetime - in all walks of life.

According to Rohan Rajiv, Director of Product Management at LinkedIn, “Foundational soft skills have become even more important given the rise of remote and autonomous work, and are growing in importance across industries, levels and work environments.”3


“Technical skills constantly change, but soft skills remain with you throughout your career,” writes Forbes contributor Caroline Castrillon. “That’s because they are relevant, transferable and keep an individual highly employable. In addition, soft skills are desirable because if you already have them, your employer doesn’t have to train you on them. As a result, you can more easily hit the ground running and make valuable contributions.”3  In other words, you get a head start.


Of course, soft skills are valuable long before college or careers are on the horizon. In fact, every facet of life that includes at least one other person requires them. 


At Cotillion, these are the very skills that our young members begin to practice in the 3rd grade. Dressed for success in their respectful suits and finery (following a dress code), learning the fine art of conversation (listening skills, facial expressions, overcoming awkwardness), building awareness of how they impact those around them (personal responsibility, empathy, body language), and always encouraged to have a positive impact as they collaborate together to learn and practice excellent manners. Think how much of an advantage they have, and how comfortable and confident they feel, after six seasons of consistent practice.  Practice that is never virtual and always in person.


We are often told by our graduates that that they feel light-years ahead of many of their peers when they reach college.  While I greatly appreciate their gratitude (as do parents who finally receive a “Thank you for making me go to Cotillion!”), I also feel sympathy for the young adults who did not have the opportunity to be so well prepared. But I also know that many of our graduates do their best to help their peers learn the skills they know so well (leadership). And after the effort their parents went through to get them to Cotillion all those years ago, that’s a lovely way to pay it forward.  •GMS




Forest Trees
Forest Trees
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