The Etiquette Mystery-Part II

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Why don’t we follow Etiquette each time?

I have been thinking of the “why” and these are my thoughts!

One day I saw something at the airport.  These were two wonderful young girls standing ahead of me. The officer lady was guiding us to distribute the traffic to different security counters. The first girl heard the instruction, lifted her sack higher almost punching the officer and walked past brushing her. The next girl took her cue from the officer, looked back at her for a moment, smiled, said Thank you, and moved on. What I realized at that moment was that the first girl was focused on something else and not aware of her surroundings. Maybe her meaning of polite behaviour is not being rude verbally. I am sure if it was her interview and the interviewer had ushered her into the cabin she would have been very different. Whereas the second person was in the moment, focused on what was happening around her, and maybe her meaning of politeness is acknowledging people

Anne Linden in her book says “Most of our behaviour is not under our conscious control” Most of what we do is automatic.

And, when we learn Etiquette we are trying to change/ guide our behaviour consciously. That needs deeper work than just trying to remember rules as there will be different environment’s and triggers. Behaviours are what we do and they define us. But most of the time they are done unconsciously, and that is why they are spotted by others while we are not even aware of it. I am speaking of the behaviour we do without intending to be rude yet people think of it as insensitive or impolite. Tell a person how intrusive he is when he speaks loudly in an open office space and he will wonder what you are talking about!

Some of the reasons I think why we may be overlooking Etiquette/Manners sometimes are:

Habits :

We all have habits and some of these may not be appropriate in a situation. You may have the habit of shaking your legs while speaking, shaving the stubble only when you feel the need to impress, the habit of returning phone calls only to those you feel are important or reacting with a sharp word. These habits are impossible to shake off unless you are aware of them, consider them as rude and consciously want to change them.

Thinking of it as Pretence:

I had this participant in one program who was pretty miffed about the word etiquette. He called it a western elitist concept and wanted to know if there was any etiquette on how to clap hands as well. Etiquette is about being considerate and respectful to the occasion and people. What could be phoney about that?

No Reason:

While we are our perfectly mannered in our interviews like as though our conscious mind is on high alert, once on the job how often does it last? Sometimes we don’t see a reason to extend a courtesy because we feel the other person is not that important, or we feel nobody is noticing and that’s the time we slip.

Stress :

Our emotional state also influences our behaviour. Sometimes our head is filled with other thoughts, or we are so absorbed in matching our steps with the fast moving corporate world that we just don’t notice what we are saying or how our actions are affecting others.

Our Meaning and Beliefs:

I believe each one of us has our own meaning of how to behave well. While we do appreciate the etiquette guidelines we eventually do what we believe is important. For my wonderful office help at the office, etiquette/manners mean speaking softly, a clean shave, and saying Good morning, Thank you, with a smile and sorry with a lost face. Participants in my training program are unconvinced when I inform them that etiquette suggests, at a business dinner, if a piece of tableware falls down, you need to inform the restaurant staff instead of picking it up.


Another most important reason is our intention. Our intention guides and influences our behaviour too. Intent to be polite only to have a good reputation is different from wanting to have a pleasant disposition. Intent to do a behaviour as it is to our advantage in that situation is quite different from wanting to be respectful to any situation, person or occasion.

What could you do?

If you are one of those professionals who feel being considerate and civil is important and wish to get better then here are some of the things you could do.

Know the etiquette rules as they have been formed keeping in mind civility and respect towards other people.

Practice being more in the moment, learn to direct your consciousness externally.

Be aware of how you behave in situations, as you cannot change something you do not know. A quick external feedback would be useful too.

Notice your emotional state during the day. Do make a mental note of the triggers that make you behave differently than usual.

Take a moment to step into a resourceful state. One way would be to use your physiology. Change your posture with the simple act of lifting your rib cage. It will get you alert. Try it on.

And not to miss, consciously think through your intention. How essential is being civil and courteous to you? “Why” and “For What” is it important? Make sure your answers are stated in the positive and empower you.

Etiquette in Business is important because it lays down rules for civility and collectively creates the behavioural culture in the organisation. Yes, we all slip and may forget to offer courtesies, and that’s okay as long as we know. Just make sure that you are not being offensive and annoying.

After all, we all are continuous work in progress, aren’t we?

We become what we repeatedly do – Stephen Covey                 

Till next time

Think deep, live the moment