Everyone Has a Story: Giving digitally raised children much-needed face-to-face time

By MICHELLE BRUNETTI POST
Press of Atlantic City Staff Writer

Students today need more help developing face-to-face social skills than previous generations did, said Stone Harbor’s Hilary Brennan, because so much of their communication is via text and email.

The mother of two teenage boys, Brennan said she was motivated to become a certified etiquette trainer because of the behaviors she saw in her own children and in their friends.

“Young people sometimes struggle with developing conversations and selling themselves,” she said, adding that eye contact is essential.

“We forget sometimes how powerful etiquette is in our world — why we like someone or why someone gives us an odd feeling,” she added. “It’s sensory.”

So Brennan, 46, who also has a home in Moorestown and previously worked in manufacturing, got certified in 2009 to teach the topic through the Etiquette and Leadership Institute in Watkinsville, Ga., and started a business called Socially Savvy.

She is running Leadership, Etiquette and Dining Camps this summer in Avalon, which cover everything from body language, making introductions and conducting conversations to proper fine-dining behavior. She said she uses a lot of props, games and activities rather than lectures.

Brennan is also developing a program for young people seeking admission into schools and colleges, internships and employment called Outclass the Competition: Mastering the Interview and Creating Your Brand, with Lionel Anderson, a New York Times contributor and assistant director of academic resources at Haverford College.

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