DEAR DR. FLO
By Dr. Flo Gray

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Dear Dr. Flo
I am a middle age woman and the manager of a doctor’s office and I have a serious problem with one of the doctor’s wife who also works in the office. Dr. Flo this woman is unbearable to work with. I really love my job but she interferes with every decision that I make. If she does not like one of the female patients she instructs me to refer her to someone else and ask me to lie to the patient and tell her we don’t accept her insurance anymore.  She constantly makes other staff members cry or quit their job. We have more staff calling in sick than ever before and our turnover rate is above average. Incidents such as this have me pulling my hair out. I was told that the previous office manager went to the doctor and was fired a week later.  What I can’t understand is can’t the other doctors see what’s going on. It is so obvious that the office is a wreck and I can bring some calmness to it but I can’t with the constant interference. I am about ready to throw in the towel but I need my job, what should I do?
~ Desperate

Dear Desperate:
I am so sorry to hear of your situation but it happens quite a bit when husband and wife teams work together. It appears that you are in a hole that keeps getting bigger and bigger. I know that you love your job but to be instructed to lie is a bit much. I have a few suggestions that may help the situation I would suggest that you hold a staff meeting and insist that the team of doctors attend. Ask questions that will clarify your concerns. Elementary questions capture the basic facts of the problem.  Be prepared when you conduct the workshop and address the issues and be ready to do everything in your power to present a resolution to the problem. An example would be to identify each staff member’s role in the organization starting with your job description, statistics on patient and staff turnover and revenue. You can believe that the doctors are more interested in their bottom line than keeping someone on that minimize their bottom line.

If you haven’t already, write a job description for each employment slot, and from time to time review the job with each staff member. If it’s written it can’t be challenged without review and documentation. Good luck Desperate, I am hopeful that you will be optimistic about your future.
Dr. Flo


Dear Dr. Flo
I am in love with a man that has bad breath. I give him mints and gum all the time and sometimes he accepts them and other times he won’t. I want a future with this man but I am embarrassed when my friends call him potty breath.  I can’t bring myself to tell him that his breath stinks. Sometimes when he talks I can see people backing away from him. I don’t want people to talk about the man I love. Please help!!
~ Helpless in Phoenix

Dear Helpless in Phoenix:
I can’t imagine loving someone and not being able to tell them that they have bad breath. He may have a medical problem and surely he doesn’t know that his breath offends anyone or he would do something about it. It is your responsibility to tell him and do it soon. You are not helpless you are shameful.. We take care of the people we love!
Dr. Flo


Dear Dr. Flo:
Please correct me if I am wrong. I am the maid of honor for my best friend who is getting married in May. I am giving her a kitchen bridal shower because she needs kitchen items more than anything else. Dr. Flo we are planning on having 50 people attend. Our friend who is helping me to plan the shower made mailing labels for the envelopes because she thinks that we will get tired if we address that many envelopes. Dr. Flo I don’t want to hurt her feelings but my grandmother would turn over in her grave if I mailed out labeled envelopes to a social event. My mother says to just mail them it’s no big deal. I say that I should tell her that it is not proper to mail social invitations with pre-printed labels. Who is correct?
~ Maid of Honor

Dear Maid of Honor:
You are correct, but you must be careful how you correct your friend, you don’t want hurt feelings. There are many books out there on how to send and respond to invitations. I suggest that you purchase one for your friend and gently tell her that “we” almost made a mistake, and “I” bought “us” a book on proper etiquette. By including yourself in the mishap she will feel less likely to be hurt and she will learn a valuable lesson from a good friend. Good luck with your kitchen bridal shower, they can be such fun.
Dr. Flo


Dear Dr. Flo:
I was recently at a very nice restaurant and received the embarrassment of my life. My girl friend and I doubled dated a set of identical twins whom we met at a country club that both of our parents belong to. We were asked to dinner by both twins and we said yes and set a date. My friend and I had taken your social etiquette class last summer at the very same country club that we had dinner at, and we were ready to show off our dining and social skills. Everything was going swell, the guys come from very nice families so they knew how to order and dine in the continental style that you taught us. After the main course we ordered dessert and cappuccino, and excused ourselves to go to the necessary room to freshen up. When we returned to the table something was different but I couldn’t put my finger on it. The guys were still acting like gentlemen but I could still sense something in the air.

Our desserts were served; we had dessert and cappuccino, laughed and talked until it was time to leave. The waiter came with our checks and put a check in front of each of us. Dr. Flo, I thought that it was some mistake so I sat there waiting for our dates to correct the waiter; instead they each picked up their check squabbled over the tip, paid their bill and ignored us. Well Dr. Flo I had $20 in my wallet and my friend had $8. I have never been so embarrassed before ever. My friend started to cry and our dates started to laugh. I excused myself, called my father and told him the story; my father called the club and had the bill put on his account. Our dates told us that they asked us if we wanted to go to dinner that they never pay for a girl’s dinner and that it was our fault for assuming. To add insult to injury they thought that we were going to ride home with them. My father came to pick us up and told them that he would have a talk with their father about their bad manners. Dr. Flo, do we have to ask a guy if he is paying for dinner every time we are asked out?
~ Embarrassed

Dear Embarrassed:
First let me begin by telling you how sorry that I am that this happened to you and that not all guys are creeps. Unfortunately you just ran into two immature creeps that thought it was fun to play a joke on two beautiful young ladies, and who obviously have very little respect for classy young ladies such as you and your friend. As you mature you will meet and date young gentleman who know the rules of dating, until that time I would suggest that you be clear on the rules of the date when dating high school friends. The restaurant that they chose is a high-end dining spot that is privileged to a few and one would assume that membership has its advantage and social class but obviously the two creeps do not have the social graces that come with the privilege.

I must say that you handled yourself with grace and class. You didn’t make a scene and you phoned your father for support. I hope that you never have to go through something of this magnitude ever again. Another suggestion is that you may want to have enough cash on you to cover your expenses at all times when going out on a date. Independence is a virtue.
Dr. Flo


Dear Dr. Flo
I wanted to personally thank you again for dissecting some of the common misconceptions about Arabs during your presentation in San Francisco, California. After attending the International Protocol and Etiquette Seminar on cultural awareness, for the very first time since I have moved to America I could see in the faces of some of the participants that they really didn’t have a clue about my culture. Not understanding or making an effort to learn about other cultures can blind us. I just wanted you to know that after attending your seminar I am making a stronger effort to learn more about other cultures, especially the American culture. I am now able to laugh at some of your American jokes; at first I felt stupid only because I didn’t understand. I am sending you a question to your Dear Dr. Flo column about the common misconceptions about Arabs and hope that you will answer it in your column so others can too learn that we are all the same and our differences are in our cultural traits.
~ Abu Ayyoub

Dear Mr. Abu Ayyoub:

Thank you for your kind words and as promised here is a little information about your culture that you have asked me to share with the viewers. First and foremost, most Americans know that not all persons from the Mideast are terrorists; just as we know that not all white men can’t jump ( a little humor). People who are ignorant and do not wish to learn will never change but let’s try to enlighten some of the intelligent members or our society about your beautiful culture.

To be an Arab, is not to come from a particular race or lineage. Like an American, to be an Arab is a cultural trait rather than racial. The Arab world includes Muslims, Christians and Jews. Any person who adopts the Arabic language is typically called an Arab. Arabic is the official and the original language of the Qur’an, the Islamic holy book.

The stereotypes and misconceptions about Arabs that we talked about during the seminar in San Francisco are many and let me try to put some to bed.

  1. Arabs are a religiously diverse group of people just like Americans.
  2. The Arab world is a highly developed culture and civilization with modern and ancient cities.
  3. Just like Americans there are some rich men and some economically challenged.
  4. The overwhelming majority of Arab people are law abiding citizens with families in a wide range of occupations, also like Americans,
  5. Not all Arab women are oppressed by men. According to Islam women are supposed to wear veils. In some countries like Lebanon, Syria and Egypt it is not imposed upon them and women are free to choose  whether to wear veils or not.

Body language and greetings are very significant in Arab cultures.  The body language is distinctly different and must be learned to effectively reinforce the intended message, and perhaps more importantly to not give unintended insults.

Extend your right hand ONLY at the beginning of the greeting and at the end of the visit. Shake hands a bit longer but less firmly than we do in the West. The left hand grasps the elbow. Close friends or colleagues hug and kiss both cheeks upon greeting. During the Hajj (pilgrimage), people may kiss ONLY on the shoulders as a gesture of friendship and greeting. Touching noses together 3 times when greeting is a Bedouin gesture of friendship and respect. Placing a hand on your heart along with a slight bow is a sign of respect. This is usually done during greetings. Americans should limit physical contact to a handshake.

Never shake hands with an Arab women unless she offers her hand first. Never flirt, touch, hug or talk in private with an Arab women. Do not talk in public with an Arab women unless it is business related. Never try to engage a Arab women in conversation unless you have been formally introduced and never ask an Arab questions about his wife or other female members of his family.

Arab men respect the privacy and protect the role of women in Arab societies. Men stand when women enter a room just as most American men do. Different living areas for men and women are respected. Women do not eat or socialize in the same room as men. Many Arabs that have settled in America have developed some of our western norms and made significant modifications to their life-styles to fit in.

The Arab family is the center of everything to the male. The father has first and last word. Honor is very important amongst Arabs and will be protected and defended at all costs. Insults and criticism is taken very seriously. Time is approached in a much more relaxed and slower state than that in Western cultures.

Most Arabs do not share the American concept of personal space. In conversation they tend to talk in your face; it is considered offensive to step or lean away.

Personal Hygiene is extremely important for both spiritually and practical reasons. Meals are frequently eaten by hand; hands are washed before and after eating. Formal washing of the face, hands and forearms is required before daily prayers or fasting.

Arabs are  restricted from eating pork. The staple of the Arab diet is dark pita bread and lamb is the most common meat. Alcohol is forbidden. If invited to the home of an Arab family, it is considered rude to decline the offer of a drink (tea and Arabic coffee) is offered as an expression of friendship. Accept the beverage with the RIGHT HAND ONLY! When eating, drinking, offering, or passing use the right hand only! The LEFT HAND is considered UNCLEAN. Not eating everything on the plate is considered a compliment. If invited to dinner leave shortly after dinner. Dinner is the climax of conversation and entertainment. Avoid discussions on political issues, religion, alcohol and male-female relations over dinner or tea.

“All people are the same, it is only their habits that are different”_____Confucius


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