The Importance of Good Etiquette in Business – Part I
If you want to land a job, get into a good school, build a strong career, or maintain lasting personal relationships, it’s important to know how to have good etiquette.
For many years Emily Post was the leading voice for socially correct behavior. Though she lived half a century ago, her words are still used to discuss etiquette today. She once said, “Good manners reflect something from inside – an innate sense of consideration for others and respect for self.”
Proper etiquette communicates what kind of person we are to other people. It’s hard to miss it when someone is courteous and uses good manners. Their behavior reflects what kind of character they have, and people take notice of it.
This article will explore the meaning of proper etiquette and the most effective way to use it.
What is Etiquette?
Many people correlate etiquette to an underlying set of rules or laws for various occasions, formal events, or everyday life. This might include using the proper fork, knowing when to applaud, or how to shake hands.
Merriam-Webster defines etiquette as, “…the conduct or procedure required by good breeding or prescribed by authority to be observed in social or official life.”
Understanding conventions can help people avoid embarrassing situations. It’s also a fundamental part of etiquette.
But there’s more to it than knowing the correct way to sit at a formal function.
It really comes down to relationships between people.
Good manners and proper etiquette include age-old sentiments like the Golden Rule and putting others before yourself. It means being honest, trustworthy, and having the ability to put other people at ease. It also means exhibiting kindness and courtesy when working with others.
Emily Post’s great-grandson, Peter Post, now runs the Emily Post Institute, Inc. He is quoted in TribLive saying:
“The word ‘proper’ carries the kind of negative connotation about what etiquette really is; that it’s about strict, formal rules of conduct. What etiquette helps you do is built strong relationships. Business is built on relationships – the success you are going to have in your business life is going to be, in large measure, your ability to build relationships with colleagues, customers, bosses.”
Etiquette changes over time and across cultures, but the root of it is knowing how to work with other people and having the ability to build relationships.
How Etiquette is Changing in the Digital Age
The digital age has changed the landscape of business, personal life, and social life. It’s no wonder that it has also had a great effect on etiquette.
In some cases, these changes have come on quickly leaving some wondering what the proper etiquette is for technology.
Even more complicated, there are times when a generation gap affects technology etiquette. Younger generations are less likely to listen to voicemails, and may even find them annoying and inconvenient.
Generation Z often abandons text messaging for messaging apps like Snapchat.
Beyond generational differences, there are also questions about the correct way to use technology in the workplace. Those who work in corporations may not know what the proper etiquette for cell phones in the office. Are they appropriate for meetings? Should they be left at their desks, or is it enough to place them face down at a meeting table?
Technology usually ushers in new changes for etiquette. For instance, when Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, it took a while to choose the correct greeting. Bell wanted to use the word “Ahoy!” Even, “What is wanted?” was in the running. “Hello,” was the word that was finally chosen.
Each major technological change brings with it new rules. If you’re wondering how to navigate this new digital age, here are some specific etiquette tips related to technology.
Where you should not use your cellular device:
- When driving for safety reasons.
- In the check-out line because it slows down the flow and comes across as rude when the cashier can see you’re distracted.
- It may come across as rude to have your cell phone out during class.
- During religious services of any kind including funerals and weddings.
- When with a client
- At a nice restaurant.
- At a dinner party.
- Cell phones can be used at meetings if they’re relevant to the meeting. Otherwise, they should be left behind or silenced.
- When you’re having a personal conversation with someone.
- As a general rule, try to avoid frequently checking your phone.
How to use etiquette on social media:
- Don’t use social media to air personal disputes or conversations. Those should be reserved for private messaging.
- Don’t use social media for personal issues if you’re friends with acquaintances or coworkers.
- Don’t tag or post pictures of friends or acquaintances that are not flattering.
- Avoid being overreactive when people post things on social media. It’s easy to misinterpret someone else’s motivation especially if you don’t know them well.
- Try to avoid posting offensive things on your social media. Represent yourself well. Remember that employers and educational institutes often use social media to vet people.
- Text or call close friends on their birthday instead of wishing them a happy birthday on social media.