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What Members Are Thinking and Sharing

Jeff Koterba


Comebacks for Come-Ons

Q. Some of the women on our staff have been on the receiving end of sexist comments from older male alumni. Examples: "You look really familiar—I saw you in Playboy, right?" or "Wow, you're really pretty, but you're also smart." What do you say in the moment that makes these men understand how inappropriate they're being and stops them in their tracks? We'd like some one-liners that are firm, polite, and professional.

A. Be assertive. "I am smart, thank you. Since we both know it's not appropriate to talk about how I look, let's get back to discussing XYZ." Speak in terms of I rather than you to reduce defensiveness. ("I would feel more comfortable if we didn't talk about my appearance" rather than "You are being inappropriate.") Finally, focus on the behavior, not the person. ("I am not comfortable with the Playboy reference" rather than "You are a jackass.")

—Joyce Marter, licensed psychotherapist and CEO, Urban Balance Counseling, Chicago

A. Silence can be a good response. Simply look at them, wait, and then comment on the weather. Or in a large group, you could try "Um, did you get the memo? It's 2017. Not funny."

—Catherine Hill, vice president for research, American Association of University Women, Washington, D.C.

A. My medium of choice for dealing with these kinds of comments is humor. ("Rewind! Do you wanna try that line again? I'm giving you a second chance!") But I recommend creating a set of responses that feel authentic to you and your voice and rehearsing them so you're not stuck reflecting on what you wish you'd said. Giving individuals the benefit of the doubt offers an opportunity for coaching, correction, or subtle scolding.

—Lorna Somers, director of development and vice-president, McMaster University Foundation, Canada

Unplugging illustration

Inquiring Minds

What Are Your Tricks for Unplugging?

March 3–4, 2017, from sundown to sundown, is National Day of Unplugging in the U.S. Here are our members' best tricks worldwide for putting away the phones and tablets:

Since I have to be available at all times for work, I give myself "mini" unplugging sessions. I'll go for a walk and leave my phone at home, or I'll take in a movie at the theater and leave my phone off for those two hours.

—Libby Champion, director of communications, Montverde Academy, Florida

Every night after dinner is a no-phone zone in my house.

—Ali Abel, manager, communications and marketing, Faculty of Law, University of Calgary, Canada

Last spring, I vowed to unplug for a vacation and turned off all social media push notifications on my phone and tablet. Funny thing: I have not turned them back on! I am so much happier and less stressed, and I haven't missed anything important.

—Binnie Kurtzner, website and social media manager, Laurel School, Ohio

The director and deans at my institution model an aggressive work environment during the week, but come 5 p.m. on Friday, your time is your own. I relish my weekends and appreciate having a fresh staff on Monday.

—Liza Boffen-Yordanov, chief development officer, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, India

Scuba diving works like a charm. It's the one place where they know I absolutely cannot receive a text or phone call.

—Lisa Vasquez, vice president of advancement, Collin College, Texas

I unplug by forgetting my phone at home. Works every single time, and I find it incredibly liberating.

—Rebecca Polar, senior grants specialist, Ellucian, Fairfax, Virginia

I accept NOT unplugging as a trade-off. If I'm available 24/7, it means I don't worry about a lunch that takes a couple of hours so I can run some errands or leaving early once a week to watch my kid's golf team practice. I'd rather give back some of that time after my kid is in bed by responding to emails then, and I can always get to the office in a jiffy if I'm needed.

—Lori Oliwenstein, editorial director, Office of Strategic Communications, California Institute of Technology

Perspective! My workplace existed for almost 200 years without me, and it will continue to survive if I go on vacation or turn off my phone for a few hours to attend a concert. In 10 years, co-workers won't remember how quickly you responded to that routine tweet—but your children will remember if you were distracted during a game or performance or if you spent a vacation working.

—Kate Worster, associate vice president for marketing communications, Kalamazoo College, Michigan


Art credit: vmelinda/istock/thinkstock




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