The Lost Art Of Etiquette

Melissa Martin, Certified Pilates Instructor |

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word etiquette? Perhaps stuffy, outdated, and snobby? These are in fact many misconceptions society holds on this subject in the 21st-century. With larger discussions in our Western culture happening around gender equality and #metoo, many of may find themselves a little lost and unsure how to navigate certain situations in fear of offending someone else. 

I would like to suggest to you that etiquette and manners are as important today as they were in times past, both professionally and socially. Etiquette really means showing respect, thoughtfulness, and kindness to those around you. Deferring to the other person’s needs. In fact, a Harvard-Stanford study found that one’s success, particularly in the workplace, is based 85% on social skills and less than 15% on technical skill set. You may be surprised to learn that most etiquette is really common sense, and with a little intentionality, you too can confidently navigate whatever social or professional situation you find yourself in. 

Personal Presentation

Think of yourself and your presentation as your personal brand. We want to put effort into ourselves for both us and the consideration of other people. This means getting up in the morning and actually getting dressed and groomed for the day. During these times of the current pandemic we find ourselves in, this is especially important more than ever. You want to be clean, neat, and presentable from your personal hygiene to your clothing. Reject any forms of sloppiness and try to put your best foot forward each day. This still holds true even if you work from home. 

Appointments and Events 

Honor your time commitments by showing up on time to scheduled appointments and RSVPing to social gatherings. This is one of the most simple yet important things you can do to show respect to the other person and their time. Always follow up social and formal engagements with a handwritten thank you letter to convey your appreciation to your host. An email or text will not suffice.

Cell Phones 

In many ways, technology has made our world so much easier and opened up a world of possibilities we have not had prior to now. Conversely, it has brought its own set of problems that we are still learning and trying to navigate through. For example, when you enter a building, make it a regular habit to silence your cell phone. You may even notice businesses putting up signs asking people to do so. Cell phone should never be lying on a table while dining, and always in a bag on silent or left in your car. This shows the person you are dining with that you value and care about spending time with them and that they have your full attention. Do not leave headphones in your ears when not in use and please do not put your phone on speaker for those around you to hear your conversation. Always excuse yourself from a group if you need to make a call and try to avoid speaking too loudly or too quietly on the phone. Even if you are not actually speaking to someone, it is still considered poor manners to silently scrolling on your phone in the company of other people. Be present and enjoy those around you.

Please and Thank You

A lot of manners comes down to the basic things we were taught as children: say please and thank you, excuse me, and after you. Hold the door open for the person behind you and offer assistance to anyone who appears to be in need. Leave an area cleaner than how you found it, tuck your chair in, and park within the allotted lines. Smile and have an overall pleasant demeanor. It really all boils down to common courtesy and consideration for others.

I highly recommend purchasing a modern etiquette book to continue learning and refining your skills over time. You can find ones for both social and business etiquette. You may start to notice more doors begin to open, people return your smile, and you may very well get more dinner invitations!