We all know what a person means when they talk about having good etiquette. Politeness, good manners, acceptable behavior. Rules of conduct… typically unspoken among members of particular professions, right?
Remember when girls were sent to etiquette school? So glad I didn’t grow up during that time, but do appreciate some of the skills taught. I had to Google what was taught, aside from good manners I wasn’t sure about specifics. According to my interwebs search, the things taught in an *etiquette class are:
Polite language – words and phrases are the foundation of good manners
Be a good guest
Be consistent and patient
I think for the most part these are followed well in the business world, but on occasion we experience poor etiquette during business events. Networking, workshops, seminars, you name it, we have either been the person with poor etiquette or we’ve witnessed poor etiquette, so let’s talk about it. More specifically, let’s modify the above!
Because words and phrases are the foundation of good manners, we all learned how to say please, thank you, you’re welcome and excuse me. As adults in business settings we need to know our audience. I enjoy a good, well-placed F-Bomb, I also know it is wildly inappropriate in many situations. So for us, an awareness of who we are talking with in order to know how we will be perceived. If you really do not have any darns to give, cuss away. If you do, tailor your language.
We all have a grasp on not being assholes - at least to peoples’ faces - but what about when you start disrespecting another company? Not only is the community you are in small, but your integrity is on the line when you vent or gossip to anyone who will listen. And for those of you who are focused on the much better job you are sure you could do, the proof is in the pudding, Cupcake… Show your clients with your results.
Also, anything that would count as sexual harassment in a work place absolutely applies at an event. Just because there isn’t an HR department for you to be reported to doesn’t mean you can get away with it. You may not lose your job – or maybe you will – but you will certainly lose respect.
Body language is 75% of how we communicate. Tone, inflection and the words we use make up the difference. When walking into an event or meeting, always do so with your head up and look everyone in the eye! If you are the host of an event, be sure to welcome everyone in some way. It’s not always possible to shake everyone’s hands, but it is possible to make every effort to welcome the entire group at the start of an event and a genuine thank you at the end.
As children we were all taught how rude it is to interrupt a conversation or when we want to play with a toy we have to wait until it’s available. Well, we still should do this. And some events even have toys for us adults to play with, so this one stays the same.
Here’s what I’ll add, do your best to be aware of how much talking you are doing. Is it difficult for others to engage or introduce themselves because you are so busy talking about all the things that pop into your head? When a new person enters a conversation, do you give them a chance to talk with the people they do not already know, or are you monopolizing every verb and syllable? Awareness friends and colleagues… awareness.
This matters in many ways. Think of this as attending a wedding. You would never do something that would take the attention away from the happy couple, right?
As a guest we want to thank the host, not over-indulge and promote them in the best ways possible. Here’s where the competitive etiquette comes into play. If you are in the same field as the host and you are attending their event, do not self-promote. If you are attending to learn, then learn. If you are attending in order to get clients, don’t go. If you are going to support your colleague, do that in a way that minimizes you and highlights them. I can not think of a single time in which making a topic or conversation about you during an event in which you are a guest is ok. Allow them to shine, help them to shine, this is their moment and they worked hard, make it about them.
Again, the lessons we learned as children about not eating with our mouths full, using napkins and washing our hands are still valuable and applicable. So is not over indulging on the free food and drink.
Basically, we’re all human, we spill, we drop things and sometimes we knock over a glass. No one will remember these things. What will be remembered is how much alcohol you consumed if you become overly flirtatious or start looking like a weeble-wobble that will fall down.
We’re in the world of business. This is a marathon, not a sprint and our reputation and success depend upon our ability to have a consistent message. Consistency is not built overnight. Act with integrity. Be authentic. Help others, genuinely. With great patience comes great reward….
Rina is a Business Resiliency Coach, Super Connector, Speaker and Small Business Advocate. She works with small business owners to overcome fear, set boundaries and stop the emotional attachments to expectations. To learn more, check out her website
*Alex Onion has great points about what to teach children, and are completely adaptable to the business world! Thank you Alex! To read her article, click here. https://www.sittercity.com/parents/parenting-tips/manners-matter-teach-kids-basics-etiquetteComp