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CONTEMPORARY COURTESIES

Etiquette column: Go wild with nail color – after work

Well-groomed hands with subtle colors are wise for traditional job environments.

Friday, January 18, 2013 - 12:01 am

Times may have changed, but courtesy never goes out of style. In today's world sometimes it's complicated to figure out how to do the right thing. Local etiquette expert Karen Hickman answers your questions or helps solve your dilemmas on Fridays in The News-Sentinel and at www.news-sentinel.com.

Q. Karen, in a professional setting how do you feel about these wild shades of fingernail polish, such as blue or green?

A. Looking at people's hands can tell us a great deal. It can give us an idea of how old they are, whether they are married and what kind of work they might do. Hands also can be an indicator of how professional someone is.

As a general rule, especially in traditional work environments, wild colors of nail polish and exotic nail art should be reserved for social situations. You want people to pay attention to your ability and expertise in your field instead of the bright green polish or the multicolored stripes on your nails. Maintaining well-groomed nails and hands with subtle colored polish is the best bet.

This can be especially important in the health care arena. Excessively long nails can injure patients, and artificial and acrylic nails can harbor unwanted bugs and bacteria that could be transmitted to patients. Many hospitals and clinics prohibit artificial and acrylic nails. So, if it takes more than three seconds to apply to your nails, don't wear it in a health care setting.

Some other things to consider regarding hands:

•Offering a firm, confident handshake leaves a very good impression on others.

•Sweaty hands suggest you may be nervous in social situations. Spraying antiperspirant on hands before social events can help.

•Clean, well-groomed nails say you pay attention to detail.

•Surgeons' and artists' hands become critical tools in their work.

•Calloused, rough hands can tell us someone does a lot of manual labor.

•People using their hands a lot in conversation can add expression to what they are saying.

•Hands in sign language become someone's voice.

Take a look at your own hands. What they might be saying to others? Start paying attention to other people's hands. You may be surprised at what you learn.

Karen Hickman is a certified etiquette/protocol consultant and owner of Professional Courtesy LLC. Do you have a question for her? Email clarson@news-sentinel.com, and we'll forward it to her.