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By: Stayce Wagner

Reprinted with permission from Spencer Crane Etiquette, LLC: www.spencercrane.com

“Are you pregnant?” Many moons ago, I blurted those inappropriate words to a colleague as she washed her hands in the office bathroom. As I glanced at her reflection in the mirror, I noticed a tiny bump, and without thinking, I asked if she were pregnant. She smiled and said yes, pleased that I could tell. I congratulated her warmly. She beamed.

I was lucky. The situation turned out well, but it could have easily turned ugly. What if she didn’t want to talk about it? What if she hadn’t planned to keep the baby? What if she had just put on a few pounds?

You get the point. Wait for your colleague to announce her pregnancy or to tell you personally that she is pregnant before you congratulate her. Ignoring her belly may feel a bit awkward, but what may appear to be a baby bump may not be a baby at all. Spare yourself and your colleague an embarrassing “What baby?” moment. Once your colleague has confirmed that she is pregnant, listening more than talking, and following a few simple guidelines should help you avoid offending her and embarrassing yourself.

First and foremost, don’t offer advice. Your colleague doesn’t need pregnancy counseling from her coworkers. Even when given with the best of intentions, such advice is often seen as rude and intrusive.

Secondly, it may take a village to raise a child, but why or how it gets here is none of your business. It is wildly inappropriate to inquire about the number of children a woman plans to have or to ask questions about how the child was conceived. We hear celebrities talk so much about their in-vitro procedures and surrogates that it is beginning to feel appropriate to discuss these matters in professional environments. It isn’t.

Also, keep in mind that many expectant mothers experience anxiety about the birthing process, so please don’t add to your colleague’s worries by sharing scary stories. It may be topical, but this is not the time to reveal that your mother was in hard labor with you for 28 hours and has walked with a limp ever since.

Finally, I hope that most of us already know that it is verboten to comment on a pregnant woman’s weight – no matter how good you think she looks!

Watch as Hugh Grant unsuccessfully navigates a “What baby?” moment in a scene from the movie Two Weeks Notice:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ac9w0rKTRPM

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Stayce Wagner is the founder of Spencer Crane Etiquette, LLC, located in Los Angeles, California. Ms. Wagner is a certified Corporate Etiquette and International Protocol Consultant trained by The Protocol School of Washington. Ms. Wagner uses proven training techniques, humor and engaging real-life examples to create a comprehensive, relevant and enjoyable learning experience for her clients. In addition to private consultations and speaking engagements, Ms. Wagner is a popular guest blogger and writer on the topics of social and business etiquette.

Be sure to check out her site at: http://www.spencercrane.com or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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You ever had one of those “open mouth, insert big pile of pleadings” kind of moments, TPS readers? We sure hope not, but if you did, share it with us via a comment! You know, that whole personal mortification, turned total embarrassment (laughing now, but certainly wasn’t laughing then), shared with the legal community’s finest — that type of thing?! That’s what we’re here for.

We’ll see you on that coveted paralegal holiday fondly referred to by paralegals everywhere (at least the really cool ones) as: “Happy High Heel Friday!” Until then, attempt to cling to your sanity, diffuse those deadlines, and don’t eat that piling of pleadings! “What baby?”

Our thoughts exactly.