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How do I Go From Being a Nobody to Somebody in the Job Market?



No doubt, people will tell you about focusing on your CV, interviews and stuff like that, but my reply is going to be completely contrary to the usual focus on the practical aspects of recruitment.

Preparation for the job world does not start with CVs and interviews. It starts inside your head. You are only as good as you believe and that belief dictates how others treat you. They cannot treat you better than you rate yourself. YOU set the parameters for your persona, your future, your achievements and your success. People merely follow your lead and either reinforce them or reject them, according to your actual performance and the evidence to support that belief.

Begin by forgetting everything around the interview and the tangibles relating to job search and focus on your thoughts. Exactly what are you thinking about yourself right now? If you believe you are a 'nobody' seeking to be 'somebody' you'll never be anybody! When you focus on being 'nobody' you merely emphasise what you might lack right now, instead of what you could contribute or on the impact you could make, in the future. You dwell on the negative instead of the positive.

You are already 'somebody', just an unknown one; an unskilled one; an ambitious one; an uninformed one; an inexperienced one - whatever the case might be - but you ARE somebody. Nobody is better than you are because we all have a role to play in life which is of value to our world. When you appreciate and fully accept that fact, you are ready for the next stage: putting your self belief into action.

* Who are you?

* What are your aims?

* Where are you heading?

* Do you actually BELIEVE you will succeed out there?

* Are you convinced you will get what you want?

* Do you feel confident or insecure, knowledgeable or ignorant?

All those are important points to address before you apply for anything. If you don't know who you are, or have doubts about what you want, you will end up in the wrong job because you will be dazzled by the peripherals instead of the job satisfaction. For example, if you hate taking orders or being controlled too closely, don't go into the military, no matter how attractive it might look!

A good litmus test to see how prepared you are for the job market is to rate yourself out of 10 on suitability for any position. If you are not giving yourself at least 8 for each application, you need to work on that confidence and self esteem because they are the only two things that will propel you forward in life, whatever the situation! After all, if you don't think you're quite suitable, why should others think you are?

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When you're rejected for a job, do you want the truth? Or would you rather be told something that doesn't hurt your feelings?



Q. I've had reject letters many times over the years and often felt a bit annoyed that I wasn't told why I wasn't selected for interview or offered the job after having attended an interview. As a HR professional I always have the courtesy to give a reason when someone is not successful in their application, I feel it's only common courtesy and it gives people a good impression of your company - that you actually bother to explain why they weren't selected. But what do you think?

A. The trouble with getting 'the truth' is that such truth is very subjective. One company's 'truth' might bear no relation to another company's 'truth' about the same person! It all depends on what that organisation is looking for. You might be told that you were 'not suitable' for that post for a variety of reasons that could actually make you suitable for another post entirely. For example, if you are not the conforming type and do not like taking orders but interview for the military, you will be rejected because you might appear too rebellious or forthright. Yet those very qualities would be admirable for an entrepreneurial job where you have to exercise your own initiative and lead from the front.

Again, it could be a case of not being liked for your dress, appearance, personality, brashness, extroversion, introversion or anything to do with how you choose to behave. Trying to change that to suit specific employers is not really you. You will only end up feeling frustrated as time goes on when you cannot do the things you really like to do, the kind that makes you feel alive and energetic. The essence of job satisfaction is to be happy with who you are and match it to the right employer.

Unless the problem is to do with practical things like a badly written CV, personal appearance, or how I actually conducted the interview, I would not wish to hear someone else's 'truth' about me. They would be judging me purely on the narrow suitability for that job, but not for anything else. I would rather take my chances elsewhere. Employers have all sorts of measurements they use to assess candidates. It is always best to shop around until you find an employer that makes you get all excited at the thought of working for them. That would be the best fit. Should you not make the grade there, then their 'truth' might be well worth hearing.

What should I do about my dream when I have responsibilities?



Q. I feel caught - I have to work this job but my wife and my income say I must leave. I feel I must get another job and that takes time. Pressured to get a job in the same business that I don't really want. What I want is to chase my passion, my dream and my love which is personal and professional development. 


A. If you have passionate dreams, you need to chase them. Life is about risk, otherwise we stagnate and stop living. We simply exist in frustration and fear. More important, if you don't chase those dreams, resentment against your situation, and even your family, will build up over time which then might affect the marriage itself, as one partner then blames the other later on for any lack of progress or fulfilment. That is the biggest killer of marriages - unfulfilled expectations.

From what you have said, I think the real problem for you is insufficient self belief. You are not sure YOU can do it, and so you go along with your wife's suggestion while still feeling unhappy inside. Have you thought of starting up a very small business on the side (like having a website) to give life to your dream of personal and professional development and to test its possibility? Then you can see how that slowly builds to a point where you can then leave your IT job? From little acorns grow big oak trees. There is no harm in trying it out on a very small scale, perhaps just empowering one or two people weekly until it becomes much more.

If you are 'passionate' in what you are doing, you will make a success of it. By trying it out while still working, you will see what you need to do on a larger scale. By not trying it out at all and staying put, you will merely remain unhappy, become resentful and lose sight of what makes you into the person you could be. Sadly, this could also have a negative domino effect on other aspects of your life in the future.

 Why not test your confidence - and your level of fear -and see how you feel at this moment?  

It could give you insight into where you are now, and how much you are prepared to really achieve what you want.

Should I Go Back To College?



Q. I was 17 when I graduated HS, and being so young, I had no idea what I wanted to do in life. So, I chose Community College. I obtained an Associates when I was 19 in a field that I no longer wish to pursue. Unable to further withstand the daily pressures of my position in that field, I quit my job of 5 years last year, took a position in retail, and went back to Community College full-time. I've learned a great deal about myself, and I have found an educational direction that I would love to make the most of. My major regret is my decision to not go away to a four-year college.

A. The first thing to acknowledge is that no one ever makes a 'wrong' decision. The decisions you have made suited that time, the mood you were in, the confidence or anxiety you felt then and the aspirations you had. In other words, you chose what you thought was best for THAT given moment of your life, when you were inexperienced and not as mature as you are now. If you could have done something else then, believe me, you would have. So never judge yourself with hindsight because you are using your current self to judge a past self which was not as experienced or mature as you are now. A useless exercise which merely keeps you in the past beating yourself with a big stick of regret and which merely confirms the worst you feel about you.

Having regrets about your decisions only encourages you to doubt yourself even more and rob you of your confidence and self esteem. Don't go there, as it will simply instill you with fear and stop you from taking the necessary actions now. Be proud of what you have achieved, and it seems like A LOT! Remind yourself that you are only 24 and have a lot of time to change your life round in whatever way you like. Give thanks for your supportive parents and then plan your future.

First thing to work out is what you REALLY want to do as a career. What would excite you and give you purpose? Head for it NOW! If you are not sure, there are lots of career quizzes on the Internet to help you find out. Once you are certain, then decide which course you need to take to go into that field. You might find that you already have the qualifications for it. But being sure of what you want to do will stop you from doing another course without really knowing what it will be used for. It could also mean that you just need a different kind of field to challenge you.

But some kind of work seems necessary just now, and work that you really like. It will help you to be independent and pay your bills, it will reinforce your confidence, it will also help you to utilise what you have already and, in time, it is certain to help you sort out the next move for your future. Stop worrying about your age and simply do what feels right for YOU. The result could be amazing. Life has a way of sorting itself out whether we like it or not.

Good luck in whatever you decide to do, but put away those fears you have and head for the world of work.

Help!! Why Am I Working so Hard For so Little?



Q. Elaine, how is it the more I try, the worse it gets? To be happy and carefree seems an impossible request. I'm just feeling down at the moment, nothing going my way as usual. I work 80-100hrs a week trying to make ends meet. But every time I see the goalposts something goes wrong, and I'm back to square one again. I cannot tell my wife how I feel, because she worries more than me. What say you?

A. Thanks for confiding in me, though I cannot help by advising you, as I really don't know your situation fully. I can only give some suggestions. You sound exactly like where I was 12 years ago. Working every hour that God sent, for very little money, very unhappy and feeling as though I was going backwards instead of forwards.

Then my marriage fell apart because someone somewhere was trying to tell me something and I had refused to listen. I was stuck on this treadmill of deadlines, on and on, being too scared to give up, yet even more scared to carry on in the same vein, while debts were piling and even less money was coming in. Then one day, without warning, I suddenly couldn't go on any more and my marriage went with it too. That was seven years ago. Since then, I have never felt better. I had to go backwards for a while in order to go forward, but my confidence is now at is peak, I feel as though the sky is my limit, I have time to smell the roses and, above all, I feel human again instead of a robot. I have much less money but I am far less stressed too and feeling great to be alive.

Often we forget that we are not here on earth to work, but actually to be HAPPY, to live and be creative to enjoy that living. If you are working so hard, no wonder you are so unhappy. Where is your life? Where is the appreciation of that life?

Reasons for Current Actions

What you are doing stems from one, or all, of 6 main things:

1. A desire for perfection.

2. A lack of positive reinforcement from those you love, so you just keep on trying to please without much gratitude.

3. Lack of confidence in yourself.

4. Fear of change.

5. Insecurity in your skills and capabilities.

6. Inability to make DECISIONS because of fear of the consequences.

Which ones apply to you? And how could you change them for the better?

In fact, why not re-number the list in your priority order, starting from which ones apply to you the MOST. That will tell you what you need to focus on immediately to change both the approach to your life and what is happening in it. People often take their life for granted, but the only time we are guaranteed is TODAY. If we don't make the most of it, we won't have another day like it, so time to make some changes in your life. Only you know what they need to be. If you are not sure, look at your HABITS - the way you do things. That is the way to see your future because the habits you have now will continue to give you the same results forever if you do not change them.

Resisting Change
If your life isn't working the way you wish, and you keep banging your head against a brick wall, it means you are resisting change by living in denial in order to keep in your little comfort zone. But when you fight against change you lose your confidence because everything becomes more difficult. Moreover, life just flashes by you, leaving you stranded along the way, feeling even more lost and vulnerable.

The simple solution for sorting out your life, even before you answer the personal questions I gave you, is to DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. No matter what it is, no matter how big or small, CHANGE YOUR RESULT so that you can have something to start feeling good about again. Often people get inro a rut simply through developing habits which should have been ditched or replaced ages ago. Just like people using paper lists when they should be using computers! However, you have taken the first step by coming to me. That is a subconscious acknowledgement that something HAS to change in your life. You just need to keep searching for those answers which are relevant to your situation.

As to your wife and not telling her, that is your decision. But marriage is a partnership and when partners get surprises they don't expect, that's the time they normally want out because they can't cope with the truth and are likely to distrust you from then on. However, if they are allowed to share that problem, they might have solutions you haven't even thought about. Often it is our ego which gets in the way of asking for help, and a fear of the consequences. Yet, we have to fully face whatever life throws at us, especially with the support of our partners, because that's how we become stronger, more knowledgeable, even more determined and draw closer together.

However, do hang in there. Things will improve if you face your fears, change your approach and begin to look at all the possible solutions. Just change your habits, get out of your comfort zone, and watch the difference!

Do organizations hire for skills and then fire for attitudes?



This is an excellent question and there is a simple answer to it. Companies like to pretend that they hire for skills, but they are only interested in cloning people to match a particular identikit that suits their culture.

They are not interested in the individual, per se, but in the combined contribution for success. Anything that gets in the way of that covert objective is then isolated and rejected. They might pretend or THINK they are hiring specific skills but they are actually hiring a personality: one that will blend in, enhance their ethos and culture and carry on the legacy.

Furthermore, attitudes are not obvious at interviews because people are usually on their best behaviour and their skills are easier to identify at that time. Later on, when they are appointed and are more comfortable in the job, the real personalities and attitudes come to the fore. That is also when they begin to attract positive or negative attention!

Aligning with a company is like a relationship. No matter how wonderful the courtship goes, the 'real' persons afterwards are often a huge surprise to each other. People might think they know each other well, that they really like what they see and there is almost complete alignment between them. But look at the divorce rate that says otherwise.

There is an important emotional factor at work in humans which is seldom taken into account in any situation and that is this: People only reveal their true selves in a crisis, when they are afraid and when they are challenged. Hence why some marriages go for years with both parties thinking they 'know' each other well until the inevitable affairs and why some workers, despite all the psychometric tests, forum discussions, test activities and interviews still prove the wrong pick for the company.

This is because most people simply want to please and will often do anything to please the significant others in their lives. While things are going well, while one can cope with life and while one is enjoying one's existence, one is likely to reveal only the superficial aspects of one's self; the parts one wishes to be seen and accepted; the parts that are on show for effect. Everything else needs a strong catalyst to reveal it because, as Shakespeare aptly noted, all the world's a stage and we all play many parts in our lifetime. Hence why the best way to know the real measure of someone is to see them perform in a crisis, which, of course, is not possible in an interviews!

This problem will never change for the reasons stated above, regardless of the greatest psychological tests, hence why it is repeated ad nauseam across organisations. The only test that will make a difference is one based on matching VALUES which should help to secure a better fit between worker and environment, one which I am actually developing and hope to pilot at some point.

Should criticism at work be harsh to improve performance?



Q. What do you do when someone criticise you, your work, your behavior and attitude so much that you feel as if that person is literally tearing you into pieces?

A. Some criticism is necessary at work but the way criticism is done is what seems to cause most of the problems workers have with their appraisal. Criticism carried out in a constructive manner is designed to do five main things. To:

a. Give valuable feedback.
b. Alert the individual to inappropriate or unacceptable actions.
c. Direct the individual to more appropriate behaviour.
d. Remove the negatives while building on the positives in their work.

e. Affirm that individual's value for their contribution so far, while suggesting ideas for even greater achievements.

These five elements, especially the last one, are central to any criticisms done at work to maintain that individual's self-esteem, drive, motivation and loyalty. People will go to the ends of the earth for you if they are treated with value and respect. When those are lacking, they become resentful and negative. You can easily tell which element(s) your criticisms/appraisals are missing by doing a checklist of the above points.

All workers are there for the same two things:
First, to boost the productivity, bottom line and reputation of their organisation.

Second, to improve their own opportunities and professional development in the process.
It means everyone is on the same side, working together for the common good, with the same overall aims, whether they are managers or workers. Thus no one at work is more important than the other, though people might have different responsibilities within the system for the smooth operation of the organisation.

It follows that criticism done professionally and in a detached way should not be"literally tearing you into pieces" because it should not be a means of 'telling off' someone or making them feel inadequate. It should uplift them, praise them and reinforce what is acceptable, while diminishing what is not. Most people are thin- skinned when it comes to criticism, that's natural. Our egos dominate our lives. But we all know when some criticisms are needlessly harsher than others.

If criticism is used in in a purely negative way it shows five things about the manager/person doing the criticism:

a. Immaturity in developing their staff.

b. Lack of training in dealing with professional wellbeing.

c. Lack of confidence in themselves and knowledge in managing others.

d. Lack of understanding of the content and objectives of the appraisal process.
e. Having a personal agenda against that employee to boost their own low ego or emphasise their power.

Handled well, any appraisal can make the difference between a mediocre and an excellent employee. The main problem seems to be getting the right appraiser to allow that positive process to take effect.

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Why do relationships tend to fail at work?



Getting along with colleagues at work can be a difficult business, especially where the status and rank are unequal. Relationships at work fail mainly because wherever there is competition for scarce resources: like territory, salary, status, titles, promotion etc, there will be covert negativity to fuel the intense need for personal success. A bit of stabbing in the back in order to get noticed. That's not conducive to good friendships.

It's a contradiction in terms to expect people who are mainly competing with each other through their skills and talents to truly get on together, no matter how 'cooperative' they are supposed to be with the organisation's objectives. Add to that the confidence, or lack of it, of those involved, the different personalities in play and, above all, the various expectations - gender, hierarchical, professional, cultural - that they all carry individually, and the wonder is that they actually get on at all!!

Good relationships come out of cooperation, not competition. It is nurtured by an environment of mutual respect and support, where everyone is working toward a common aim without feeling threatened, undermined, neglected or unfairly treated. The average workplace where money is the bottom line and people's jobs depend on generating that income is not conducive to fostering such relationships because many people often work very hard, yet are not rewarded appropriately for it, which tends to lead to an undercurrent of resentment.

Furthermore, one simply cannot compete and cooperate effectively at the same time and end up with the desired results. Usually everyone starts off with the best intentions which soon go sour because, basically, each person looks after No.1. Each worker's aim is to ensure his/her fair share of what is available, which would then affect the strength, the potential and the growth of genuine relationships - the main reason why many of them are superficial.

The workplace is an artificial construct for the particular purpose of business transactions and professional development, with competition at its centre. The home and personal friendships are usually not competitive. They are entirely cooperative and in mutual alignment with what the parties desire. In essence, home relationships are natural interactions, based upon free choice and nurtured through mutual respect and support. Work relationships are artificially created through work roles, functions and, primarily, organisational objectives. The two are not quite the same!

For example, no matter how well two people get on at work, the minute one of them is promoted or given a pay rise that is perceived to be 'unfair' by the other, who desired it too, resentment will creep in and that friendship will be gradually be lost. Hence why many people find it really difficult to get on in the workplace, especially women who, on the whole, prefer to collaborate than to compete, and why relationships at work will tend to be problematic.

How do I deal with jerks at work?



'Jerks' are usually the victims of low self esteem and a lack of confidence, which breed envy and jealousy against their colleagues. They come across with bravado and a bullying attitude but they have very low opinion of themselves. The only way they can raise that opinion and low value is through any of the following forms of behaviour:

* Denigrating what others do by being constantly critical;

* Putting others down;

* Being cynical and mocking;

* Making jokes at others' expense;

* Feeling superior with their actions:

* Being the inflexible 'jobsworth' type and sticking slavishly to the rules.

* Being overpowering and intimidating.

They really feel good when people cower before their challenges and accept their 'jokes' or their bullying. That's where they get their kicks.

The main thing in dealing with 'jerks' is not to be reduced to their level. I always ask pointedly, and sweetly, "You must be feeling rather terrible today if you have to use me to boost your ego. Is that the best you can do with yourself? I expected much more of you."

By resisting their bait, treating them like the spoilt child who have to be sympathised with, and appealing to their better natures, while keeping one's cool, it would tend to throw them off guard. Try to see their point of view first, but if it is unacceptable or untenable, then agree to differ, courteously, and avoid them where necessary. Demeaning yourself by behaving in the same way makes you no better. 'Jerks' love ATTENTION and feeling powerful. By depriving them of it in some way, it reduces their power to affect you.

The best way to treat obvious 'jerks' is to learn assertiveness skills to help you stand up to them, because the more you ignore them is the worse it will get. If all else fails and their actions tend to be regular, they must be reported because such uncaring people often make the lives of working folk very stressful indeed. 

How do I Handle Unfair Treatment at Work?



Q. My boss consistently gives me more work than another employee. Should I say something about it?

A. Yes you must, otherwise, you will simply get more of the same because he/she will believe that you don't mind that extra work. Of course, there is also the saying, "Work a willing horse."

Many people put up with a lot of unacceptable behaviour in their workplace because of three main reasons based on FEAR:

1. They wish to impress their boss or their colleagues.

2. They feel it might damage their career prospects to protest.

3. They feel to weak to resist the pressure.

4. They fear that's the only way to keep their job.

But any behaviour based on fear is leading to nowhere because behaviour that is not noticed or resisted will just continue. Your silence suggests that it is all right to give you more work. Moreover, if you say nothing, you simply condone the action which encourages it to become permanent while you become a doormat. If you are not sure how to actually deal with this problem, you could try the following way in your own words:

First, schedule a meeting for a 'quick chat'. Then at the meeting, begin by praising the boss for being a great manager, a supportive and helpful one, and say how much you have enjoyed working for him/her. Then say that your positive relationship is one of the reasons why you would like to continue working with the company. Emphasise that, however, recently, you have felt that you are not getting enough time to give that quality attention to your job because you believe you might be getting more work than you can cope with.

Mention how you appreciate that new challenges help your skills to develop, but you would rather have a gradual workload which reflects your competence and gradually improves your skills than to have too much work too quickly that makes you feel overwhelmed. Could the workload be reduced until you learn how to manage what you already have in order to deal with it more efficiently and give a quality output?

If you start with praise and appreciation and carry on to ask a question, rather than to dictate the outcome, you are likely to get what you want, and you won't feel awkward about it. Above all, it won't look as though you are whingeing, it would put your own progression into focus, you would not have compared yourself to anyone else, and you are more likely to be heard.

However, is it really the workload that is the problem? Or could it be that you are broadly unhappy with other things connected with the work, perhaps needing a new challenge or recognition, and need to review your whole job situation? Often our desire for complete change is masked by other trivial things which are then used as the main problem instead to prevent us facing up to, and dealing with, the real issues. If you have been in the job at least three years, it is time for a thorough review of what you have achieved and where you should be heading next.

Perhaps you might find the Confidence Guide website of help in that regard.

How do you deal with a work colleague who just does not get it?



Q. When faced with this type of situation do you continue to try and work through these mental barriers or do you walk away because the roadblocks are seemingly impenetrable? What additional alternatives do you consider?

A. This is a very thorny, yet interesting issue, especially when there is an underlying assumption that we all share the same reality and should be equally creative, intuitive, empathetic etc. We dont'! In fact, it is a wonder we understand and appreciate each other to any great measure, because there are so many antecedents that mould our perception of the world and reaction to it, that it's mind-boggling.

For a start, most people don't align with others mainly because of a simple lack of common sense. They can be qualified up to the hilt, and might know everything they need to know professionally, but if they lack that crucial little ingredient they will always be lagging behind in a world of their own. It reminds me of a guy who constantly boasted to me, when I was younger, of his three degrees in various subjects. Yet a more obtuse character I have never come across before or since! He was just what our friends across the Pond would call dumb!

The second most common reason is basic fear. When we fear others, for whatever reason, especially where they appear more knowing or the situation is more threatening, it tends to fossilise our actions, as we lock into the same behaviours that make us feel comfortable, while deliberately ignoring what might reveal our weaknesses or find us wanting. This is where some of the most intransigent behaviour reveals itself as people will stare the truth in the face, yet refuse to acknowledge it, especially if they are the boss dealing with a subordinate and are determined to show who is the boss! They will protect their identity and beliefs at any cost, even when they appear ridiculous with it.

Next, is the power factor. To be a respected professional is a sought after status and when that person is finding it hard to cope within a situation, for whatever reason, they are apt to go inward and ignore anything externally they do not think is relevant to them. Often professionals who behave as described are low in confidence and esteem and are trying to protect the power they have at any cost, by deliberately ignoring what is happening around them, even when it flies in the face of reason.

Finally, they are just not up to the job and are trying to mask it with unsocial behaviour. Every profession has its bad apples; the people who haven't a clue on the essentials but somehow manage to get into the vocation through their own endeavours or utilising opportune moments. They will behave differently because they will always be on their guard and are governed by fear, or bravado!

In the end, though, we have to acknowledge diversity in people; that we are not clones of each other and will always act differently. We have to allow individuality no matter how 'different' it might appear to be. The key question to ask in these situations is this: Are those people getting the job done in their way, even if it is not as 'creative' or 'intuitive' and is in conflict with ours? Or are their actions making the situation worse? It's a very important question because often our own intolerance of how others should behave actually affects outcomes more negatively through our own desire to feel superior, or to seek perfection, than allowing the diversity of approaches to flourish in achieving the same ends.

Does Sarcasm Exist In Your Workplace?



Sarcasm should not have any place in the workplace because it is a form of disrespect and contempt for other individuals. Anyone who uses others as the butt of their jokes and who laughs at their expense (i:e AT others instead of WITH them), is low in esteem and personal confidence. He/she feels excluded and insecure in their own abilities, position and potential, and sarcasm is their way of drawing attention to themselves, being popular and/or feeling superior.

Most important, sarcasm is not a unifying attitude. It is primarily based on fear and fear is a paralysing force which builds nothing. As a writer once said, "You are either operating from love or you're operating from fear", and it is a personal choice. But one approach values, reinforces and empowers others while the other simply negates, belittles and destroys.

The key question is: How does one cope with such sarcasm? There are no easy answers. It really depends on the confidence of the individual, the prevailing culture and the person who is being sarcastic. The only definitive action is that sarcasm should never be ignored.

If the person is a manager, I would normally appeal to their better judgement and immediately say something like, "I have always respected you and appreciated your support. I am disappointed and sad that you feel the need to be sarcastic to get your point across. Is that really the example you wish to set for me?"

If it is a colleague, it would be: "Your self-esteem must be pretty low if you feel the need to boost it at my expense. I won't deprive you of your moment. Do enjoy!" And leave it at that. I usually find that it works a treat.

But it really is an individual thing and it is best to say what one feels is appropriate at that moment in time, even if it is not quite right, and which suits the interaction and situation. At least the person knows how you feel.