The rules of etiquette can be found dating all the way back to 2400 B.C. written for young, Egyptian men climbing the social ladder. Over the centuries, it has evolved and changed with the times to include lavish dinner parties, afternoon tea, and even military protocol.
While you may not be preparing to meet the Queen, there are still basic etiquette rules you can follow to build stronger relationships, gain respect at work, and influence your overall social profile.
Besides having common manners by saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ here are three basic etiquette rules to follow and why you should.
THE ART OF CONVERSATION
Being in the military for so long has taught me two things: hurry up and wait, and get to the point. The first is something you never get used to, the second is truly the art of conversation.
Being able to share our thoughts and ideas is important for us to grow as a society, and as individuals. Read visual cues like yawning, looking around, and fidgeting to let you know when your time is up. Get to your point so that the other person can share their thoughts.
Additionally, maintain some social distance. In the world right now, social distancing means keeping six feet away from the person in front of you. While that’s great for preventing the spread of disease, it’s also good for making sure the other person feels comfortable when you’re talking to them.
Eventually, a minimum of six feet won’t be the norm in the future and we can all get back to hugging our friends and shaking hands with new acquaintances. When that happens, though, how close is too close for a conversation?
A good rule of thumb is that if you can reach out and touch someone with the tip of your fingers, that’s probably a good distance for the other person to still be able to hear you and not feel like you’re invading their personal bubble. Again, don’t forget to pay attention to body language. If they take a step back, don’t take a step forward.
Social Benefit: A good conversation has equal parts talking and listening, and is a great way to get to know someone or learn something new. Being able to maintain that equal feeling through reading visual cues from the other person shows character in yourself and that you value the other person’s time. Alternatively, not respecting those boundaries will have others hiding around the corner to avoid having to talk to you.
Bonus: Maintaining eye contact is always good practice when holding a conversation; However, if doing so makes you uncomfortable, look them in the mouth! It will still give the impression you’re looking at their eyes and the feeling that you’re engaged in the conversation.
Challenge yourself: The next time you’re talking to someone, try to only ask questions. Obviously, answer any questions thrown your way, but also redirect the subject back to the person you’re talking to. Focusing the conversation on the other person rather than yourself will make them feel special and important.
Building healthy business relationships can be a huge stress relief and even provide job security. Having a working relationship with coworkers can make the day go by quickly, or it can make a tough job easier when you’re able to work as a team.
Proving to your job that you’re an asset not only to your work, but also to the people you work with, can put you heads above the rest. Companies rely on the people doing the job to be able to respect each other and work together as a team.
On the other hand, small things can ruin your reputation regardless of how well you do the job. Something as simple as your work attire can change the way you are viewed by others. Don’t give them the opportunity to look down on you by dressing appropriately.
This means knowing your work dress code and not taking liberties. Casual Friday at work does not include sweatpants and crop tops. Think of how you want people at work to view you and dress the part.
Social Benefit: Creating good working relationships both in-house and with outside agencies can reap goodwill in the future. Others are more willing to help those they feel will return the favor or have already done something for them in the past. Get on the good side of people you work with to gain respect and ensure a smooth working environment.
Bonus: There’s an old saying that goes, “Dress for the job that you want.” If you want to be taken seriously and respected at work, dress with seriousness and respect for yourself first.
GATHERINGS & EVENTS
Having a house-party is one thing, throwing a party at your house is another. Things like family-friendly birthdays, baby showers, and even Thanksgiving are all parties with etiquette expectations for both the host and the guest. Here’s how you can woo the party from either end:
- As a host. When planning your party, ensure you give yourself and your guests enough time to prepare. Include any special requests in the invite, like bringing food for a potluck, or showing up by a specific time for a surprise party, so that your guests know what to expect. When the party is over, do your best to send ‘Thank you’ cards to let people know you appreciate how they helped make the party a success.
- As a guest. Be sure to RSVP to any party you’re invited to. This is important to the host to ensure there is enough food, and maybe goody bags, for everyone attending. Also, make sure to be on time. Fancier events, like weddings or dinner parties, build in extra time to allow for guests who arrive late without missing the main part of the party; however, showing up fashionably late just to make an entrance can come off as pretentious and take away from the guest of honor. In a worst-case scenario, being late has the potential to ruin a good surprise.
Social Benefit: Playing host and being attentive to your partygoers’ needs can show your friends and family that you value their time and presence. This also makes you a reliable person, which means more people will trust you in the long run. As an attendee, bringing a gift to the host shows appreciation for them opening their home and welcoming you in. This is something that is sure to be remembered in good turn. Like they say, “You reap what you sow.”
Challenge Yourself: Attending a party at a friend’s house? Return the favor by offering to host the next party at your place. While some people enjoy hosting parties, just extending the offer can take some of that pressure off of them. Just make sure you’re prepared if you get called on it!
WHAT NOT TO DO:
While good manners are always important, sometimes we don’t understand how we get things wrong. Here are a few things to reconsider:
- Don’t be a flake: If you’re constantly late, forget about special occasions, or back out of agreements, then you’re not just unreliable, you’re rude.
- Hold a conversation, NOT a monologue: If your friends or coworkers are constantly looking over your shoulder or yawning while you talk to them, then it’s time to zip your lip! Become a good conversationalist by honing your listening skills.
- Put away your phone: Frequently checking your phone through dinner or playing on it all night after you get home from work can make the other people you’re with feel unimportant. Show them you care by putting your phone out of reach during dinner and conversations.
- Don’t bring unexpected guests: Weddings and parties should be a good time. Don’t ruin it by bringing a guest, including your kids, if they weren’t invited directly or with a “+1” on your invite. Adding a person that wasn’t accounted for can take food, beverages, or even time away from the guest of honor and others.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Whatever it is you’re doing, and wherever you’re going, be sure to have compassion and kindness. Taking the high road and smiling instead of screaming can turn a sour mood upside down without even trying.
When someone does something rude or ill-mannered, don’t shout or embarrass them; Be polite, take them to the side, and let them know the harm it caused. This shows them that what they do can affect others and hopefully they’ll think about things before acting out the next time.
Share an etiquette story of your own in comments below!
Everything we do is linked in some way, so be sure to check out my other posts on quick and easy life skills.