6 Rules Of Etiquette And Manners You Must Not Break

Kumar Gauraw

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?

Business Etiquette Problem Of Using Mobile Phones - Woman Ignoring The Person In Front For A Phone Call

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?

People count the faults of those who keep them waiting.  –Proverb   [tweet this]

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:

  1. 15 Business Etiquette Rules Every Professional Needs To Know by Business Insider
  2. Business Etiquette: 5 Rules That Matter Now at Inc.com
  3. 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!

Kumar Gauraw

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Kumar Gauraw is a Personal Branding & Social Media strategist helping entrepreneurs and skilled professionals achieve personal and professional success by developing leadership and leveraging the power of the Internet, Blogging and Social Media.

11 Awesome Thoughts So Far, Add Yours Now...

  1. Dear Kumar,
    Happy new Year.
    your post reminded me what By John Maxwell pointed out in His book “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect”. He said that People
    who connect with others have better relationships, experience less conflict, and get more things done than those who cannot connect. Leaders who have learned the art of connection are able to communicate their ideas persuasively, establishing buy-in and attracting followers.
    Thank you for your post. And http://www.inc.com/ is my favorite source of some business and leadership topics.
    Peace in 2014 and beyond,

    • Hello Charmant,

      Wish you too a very happy and success filled new year 2014! I love John Maxwell’s writings and you are right, that’s exactly what makes some people connect while others can’t seem to get it.

      Have a great rest of the week and once again, Happy New Year to you and your loved ones!


  2. Great list, Kumar 🙂

    To be honest, I am guilty of not following some of these rules, especially with not looking into people’s eyes while talking/listening to them (I don’t multitask while I am talking..the problem is I am not that comfortable with facing people…I am kind of an introvert, at least when it comes to offline meetings. But, it also depends upon my relationship with the person and the topic at hand. For instance, if I am talking about blogging (or if I am talking to my friends), I have no problem with facing them.

    I do love the idea of etiquette and manners, but what needs to change is our thinking (and attitude) – a lot of people today are not willing to accept something else (not willing to accept that what they were taught could be wrong..hence we have discrimination, based on gender, race, sexual orientation and so forth).

    Anyways, thank you for the list, Kumar 🙂 Happy New Year!

    • Happy New Year Jeevan! We all make mistakes and I have been guilty of multitasking myself and it is a daily battle in this dramatically distracting world!

      But, knowing that we are committing these mistakes is a great step forward. I am sure you will make some improvements as I am making and that is the intent, isn’t it? 🙂

      May the new year bring more success to you!!!

  3. Hi, Kumar!

    That’s exactly what I wanted to know 🙂 Thank you for sharing! For me personally the most irritating fail of etiquette is when people are late for an appointment or worse if they cancel it.

  4. Hi Kumar,
    Happy New Year, my friend!
    God’s richest blessings upon you and your loved ones!

    These points of etiquette are all very important. An offshoot of your first point is being exclusively with the person in the moment. There is nothing worse that when you are sitting alone with someone in private conversation, and mentally, they are away doing their taxes, thinking of the next thing they’ve got to do, or otherwise just not there.

    I call this comic acting, not communicating.

    It is best to honor the person you are will by giving them your full and undivided attention, taking in what they are communicating, paying attention to details with fully attentive listening. This is the heart of a great communicator.

    All the best!

  5. Hello; Thanks for posting these helpful suggestions or reminders. as a blind person one of the things they work on with you from an early age is to face towards the person who is speaking so that they know you are paying attention. If I can make this effort than so can everyone else. I have been told my focus is so good that many wonder if i am actually blind. and while my phone talks i can barely text on it and can’t surf the web or manage social media on it at all so i can’t multi task. I am a little jalous of those who can, so it makes me a little more agitated than the average person. i do have some trouble with knowing when it is my turn in a conversation but i know about this and am constantly working on it practicing every time i have a conversation. I agree with you about being on time and speaking the language of the group or having someone to translate it for you if you know you won’t be able to speak the language that is spoken by the majority of the people where you will be interacting. thanks again and have a blessed 2014, max

  6. As you mentioned there is a very thin peripheral boundary between manners and etiquettes and that is explained beautifully in your write-up.
    I need to show this thing to many people to make them realize that what they sometimes do is wrong in this way in this sense.

  7. Hi Kumar,

    You have some excellent points in this post. I really agree about not using social media when you are with people offline.Also when people have manners , it makes such a difference in having a positive long term relationship.


  8. Very well said, Mr.Kumar,

    I still get confuse with manner and etiquette and yes knowing right, you have extra ability to perform better in crowd.

    Thanks for this words of wisdom!

  9. I’m glad that you put these manners on here. I couldn’t agree more with you! Especially not multi tasking when you are having a conversation!

Please Note: My goal is to host interesting conversations with caring, honest, and respectful people. Therefore, I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic.