The Importance of Good Etiquette
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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 etiquettes 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.
What are Some Basic Etiquettes for Effective Communication?
Good communication is a key component to a successful life and proper etiquette can play a huge part in effective communication. Whether you're talking to a friend, speaking in class, trying to land a job at an interview, or in giving a presentation in the workplace, knowing the right way to communicate with others is essential.
Here are some helpful etiquette’s to help you communicate effectively.
Listen to the Person You're Communicating With
Taking the time to listen to others sounds easy, but it's too often overlooked. This simple courteous act can go a long way in making others feel important.
If you want to be a good listener, put your phone away. Set aside distractions and listen intently. Make eye contact during the conversation so they know you're paying attention.
It's tempting to interrupt others when something they say sparks your interest. You may feel like interjecting a similar story or thought. However, this often makes people feel like you don't really care what they're saying. It gives the impression that you're more interested in what you have to say than what they have to say. Instead, wait until they're done talking before you share your thoughts.
Learning how to listen well can improve both work-related relationships and personal ones. People feel much more at ease when they feel heard, no matter what the context.
Think About Your Tone
Communication is often about much about the way you say things, not just the words you use. Your tone effects the way your words are perceived.
For instance, you can say, "I love you!" in a romantic way. Or, you can say, "I really love you," in a sarcastic way with the opposite meaning.
A person can say, "I hate you," affectionately. They can also bitterly communicate, "I can't wait to see you again!"
We may think that we can hide our tone behind sweet words, but most people are keen to pick up our real meaning. When speaking, consider the way you're coming across.
Are you saying one thing, but really meaning another? Are you being passive-aggressive or misrepresenting your real intentions?
A tone of voice not only expresses meaning to others, but it also creates interest. Everyone is bored when someone gives a monotone speech. The tone and variation of a person's voice can make them sound strong, emphasize emotion, and impress urgency. It can inspire and motivate people.
A person's tone can also soothe and comfort someone in pain. The way someone speaks can make another person feel cared for and at ease. When communicating effectively, make sure that your tone matches your intent. Also, be sure to be courteous and thoughtful when you speak. Choose your words and the way you express them carefully.
Use Empathy and Think About Others Before You Speak
When we're frustrated or stressed, it's easy to think inwardly. We sometimes minimize other people's needs, become irritable, or blow up at friends or colleagues.
Effective and courteous communication starts with using empathy and thinking about the needs of others. Even if you're communicating a need of your own, consider how it will come across to someone else when you bring it up.
For example, you can kindly ask for your assistant to get you a cup of coffee, or you can lash out angrily because it isn't already on your desk.
In both instances, you'll probably get your coffee, but the first method is more effective in the long run. Your assistant may follow your orders when you're angry, but they're probably not going to want to work with someone long term who is harsh and unreasonable.
Don't be Afraid to Use the Phone
Compared to using empathy, dialing a phone number might not seem like a big deal, but choosing to call someone might save you both time and energy.
Text messaging, messaging apps, email, and social media are all great ways to communicate. That said, there are times when it's difficult to convey meaning through text.
If you're struggling to understand someone's intent, or if you have to discuss something complicated, it can be very helpful to pick up the phone. In some cases, a series of emails or texts can be cleared up with a five-minute phone conversation.
How to Have Proper Etiquette Wherever You Go
The truth is you may not always have perfect etiquette. There will be certain situations where you're out of our element. You may not always know the exact rules or conventions.
That doesn't mean that you can't still be courteous, kind, and mannerly. Peggy Post, author, and spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute explains, "Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use."
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