Has it occurred to you that good manners can mean the difference between success and failure in many aspects in our lives? How many times have you seen business deals being called off because of an etiquette mistake?
Well, I have seen it, experienced it many times and I am sure you have too. Although I am not too picky about too many rules of etiquette, there are some through which I take cues about a person’s attitude, and that sometimes drives my decision making.
So, let’s talk a little about manners and social etiquette today.
A Little About Manners And Etiquette
There is a slight difference between manners and etiquette. Although these terms broadly get exchanged for each other, I think it’s a good idea to learn the difference.
Manners are broad in nature and taught right from our childhood. Things like ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ are manners and treating the elderly with respect etc. are behavioural guidelines that are part of mannerism.
On the other hand, not checking your Facebook and SMS while you are talking to somebody face-to-face, is social etiquette. Keeping your fork and food items on the left side and drinks on the right side of your plate is also part of good etiquette.
Although both are important and both can play an important role in social situations, manners are the basic foundation on which good etiquette is built. You can have good manners with no etiquette or good etiquette with no manners. Both are bad for your image.
For this discussion, I am going to discuss some manners and etiquette that I have found to be the most important in relationship building.
Manners And Etiquette We Must Pay Attention To
This list is long and practically there are books on them. However, I am going to discuss only those manners and etiquette that are important from my point of view. If you have some etiquette in your mind which is also important, I would love to know that through your comments. So, please do take time to share your thoughts through your comments.
Okay, let’s get started.
1. Pay Attention To The Person In Front Of You
I go to networking events and this happens a lot. If you have been to any networking event you might have seen people introducing to you with an intention to hand over a business card to you and then ready to move to the next person as quickly as possible.
Now, I don’t keep that business card with me for long and most probably, it ends up in the Trash bag just outside the door.
If you are talking to somebody and your eyes are rolling all over the room, on other objects, on other people, you are telling me that I am not important and when I have that feeling, do you think I ever want to be with you or do business with you again?
2. No Multitasking During A Conversation
I kind of touched on it a bit above but it deserves an exclusive mention especially in today’s social media dominated world.
I remember a counselling session with a lady in Baltimore a couple of years who I was mentoring at the moment. The reason I remember her is not because of what she did after the session but what she did during the session.
During the entire time I was talking to her sitting across the table, she had one hand under the table and she kept sending text messages with just one hand using her Nokia phone (it was that phone with keys on it). I figured that out after the session and that was the last time I spent another minute with her.
It is very disrespectful to engage in text messaging, tweeting or updating your Facebook status when you are with somebody and honestly, I am guilty of that too. But I now switch off or put my phone aside when I am with somebody.
3. Introduce People To One Another In A Group Setting
Imagine you are talking to more than two people who are strangers to one another. They all are engaged with you in a conversation, listening to you and enjoying the moment and you fail to introduce them to one another.
Meanwhile, you need to excuse yourself for 5 minutes to take care of something quick & urgent. Now, those people, knowing not each other, wonder what they should do until you return. You see the point?
Whether in a professional or social setting, it's an etiquette blunder if you fail to introduce two people when you're their only shared connection. This is really just common courtesy but it’s very powerful. Also, people involved with you in that conversation, appreciate you for doing that.
4. Avoid Use Of Native Language In A Group Setting
We live in a multi-cultural society and most people have their own native language (the mother tongue.) The problem comes when two people with the same native language start talking to each other in that language in a group setting, excluding others and leaving them to wonder.
Coming from India where every state has two or three languages, I have faced this challenge all my life. Throughout my college days and professional career, I lived in Karnata (an Indian state) where people spoke a language that was completely alien to me. Often my classmates, or even any two lecturers, would get together and start talking in their language while I am still there with them. To them, it didn’t matter while I felt ‘not good’ about it and used to tune myself out. That gave me a feeling of being deceived because they chose to speak in a language I didn’t know to hide something from me.
That isn’t a good thing to do in a social setting, is it? Why would you like to be perceived as deceptive if there is no reason? I have a native language too, but I don’t use that the moment I step out of my own home.
Why? Because I no more stay in my native place. I live in the United States and here, the native language is English, so I speak what is natively understood.
5. Don’t Be Late For An Appointment
This one is my favourite and it took a long time for me to learn to forgive people who were late to appointments with me. I was always on time for every appointment and therefore, I always had to wait. I felt this was true for a long time:
The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate it. –Franklin P. Jones [tweet this]
I don’t know if it’s true or not, but not being punctual is an etiquette blunder that can cause you a poor reputation, loss of business or even spoil relationships. As a matter of fact, nobody likes to wait. If you don’t like to wait, then why would you be late and make somebody wait for you?
We can actually classify this as a bad manner because this is something we know in our heart that we shouldn’t do. What do you say?
6. Refrain From Interrupting The Conversation
We all love to talk. But the problem is, most of us want to be listened to as well. Now, if I only talk and don’t listen to you, will you leave with a good feeling about me?
I doubt that your answer is ‘Yes’.
Worse yet, how would you feel if I keep interrupting your sentences in between because I had to say something important about the thing you were just talking about? Would you feel offended?
There cannot be greater rudeness than to interrupt another in the current of his discourse. –John Locke [tweet this]
Nobody likes to be interrupted when they are talking. It is not just an etiquette blunder, it is a display of bad manners too. Parents teach this to make sure the child doesn’t interrupt their elders, don’t they?
You may not like to listen to the person in front of you or, you may have a better idea. But, it is social etiquette to restrain yourself until the other person is done talking. Once he/she is done, you can have your say. But interrupting them in the middle, is a BAD idea!
Resources On Business Etiquette
While the above 6 are examples of social etiquette that I care about (that applies in any general situation,) there is important business etiquette that you may find very helpful if you are in business for yourself, meeting your clients or representing your company in a professional atmosphere.
Here are some incredible resources to help you understand and get better control of formal business etiquette:
- 15 Business Etiquette Rules Every Professional Needs To Know by Business Insider
- Business Etiquette: 5 Rules That Matter Now at Inc.com
- Top 11 Ways to Irritate Your Co-workers at Inc.com
In closing, I want to recognize the fact that many cultures have their own etiquette. It may not be practically possible to be completely aware of all social etiquette in all cultures. But learning about them and being aware of these things when dealing with people, in general, is vital to our success in human relationships.
The above shared rules virtually apply to all cultures because these are related to human feelings in general. I hope it adds value to your life and serves as a reminder of what we must be careful about when dealing with people.
Have Your Say – Share Your Thoughts
What mistakes in etiquette do you absolutely not like when you see people committing them? Would you like to add an etiquette or two from your list of things that people should be careful about while being in a social setting?
Please share your thoughts through your comments and add value. Thank you kindly!