The Etiquette Mystery (Part 1)

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

What is Etiquette?

Have you encountered a situation where you have finished a long shopping spree and as you are waiting in the queue at the billing counter the person behind you seems to be bumping and kicking at you with his shopping basket?

  • As the lift stops at your floor, people jump in and you have to squeeze your way out?
  • You are enjoying a meal with your date at a restaurant and the adjoining table has seated a loud family who is ruining your evening with their noise?
  • At the medical shop as you are being served, someone barges in roughly next to you and demands the attention of the storekeeper?

What would you call these? Annoying, rude behaviours? Yes, they are and imagine what would happen if we all did this? Well, Thank god we don’t because there is something called as” Etiquette” which we follow and that helps maintain civility in the society.

Etiquette is an evolving set of rules of behaviour applicable to a situation. Experts have laid down etiquette rules right from embarking on a lift, the use of a washroom, your business grooming to writing an email/letter. Etiquette covers almost every area of our life and this code of behaviour helps us maintain good relations, reduce conflicts, and show respect to others.

My Training Experience

When I got into the training and facilitation business I was quite excited to conduct Business Etiquette workshops. Even today the subject is very close to my heart maybe because I love having rules, and what I find wonderful about them is they do not differentiate between individuals. However, based on the country they do alter a bit.

In my sessions, the dining etiquette raises a lot of eyebrows. Many people assume that the term etiquette is a western elitist concept. But it is not. Experts have written rules about how to treat or behave with people in a situation or use a facility based on the principle of showing respect and being kind to others, and that is Etiquette. Nothing snooty about it or is it?

Many do not like the term rules so I refer to them as guidelines, and someone has most aptly called them as guidelines for sensible living. Did you know both manners and etiquette are actually two different terms? Manners are more about general guidelines on behaviours while etiquette speaks of specific behaviours.

Why is Etiquette important in Business?

For a business to function well it is important to have pleasant cordial relations at work and etiquette helps you to build good relations. Etiquette in business is much more than just saying Sorry, Thank you and Good morning. It is about intentionally extending courtesies like guiding a visitor in the office premises, holding the door for someone or attending to a client/vendor immediately who has walked in with an appointment. It is also about refraining from abruptly keeping the phone down, speaking loudly in the open office sitting space or borrowing your neighbour’s stationery without permission. They collectively contribute towards forming the image of the company as polite dignified behaviours have their own merits. At an individual level, they guide you to be polite and feel confident on any occasion.

If we know the guidelines, why don’t we follow?

When I began conducting workshops on Business Etiquette for professionals and fresher’s, I attempted not to sound like a rule book by keeping it as realistic as possible. The clients used to have a great time understanding and clarifying their doubts especially with dining etiquette. But the post-training feedback spoke about the lack of consistency from the participants. I wondered why?

I have had discussions with the top managers of companies, to arrange etiquette programs for their juniors. Their concern was that the behaviour of their teams was impacting the culture within the organisation and also the brand image. However during the meetings, few of these same bosses have made me wait even after having an appointment, have placed business cards on the table instead of handing it to me, slurped on their tea, sat in the chair at an angle facing away, scolded their juniors in my presence, not responded to emails and many more. I would like to believe those seniors had a good knowledge of etiquette based on our interaction, but what stopped them from doing those appropriate behaviours?

Each time I travel, I am appalled at the way some well-dressed; tech savvy, educated women behave at the ladies security counter. They push their way through the line saying “excuse me “in a commanding tone since their flight has been announced or break the line to grab the trays and place their gadgets like as though those are the last few left on the planet. I am sure they notice it when others do this, don’t they notice themselves?

I have caught myself being curt a few times. Stood very near to a person in a queue or have been distracted with the mobile while the other person is speaking. How did I miss it?

No one wakes up in the morning, looks in the mirror and says, “I think I’ll be rude today”. Most of us think of ourselves as polite, but when we’re in a hurry or dealing with strangers we don’t always use the manners we know we should. -  Emily Post’s18th Edition

Why do we overlook our manners/etiquette at times? What happens? What do you think?

Will share my thoughts in my next blog. See you soon!

Till next time,

Think deep, live the moment!