Business etiquette can make or break a meeting! A client once told me that he wasn't into all of this snooty, high society etiquette stuff and that he always behaved just as he wanted to. I applauded him on his commitment to his authenticity and then asked him what his approach was costing him. His blank stare told me everything I needed to know - namely that he didn't know.
I absolutely believe that people have the right to make choices and decisions for themselves. I also believe that it is in your best interests to get as much information as possible in making those decisions, including what the impact might be! Business etiquette matters because it is about making a positive and lasting impression.
So here is key point for this page:
Using proper etiquette is a demonstration of your respect for yourself and for others. It is about making others comfortable in your presence and in turn, being comfortable in the presence of others. Far from being a burden, it enables you to be yourself. Click here for some tips on business telephone etiquette.
Another of my favourite quotes on having good manners comes from columnist Ann Landers. She said (and I am paraphrasing a bit) that:
"Class is not about societal position, wealth, and status or up bringing.
Class is about making other people feel comfortable in your presence."
Wow. Just think about that for a second. The next time some stuffed shirt looks down their nose at you for using the wrong wine glass - you'll recognize their lack of class in a second...and of course be classy enough in return to keep your observation to yourself.
So really - having good manners and demonstrating proper etiquette is about being classy enough so that others feel comfortable in your presence. What is snooty about that?
In the page on networking, I covered off some basic approaches that reflect a high degree of class when it comes to meeting people. Things like looking them in the eye, shaking their hand and noting their name are all very classy behaviors.
There are other common situations where a bit of preparation and knowledge can put others at ease in your presence. One thing I have found is that truly classy people are always willing to help you out if you are unsure of something so here is a key tip: If you are unsure about something admit your ignorance and ask politely.
Why does this work? Well for a few reasons. First of all, these days it is unusual for anyone to remember all of the current and past practices when it comes to etiquette. Things have changed since women got the vote! So, admitting your ignorance is actually quite classy and it automatically infers that the person you are asking is in a position of superior knowledge. I suspect this will be quite endearing to them.
Another reason this works is that most people like to help other people. This is really straight forward but by asking the question you demonstrate an interest in learning and a desire to do things properly. Imagine the boor who is so wrapped up in his self importance that he doesn't think to ask and just goes ahead like a bull in a china shop. How comfortable are you in that guy's company? Not very!
The last reason I will relate here is that your candid admission of ignorance is incredibly authentic. There is nothing phony or false about admitting you don't know something. This humble and polite candor is very refreshing for people. And if it isn't and you get rebuffed (and this does happen on occasion), make sure you tell yourself that they weren't worth asking in the first place. I mean really. What a better demonstration of classless behavior than to look down on someone who has just asked you a simple question on protocol? The nerve!
To refresh my understanding of what is currently proper in North America, I referred to a book called "Etiquette for Dummies", by Sue Fox. It proved to be an excellent reference.
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