Gala, mobile phone, R.S.V.P and travel etiquette remain hot buttons for us all, and our insider Ms. Modern Manners, Sharon Schweitzer, JD, is on the scene with tips to support your next, smart social move

Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

I’m the co-chair of our children’s center’s annual gala. This year my co-chair happens to be one of my best friends, and although it’s been fun to plan the event together, sometimes it’s hard to distinguish our “personal” and “working” relationships. If the planning work gets stressful, I don’t want it to affect our friendship. How do I keep things in order?

Chairing and Cheerful


Dear Cheerful Co-chair,

This is not uncommon, dear one. Whether it is in business or social circles, committee co-chairs still have two main responsibilities: first, making sure that committee tasks are completed well and on-time and second, that your committee members work well together. As the co-chairs you set the leadership example. Reminding each other of your joint mission; then asking what you could each do better has an amazing impact on personal and working behavior.


Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

My cousin, who has a marvelous oceanfront property, often invites me to the fantastic events he throws there. Problem is, although it’s always a fabulous time, the parties are quite frequent and I’d like to spend some of that time with my other friends. How do I politely decline an invitation?

Eventful Etiquette-Seeker


Dear Ever Eventful,

If this was me I would politely decline his fantastic invitation just like you decline any other invitation when you already have another commitment. Be sure to express your thanks for the invitation; remember that you have no obligation to explain your regrets although you may wish to provide a brief reason since he is your cousin – maybe that you already have dinner plans or tickets to a show.


Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

One of my regular lunch-date friends is always delightful to spend time with. But lately she’s been absorbed into her telephone, even at our lunch dates. I understand she has a lot of business to attend to, but I think she’s become more dependent on the phone than she realizes. How do I get my friend back?

Loving Lunch


Dear Lunch Lover,

Mobile phones – when to use and when to lose? Before taking action, think about what upsets you most – the message that your regular lunch-date would rather be elsewhere or whether you have possibly been guilty in the past? A polite approach may be to warmly ask her with your authentic smile “Let’s be present with each other today for lunch and unplug from our phones.” Then see what her response is. Remember that we cannot change others, we can only improve ourselves. Since phone use is a no-no in a social setting, she may be out of circulation soon unless she changes her ways.


Dear Ms. Modern Manners,

I’m super-excited, but also rather nervous, about visiting “mysterious Myanmar” this year, which I understand used to be called Burma, as part of an Orient Express cruise. We will be meeting locals; so should I take gifts for my Yangon hosts and, if so, what would you recommend?

Vibrant Voyager


Dear Bon Voyager,

International etiquette is an important aspect of luxury travel. Sophisticated voyagers will want to know that although the U.K. and the U.S. continue to refer to the country as Burma, the country name was officially changed to Myanmar in 1989. A wonderful way to bridge the cultural divide is to bring and wrap a small quality item from your State Capitol gift shop such as a handcrafted item, a pen or golf ball. Don’t be surprised if your gracious gift is initially declined with “You should not have gone to so much trouble.” Kindly reply that it is your honor to present the gift.