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PROFILE: UC’s ‘Miss Manners’ Gives Etiquette Its Proper Due

UC etiquette guru LisaMarie Luccioni teaches the McManners generation that good behavior is about making others feel comfortable, not necessarily yourself.

Date: 12/22/2003 8:00:00 AM
By: Marianne Kunnen-Jones
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Photos By: Dottie Stover
UC ingot In an age of Jerry Springer and McManners, courtesy may not seem to count for much. Yet etiquette business seems to be flourishing, and one of the experts it’s keeping busy is LisaMarie Luccioni, UC adjunct assistant professor of communication.

Photo of LisaMarie Luccioni
LisaMarie Luccioni

An Internet search for “etiquette expert” using Google finds 3,270 listings, while Yahoo gleans 2,130. At UC, etiquette guru Luccioni, whose bearing and appearance call to mind the real “Miss Manners,” Judith Martin, is finding more demand for her services as well. This quarter, she is teaching UC Lindner Honors-PLUS business freshmen about courtesy and good business behavior. Later in winter quarter, Luccioni also will lead an etiquette seminar with College of Law students. In another program offered by the Center for Organizational Leadership, Luccioni has been invited to make presentations during the senior year of the new curriculum.

In the Honors-PLUS seminar, she recently shepherded the class to a formal dinner at the five-star Maisonette, persuading students who usually wear hooded sweatshirts and soccer shorts to wear business suits. Besides covering the basics of formal dining protocol, Luccioni offers practical advice on good business behavior ranging from proper introductions and the importance of eye contact to how to leave an effective voice mail message. For many of the students in class, these topics simply do not come up at home or in their earlier education.

When it comes to courtesy and typical students today, explains Honors-PLUS freshman Sarah Madrigal from Bluffton, Ohio: “Generally we’re more about just feeling comfortable. I don’t do things to be rude, but I tend to do what makes myself comfortable. I prop an elbow on the table or put a foot under me when I sit down.”

Photo of Luccioni

Luccioni, etiquette is indeed about comfort, but not necessarily yours. “My definition of etiquette is basically putting people at ease while representing yourself favorably,” Luccioni explains.

Among her key pieces of advice: Remember and use people’s names because we all really like it when people use our names, make sure to extend a firm handshake, and never forget the power of the simple, handwritten “thank you” note. Also, always leave your name and phone number in voice mail messages twice, and more importantly, slowly.

She practices what she preaches. On the first day of class with her Honors-PLUS students, Luccioni surprises them by already knowing them by name. She has gotten to know their faces from photographs. She calls on each student to clarify pronunciation and preferences on what students want to be called, then makes notes on index cards. Smiles abound as she rehearses their names, and she gets them right.

By the end of the first session, students realize their teacher will be teaching them some useful information. They also note that this is one instructor they will never forget. “She talks really fast,” says student Chris Frericks. “She definitely has a lot of energy.”

Alumni of Luccioni’s classes attest to the power of her guidance. Raqule Whited, an accountant with Deloitte & Touche in downtown Cincinnati and an Honors-PLUS alumna of UC, finds that “pretty much everything we covered” in class has proven to be helpful to her in the work world. “Proper handshakes, making eye contact, the formal ways to introduce people, thank you notes – it all has come into play.”

“Cell phone etiquette is a big thing,” she adds. “If you’re in a meeting, at a meal or a workshop, your attention should be on the situation at hand. If you have to take a cell phone call, make sure you move off to another location and mind the tone and level of your voice.”

Photo of Luccioni teaching
Luccioni commands attention in the classroom.

Jennifer (Yale) Kidd, 2003 graduate of UC’s College of Business and a resident of Eastgate, finds that two points she learned from Luccioni are especially helpful to her on the job – the importance of eye contact and using people’s names.

“I was the kind of person who didn’t really look people in the eye when I talked,” says Kidd, senior research analyst at BASES in Covington, Ky., and another Honors-PLUS alum. “But LisaMarie taught us how much more attentive people are when you look them in the eye. I’ve learned that if I really have something important to say to look someone in the eye. It really does make a difference.”

Although she admits she still has a bit of trouble remembering names, Kidd says she is learning that remembering names, and using people’s names, does make a difference. “I know that I like it when people use my name. It really does help to create a friendlier atmosphere.”

The primary lesson that Elizabeth Kramer, also a 2003 Honors-PLUS graduate, has carried with her into the work world from Luccioni’s etiquette course is “the power of the simple, handwritten thank you note.”

Kramer, associate manager, Consumer & Market Knowledge Baby Care at Procter & Gamble, finds that her hand-written thank you notes are a powerful way to leave a lasting impression. She used them after attending professional speaker presentations and job interviews, penning a note to everyone she spoke to in the process – including those she spoke to by phone. “I think it surprises people because our days are so busy. Most people don’t send hand-written notes anymore – if anything it’s a short email. The hand-written card really makes you stand out.” 

To those who find the thought of learning etiquette intimidating, Luccioni points out that she was once clueless herself. She once participated in a formal dinner at a national conference, where she had no idea what all the utensils were for. She had to follow the lead of others sitting at her table. Ever since, she has been learning more. And now she’s the one that people turn to for answers.

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