5 Tips on Being Professional

Natalie De Paz

Natalie De Paz is a budding writer based in sunny South Florida. She especially enjoys penning poetry, and is currently an English major at Florida International University in Miami, FL.

1. Eye-Contact & Body Language

Make eye-contact with your clients and colleagues.  It is important to show them you are being attentive and are interested in what they are saying.  Don’t just look like you are paying attention, either.  Most people can see through the old “smile-and-nod” act.

Do: Look clients and colleagues in the eye when they or you are speaking.
Do: Stand or sit in such a manner that connotes attentiveness (e.g., with good posture).
Do: Smile (if appropriate) and nod to indicate you are listening.
Don’t: Smile and nod while not paying attention.
Don’t: Let your eyes wander around the room aimlessly while you or the other person is speaking.

2. Firm Handshake
Own it!  A firm handshake is key when trying to make a good first impression; it connotes confidence.  Many people think this means to engage in a sort of contest intending to break the other person’s hand or arm, but this is not the way to approach it.  Shaking hands is an art.  Reign in that enthusiastic energy and shake hands firmly–not violently– with one or two pumps of the arm.

Do: Firmly grasp the other person’s hand.
Do: Pump your arm once or twice.
Do: Make eye-contact with the other person.
Don’t: Pump your arm up and down vigorously.
Don’t: Offer a limp hand.
Don’t: Crush the other person’s hand.

3. Email Etiquette
The email has become a staple of the modern workplace, be it an insurance office or a therapy center.  It is important to address clients and colleagues professionally.  Some of us succumb to an extreme urge to be friendly and forthcoming– an admirable sentiment.  However, there is a way to be friendly and professional: it’s called courtesy.

Do: Use appropriate openings in emails like, “Good morning, Mr. Station.”
Do: Use appropriate closings in emails such as, “Regards,” “Best,” or “Sincerely.”
Don’t: Use smiley faces in professional emails.
Don’t: Use capital letters for emphasis.
Don’t: Use repeated punctuation for emphasis (e.g., “!!!!!!!!!??????!??!??!?!?!??????”).

4. Keeping it Cool
It’s important to be passionate about your work.  If you think you’re right and your coworker, higher-up, or client is wrong, your passion does not give you the okay to blow up on them.  Express yourself as civilly as possible.  Personalities and opinions often clash in the workplace, but the discomfort of such incidents can be mitigated by maintaining professionalism.

Do: Express yourself.
Don’t: Use expletives or insults in the workplace.
Don’t: Raise your voice.
Don’t: Gossip with other colleagues about the person with whom you are in conflict.

5. Putting Your Best Foot Forward
Clichés often hold much truth.  Put your best foot forward, indeed!  At the end of the day, what really matters is that you do your job.  Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in workplace drama and wanting to pick up the slack of colleagues who just don’t have it together.  This is dangerous to your own productivity and mental health with regard to stress.  Being a team player is important, but use discretion when helping others: are you simply lending a hand, or covering up incompetence?

Do: Perform your duties to the best of your ability.
Do: Help others and use discretion with regard to being a team player.
Don’t: Allow others to take advantage of you.
Don’t: Use your valuable time to cover up the incompetence of others.

We spend a lot of time at the workplace, and it is often the source of many figurative and literal headaches. Being professional can help ease unnecessary stress at the workplace and promote a comfortable, efficient work environment.


Example of Email Etiquette (Click to enlarge)


  1. Tiffany N. Kilby, MS, BCBA

    Natalie, what a terrific post! This is so relevant for all professionals, not just those in the field of behavior analysis.

    Due to the nature of providing behavior analysis services, we often rely heavily on emailing. These points about email etiquette (aka “netiquette”) are spot-on and are explained very well. On that topic, one thing to note for behavioral professionals in the field is that confidentiality is also crucial when communicating. An email can be written completely professionally (like the “do” examples in Natalie’s post), but if there is a breach of confidentiality (e.g., a client’s name) within an email, the email is still a concern.

    Fantastic job, Natalie. I hope to see more of your work on The Behavior Station soon.

    1. Natalie De Paz (Post author)

      Thank you so much for affording me the opportunity to feature as a guest blogger on The Behavior Station, Tiffany! I thoroughly enjoyed working on this post and hope to write others in the future.

      In the meantime, I would love some feedback from The Behavior Station users! What are some other tips to help maintain a standard of professionalism in the workplace? Are there any unprofessional “pet peeves” you have, and constructive advice on how to nudge colleagues in the right direction?


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