1640 – Learning Etiquette with The Polite Company’s Kristi Spencer

In this episode of the Thoughtful Entrepreneur, your host Josh Elledge speaks to the  CEO and Founder of The Polite Company, Kristi Spencer.

Kristi Spencer passionately spoke about the importance of using etiquette for good and not for negative purposes. She acknowledged that some people may have had bad experiences with etiquette, being chastised or embarrassed by others. As a leader, I asked Christy how to address rude behavior in a respectful and non-confrontational way. Christy suggested using a five-step process to approach such situations, emphasizing the importance of considering who the feedback is coming from and building trust with a designated “buddy” who can provide honest feedback.

Kristi's company is a beacon in the world of etiquette training, focusing on teaching essential business etiquette skills. The Polite Company covers a wide range of ‘adulting' aspects, from job interviews and dining etiquette to social media and professionalism. The ultimate goal? To help individuals and organizations thrive in their respective fields.

She highlighted vital areas, such as knowing when to hit “reply all” or “reply” in email communication and setting ground rules for shared spaces, like office refrigerators or shared desk spaces. Interestingly, Kristi pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic has renewed the focus on etiquette, especially in virtual meetings.

Kristi emphasized the importance of adapting to different communication preferences and frequencies among different generations. She also acknowledged that virtual environments can lead to miscommunication and advised maintaining professionalism even when working from home.


Key Points from the Episode:

  • Overview of the services provided by The Polite Company (business etiquette training)
  • Common etiquette issues addressed in training (email communication, shared spaces, virtual meetings)
  • Discussion on generational differences in communication etiquette
  • Significance of appearances in virtual meetings
  • Using etiquette for positive purposes and addressing rude behavior
  • Confusion around certain etiquette practices (tipping in the workplace)
  • Offerings of The Polite Company (individual coaching, business coaching, educational coaching)


About Kristi Spencer:

Kristi Spencer is a renowned etiquette instructor, and journalist known for her expertise in helping individuals and businesses present their best selves to the world. With a remarkable career spanning over two decades in TV newsrooms, she founded The Polite Company, offering personalized, in-person, and online etiquette training services.

A certified etiquette trainer and Emily Post Institute graduate, Kristi emphasizes that etiquette is not about rote rules but rather about fostering strong relationships built on consideration, respect, and honesty. She is a vocal advocate for workplace civility and professionalism, frequently sought after by media outlets for her expert opinions on etiquette matters.

Through her dedication to teaching the art of etiquette, Kristi Spencer has positively impacted countless individuals and organizations, making her a prominent figure in the field and an invaluable resource for those seeking to enhance their social and professional interactions.


About The Polite Company:

The Polite Company is a dedicated platform that emphasizes the significance of etiquette in personal and professional spheres. Committed to fostering lasting relationships and creating positive impressions, they offer various resources and courses for individuals seeking to enhance their etiquette skills.

Whether you are a beginner or wish to refine your existing knowledge, The Polite Company provides in-person and online courses, workshops, and one-on-one coaching sessions to cater to your needs. With their passion for teaching and understanding the impact of etiquette, The Polite Company is a valuable destination for anyone looking to elevate their social and professional interactions.


Tweetable Moments:

08:52 – “Well, I think that we are all born wanting some sort of acceptance and affirmation, so to just say you absolutely don't care, don't buy it because we're just kind of hardwired to want acceptance and want to be part of a group.”

11:26 – “some people have had a bad experience with etiquette and some people, you know, they've been chastised for something that they said, they've been embarrassed about something that they've done, somebody has taken what they know and used it poorly against that person to make them feel less than.”


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Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Want to learn more? Check out The Polite Company website at

Check out The Polite Company on Facebook at

Check out The Polite Company on Instagram at

Check out Kristi Spencer on LinkedIn at

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Josh (00:00:05) - Hey there, thoughtful listener. Would you like consistent and predictable sales activity with no spam and no ads? I'll teach you step by step how to do this, particularly if you're an agency owner, consultant, coach or B2B service provider. What I teach has worked for me for more than 15 years and has helped me create more than $10 million in revenue. Just head to up my influence and watch my free class on how to create endless high ticket sales appointments. You can even chat with me live and I'll see and reply to your messages. Also, don't forget the thoughtful entrepreneur is always looking for guests. Go to up my influence com and click on podcast. We'd love to have you. With us right now, Kristi Spencer. Kristi, you're the founder of the Polite Company. Your website is the polite I'm really excited to have this conversation kind of nerding out. And again, especially kind of given some of your background, which I'm excited about. But Kristi, thank you so much for joining us.

Kristi (00:01:20) - Thank you for having me.

Josh (00:01:22) - All right. What is the polite company?

Kristi (00:01:25) - So the polite company is an etiquette training service. And I focus on teaching business etiquette skills. And that really kind of covers all of adulting. So from job interviews to dining etiquette to social media to professionalism, all of these things that help you be successful and all of these things that help your organization to be successful.

Josh (00:01:53) - Okay, well, I'm a fan, so let's talk about like, what are the some of those? I'd really love to kind of just kind of get into the meat of like what you typically teach her and advising on. So what would be some really common etiquette things that you find that you're needing to address?

Kristi (00:02:10) - Well, when when go to companies and I'm teaching a half day seminar or something like that, one thing that comes up over and over again is, you know, when do you hit reply all and when do you hit reply? And, you know, when is that an interruption and when is it good communication? So we kind of go over some scenarios and you could kind of see the heads nodding, you know, like, okay, we all have somebody in our organization who just says, you know, CIA.

Kristi (00:02:38) - Yeah, reply all all the time. And, you know, that's not necessarily helpful. Something else that comes up is shared spaces, whether that is the dreaded office refrigerator or if it's the copy machine or nowadays we have a lot of shared desk space and really being able to set some ground rules, you know, what is the kind, considerate, thoughtful thing to do, you know, in these situations, Covid has given us a tremendous amount to talk about as people are transitioning back to work virtual meetings. You know, we still don't have those down after, you know, four years of of still doing those. Um, but all of these things really have kind of renewed the focus on etiquette and the importance of business etiquette.

Josh (00:03:32) - Yeah. And I would imagine, I mean, and this is interesting, I've seen this and I'd love your take on this. Oftentimes I may hear millennials complaining about boomers and boomers complaining about millennials. By the way, Gen X never involved in that conversation. We just cool doing our thing, leave us alone.

Kristi (00:03:55) - And until we get, you know, there's another one that comes up.

Josh (00:03:57) - Yes. Right. No, no. I share that in kind of a lead up to where I think it's always in vogue to complain about the quote unquote, younger generation and also in vogue to complain about the older generation. I don't know that it's necessarily just this group of boomers are just awful people or or, you know, or Gen Z's or millennials are just, again, just so out of touch, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah. But there's always going to be, I think, this generation generational idea. Um, you know, folks, my parents age complained about me when I was coming into the workplace, no doubt. And we'll think that's going to continue to be the way. But what are some of those generational observations that you've seen or considerations and things that we might be might want to be mindful of when it comes to etiquette in the workplace and beyond?

Kristi (00:04:46) - Think the biggest thing when it comes to generational etiquette is communication and how people are comfortable communicating.

Kristi (00:04:55) - So, you know, if you're the kind of person who doesn't use text messages for work and everyone around you is, you know, you're going to have to, you know, maybe change those and adapt to that, Um, how many applications that you have. And if you're on Slack and you're on teams and you're on this and that, you know, I mean, what, what do we all decide that we're going to use as communication and then sometimes just the frequency of communication. So sometimes people need that, you know, response that says, Oh yeah, got your email and other people just assume I hit send. That means you got the email. So it really does open up a lot of communication, and generational is definitely a topic that we teach, but it's more about, you know, how, how do we adapt, how do we get along? How do we just be aware of what, you know, that generation might be more or less comfortable with?

Josh (00:05:51) - Yeah, in virtual environments, again, this is going to open up a lot of opportunity, I would say, for miscommunication in times.

Josh (00:06:01) - And so any rules of the road or advice that you would give, like let's say you're working with 100% remote team, you're pretty much kind of living in Microsoft teams or Slack or something like that, where that's the primary means of communication with, you know, other team members. Any things that we should be keeping in mind or best practices that you'd recommend?

Kristi (00:06:24) - I think just because you're at home and you're working and yes, you might be a little bit more relaxed, you still need to appear professional when you are in front of clients or even with your own people. You don't want to give the impression that, you know your hair hasn't been done. You know, you're eating a sandwich in front of the screen. You're, you know, kicking your feet up on the desk and those kinds of things really, you know, we get comfortable in our own space. But when you're working, don't want you to get too comfortable.

Josh (00:06:54) - Yeah. Yeah. So know when you. So I guess a way of illustrating that, right? So if you're on Zoom and I would say the same goes for what's in your background.

Josh (00:07:06) - You know, if. Listen, you're at a hotel room, you have to work out of there or you have to work in your bedroom. Listen, that's just logistics like that's going to happen for some of us. But, you know, I would go so far even to say, you know, check out your background if there's a messy, unmade bed or there's just crap all over it, you know, it's all fair game to kind of build a picture about you. So, you know, just the same as, you know, you wouldn't show up, you know, wearing a sloppy stained, messy t shirt and unkempt hair and that sort of thing. Like the same thing goes for like, what's going on behind you Zoom Warriors.

Kristi (00:07:47) - And tell people, this is your billboard. This is your billboard. People are going to read it whether you want them to or not. They're going to pass by it. What do you want on your billboard? Because you don't get a choice how people interpret it.

Kristi (00:08:00) - And you can explain the background of, you know, why had this, you know, dirty mess behind me or something like that. People just take it in and then make judgments no matter what. It's just our nature. So think don't care if it's just an absolutely plain background and but it needs to be clean and it needs to be sending the message that you are serious and you're taking it seriously. And it just there's so many little things that go into that message.

Josh (00:08:28) - Yeah. How would you respond to someone who says, I don't care? Like, I don't want to do this? Like I just want to be able to show up authentically. I'm a programmer. We're not known for our etiquette to begin with or whatever excuse they have. I'm being silly. Um, but how would you, you know, what would you let them know about the importance of this?

Kristi (00:08:52) - Well, I think that we are all born wanting some sort of acceptance and affirmation. So to just say you absolutely don't care, don't buy it, because we're just we're just kind of hard wired to want acceptance and want to be part of a group.

Kristi (00:09:09) - So that person probably has had something in their life that's made them think, you know what, it's just going to be easier to not care than it is, but say that's all fine and good and tell the person that you rub the wrong way as a potential client, your next boss or somebody who can do you a favor or help you get ahead, you do care.

Josh (00:09:32) - Yeah. Um. What does it look like when you're working with folks? Like, how do you, first off? Well, let me let me take a step back. How would somebody know that they probably should engage with you or someone, or at least engage the topic of etiquette?

Kristi (00:09:53) - I think sometimes, you know, we come to it backwards. We have a problem and we have a customer service problem or we have a morale problem or we have some sort of specific communication problem. And people think, oh my gosh, you know, we should have some etiquette training. And so that's usually what people are experiencing some pain points there.

Kristi (00:10:14) - And that's usually when I am called. But I'm also called because people see it as a gift that they can give their employees. One of those things is dining etiquette. You know, everyone feels better when they know a few rules about, you know, eating with other people. But also it reflects so much better on your company when you have people who are representing you, who know what they're doing around the table. And just knowing a few rules can make it so that you can not focus on the fork and the bread plate and the knife and how to order the wine. But you just focus on the interaction and the people who are with you instead of being so conscientious about your actions. So yeah, so it can be, it can be, you know, when there's a problem or when they're just kind of wanting to up their image in front of their clients and customers.

Josh (00:11:06) - Yeah. What is the what is the what are the when you're, when you're engaged in training or speaking or however again, you're working with your clients, Do you ever come into a room and you see some people that are kind of sitting there with their arms crossed?

Kristi (00:11:22) - Think so, Absolutely, because it has a little bit of an image problem.

Kristi (00:11:26) - We don't always think of etiquette as something positive, which, you know, an etiquette nerd like me, it's all rainbows and glitter and good times. But some people have had a bad experience with etiquette and some people, you know, have. They've been. Chastised for something that they said they've been embarrassed about, something that they've done. Somebody has taken what they know and used it poorly against that person to make them feel less than. And that's one thing that I teach my students first and foremost, is I'm going to teach you these skills, but you must use them for good and not evil. So I'd say, you know, the rudest thing you can do is point out somebody else's lack of manners.

Josh (00:12:08) - Yeah. So how do we do that as a leader? Like, let's say that. Boy, I would I would delegate this one to my CEO who does our HR and stuff. Not likely, but yeah, sometimes that can be pretty awkward. Like if somebody comes to you and they're like, Listen, I am really having a challenge with this other person.

Josh (00:12:28) - I think that they're being rude. They probably don't even know it. Like, is there kind of a way to broach this subject in a in a, you know, in respectful and not so heavy handed way?

Kristi (00:12:40) - Yeah. Well, and I like to take groups of people and give them problems and you know, there's the the age old you have a coworker who has body odor. Um, how, how would you, you know, so we kind of use a process, a five step process of learning about, you know, the, the ways we can say things and then tell people, you know, would you want a problem like this to be told to you by somebody you don't know in HR? Or do you want somebody who cares about your success and is a work friend to you to say something like this to you? Who would it be better coming from? So what I encourage is I encourage the employees to have a buddy system and you have one person that you can tell it like it is.

Kristi (00:13:22) - If I'm talking too loud on the phone, if I'm grossing people out at my desk when I'm eating lunch, when I'm doing these things, have a person that you can tell it to straight and they can tell it to you straight. And then we don't have to involve those upper level management people and make it a much bigger issue than it is, because a lot of these things aren't HR issues. You know, these are just people issues. And so think, you know, think about having a buddy and somebody you can be really, really honest. And when we talk about the honestly, we're talking about benevolent honesty over brutal honesty and make that somebody who you really can make a relationship with and have every interaction that you have that could have been uncomfortable, builds that trust and builds that relationship.

Josh (00:14:10) - Is there a is there any way, Kristie. You know, I think sometimes we don't know what we don't know. I have found it really helpful. I know both you and I have done TV segments around tipping etiquette, for example, because it's really confusing sometimes, particularly what we've seen with Tip, for example, where, you know, you're just grabbing a soda out of the cooler.

Josh (00:14:33) - You go to check out and they flip the thing around and ask if you want to give them a tip and like, are you supposed to tip at my a jerk for not tipping? Like there's a lot of, um, I'd say there's a lot of confusion around some of those things, but I guess maybe in a workplace environment where maybe there has been some evolutions fairly quickly, maybe because of the technology we're using, you know, just platforms, just new kind of realities of how we're working together. But sometimes we just don't know. Like, I don't know if you share great content in and around this, but, you know, is there a way to kind of keep up on these sorts of like, you know, these sorts of things that might be present in our workplace?

Kristi (00:15:16) - Well, what I encourage leadership to do is don't just continually add, you know, another platform, another app, another sign in another way to do this, another, you know, what it needs to do is take the place of something else, because some workers are up to here with the constant interaction, interruptions, emails, notifications.

Kristi (00:15:40) - Um, so, you know, I try to, you know, ask people what works best for them, what works best for the majority, and then don't continually add on to people because people are fatigued, just like you said, they're fatigued. Their communication fatigue, their virtual meeting fatigue. And so always, you know, try to replace something instead of just add to.

Josh (00:16:04) - Now. Okay, so your website is the polite company. Com. How do folks engage you? What does that look like?

Kristi (00:16:14) - So I have a contact form there where I will on my website go over some of the services that I have, whether that is individual coaching, business coaching and then educational coaching as well. And just send a contact form, tell me what you're interested in and you know, whether that's a conference that people are holding and they want to talk about professionalism and, you know, being, you know, your image and that kind of thing. Or if they, again, you know, want some dining etiquette tips.

Kristi (00:16:45) - Um, you go through the website and let me know what you're looking for. And I believe in real honest communication. I will reach out. And I'm not the greatest on social media. Mean put the posts out and that kind of thing. But I really like to have conversations with people. And so if you send me a message, I'm going to be picking up the phone. You have a good old fashioned phone conversation.

Josh (00:17:10) - Yeah. And then and then so in terms of like you, are you doing just single workshops? Are you consulting? What does that look like?

Kristi (00:17:21) - It's not like the single workshops or half day workshops that I will do, but then I'll also do a series of three workshops. But if also within that, that group that they have specific people who want some individual coaching, I offer that as well.

Josh (00:17:37) - Yeah. All right your website the polite company Com. Kristi Spencer, you're the founder. It's been great having you again. Anything else that is there maybe a download or is there something that you'd recommend if there's like one piece of content, maybe someone's not necessarily ready for a conversation, but, you know, maybe just something that that you'd recommend.

Josh (00:18:00) - Maybe it's or even if it's a favorite book of yours. I know you come from the Emily Post School of Etiquette, which is kind of cool. Emily Post Institute.

Kristi (00:18:09) - Excuse me. Right, right. Yeah. No, if I was going to give somebody a tip, that's what I would give them is to grab that book. And really things have changed since Emily Post first wrote that book 100 years ago, and they have gone through and changed the entire there's so many things in it that have changed. They revamped everything and everyone should have one. And it's a great reference. And you don't always have to follow the traditions, but it's nice to know what they are. So you, you know, you know where your safe territory is. So definitely get that book engaged on Instagram. I'm constantly answering people's questions and giving them advice and kind of just bringing up some of those social issues that we are all dealing with.

Josh (00:18:56) - All right. Kristi Spencer, again founder of the polite company found on the Web at the polite

Josh (00:19:00) - Kristi, thank you for joining us.

Kristi (00:19:02) - Thank you so much.

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