Manners Matter

Kelly Duggan helps teens with etiquette and social skills
Kelly Duggan, at left, uses a variety of props (on table) to teach kids etiquette and social skills, such as the handshaking practice going on in the background. Duggan was photographed at The Beacon Club.

As a certified image manager, coach and consultant, Kelly Duggan has provided many individuals and businesses with training in communication, business etiquette and professional image management. But lately, while working in the Kalamazoo area, she found herself continuously fielding one particular question: “Do you offer services to kids?”

People had similar reasons for asking. “They say, ‘I can tell my kids this, but they won’t listen to me,’” says Duggan.

So last August, Duggan offered a course called Manners Matter — a seminar to teach teens social skills and manners. The course, held at Consumers Credit Union and the Epic Bistro, on the downtown Kalamazoo Mall, covered topics such as positive first impressions, dining skills and table manners as well as how to make introductions, shake hands and maintain eye contact.

This course wasn’t Duggan’s first experience working with young people. In the past she spoke to a Rotary youth group about dress and professional presence, and Kalamazoo College recruited her for a presentation at its Senior Etiquette Dinner. Jeter’s Leaders, a youth leadership program funded by Derek Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation, hired Duggan to teach dining etiquette to a group of middle school students at Milwood Magnet School. An afterschool program was followed by a tutorial lunch a week later at The Union Cabaret & Grille, in downtown Kalamazoo. Duggan says the kids responded positively, especially to the lunch. “They were so eager to have that experience,” she says.

And how did Duggan fare, having lunch with 15 to 20 middle-schoolers? “I found that I lived through it and liked it,” she says, laughing.

Duggan seeks to make her Manners Matter course educational and fun for teens. To emphasize the importance of first impressions, she uses a visual demonstration. First, she pulls out a crushed gift box, fol-lowed by a box wrapped in brown paper and tied with string and then a silver gift-wrapped box sporting a fancy bow. She asks the teens to guess the value of the contents inside each box.

Invariably, the students guess that the crushed package contains contents with the least value, while the extravagantly decorated piece holds something with the highest worth. If anything sticks in the minds of the teens after that demonstration, Duggan hopes it is this: “Visual impact occurs in seven to 20 seconds. A first impression counts and is the foundation for all to build from.”

Besides nailing a good first impression, teens must understand that good etiquette is required for success in the business world, Duggan says. That means remembering basics such as saying “please” and “thank you” and respecting everyone involved, she says.

“How else do you set yourself positively or negatively apart from others other than in how you look, act, speak or dress?” she asks. “When you’re up against other individuals with the same degree, background, product or service, etc., you are the differentiator.”

Teaching etiquette and social skills is Duggan’s second career. Her first was as a dental hygienist in the periodontal field for more than 25 years, and she still fills in when a dentist needs assistance. Duggan says there’s a common denominator between these seemingly unrelated occupations: “I take care of people well.” In dentistry, that means caring for patients from pre-operative through post-surgical treatment and beyond. As an image coach, speaker and consultant, she helps people become their best inside and out.

“In individual coaching and multi-series programs, I take my clients through a process,” Duggan says. “It’s the journey and process that I love and helping an individual successfully get from point A and on to C and D to complete the process for them.”

This second-career interest started in 1991 when Duggan underwent a color analysis to find which colors of clothing and accessories look best on her. Finding it intriguing, she launched a side business as a color analyst, which eventually blossomed into the full-fledged professional management and etiquette consulting business she helms today. While she still enjoys doing clients’ color analyses, Duggan’s core passion is helping clients become more comfortable and confident people.

“Still, today, my business services are about what’s going on on the outside, but it’s the impact on the inside that counts and where my interest and passions began and still lie,” she says.

Duggan enjoys teaching Manners Matter to teens because it’s not the typical day with the pressures of professional and corporate services. And parents need not worry — Duggan will be offering this course again. Its debut was well received.

But Duggan has a motivation beyond the financial: She has a heart for helping teens.

“(On) a personal level, I was raised by my grandmother,” she says. “Without her presence and impact on my life, I wouldn’t be where I am today. If I can be of help, be a role model, positively have impact in a child’s life, then I’ve done a good job.”


Test Your Etiquette Knowledge

Image consultant Kelly Duggan says manners are all about common sense and respect, and she has worked up a quiz to test your etiquette know-how:

True or False?

1. You should enter and exit your seat from the left side of the chair.

2. When seated at a dining table, all dishes should be passed to the left.

3. If you drop a utensil while dining in a restaurant, it would be appropriate to bend down and pick it up right away.

4. Salt and pepper should always be passed together.

5. When dining with a group of six or fewer, it would be appropriate to begin eating your meal before all of the others have been served.

1 – True, 2 – False, 3 – False, 4 – True, 5 – False