Etiquette: the cheapest, easiest and most important skill you'll ever learn
Across America, the fine art of Etiquette has become a burgeoning industry.
Corporate America has embraced good manners as one of the most important factors
in making business and hiring decisions. While everyone recognizes the importance
of such standard modes of decorum as "put your napkin in your lap," becoming
familiar with Advanced Etiquette rules will help you grow more confident and poised
in business situations.
People tend to think of Etiquette as something foreign and scary, reserved for only
the rich and powerful, but that simply is not true. Good manners are for everyone,
and those who have exemplary manners are generally well-liked. Etiquette is easy
when you remember its raison d'être: to make it possible for people in society to
co-exist without hurting each other or infringing upon each other's rights. That's it.
You don't have to know the difference between a fish fork and a desert fork - that
isn't relevant to day to day life, anyway. All you have to know is Good Manners
means making others feel comfortable. See how easy that is?
One of the most important ways you can display good manners is to show respect to
others. Do not interrupt other people when they are talking. This can be a hard rule
by which to abide, especially in a casual environment. However, diligence in
respecting others will make you not only more likable, but will allow you to learn a lot
about your job, your company, and the people with whom you work. So pipe down
and give someone else the floor for a while. You might learn something important.
How you carry yourself is a glaring reflection on you as well, so make sure you get
over any offensive habits before stepping foot inside the office. That means no gum
chewing or nail biting. Not only are these habits disgusting to watch, but they also
show you to have no self-control, no discipline. Self-control and discipline are
critical traits to have in business.
Even if you have a fantastic, radio-ready voice and tell the most witty jokes in the
world, no one will want to listen to you if you shout everything you say, so keep
your voice down, please. This is especially important in a shared office, where you
cannot escape the noise of your co-workers. You don't have to whisper your
telephone conversations, but if you have a voice that carries, make sure you
modulate its volume.
It goes without saying that what you say is as important as how you say it, so leave
the profanities for Saturday night bar brawls. In business, polite people do not
curse. Especially when they are angry. You shouldn't either. If curse-words are a
regular part of your vocabulary, replace them with other words, even silly words. It is
preferable to say that "dang copier ate my original" to using the obscene version.
Even better would be to use an original description like "that infernal copier ate my
original." Your meaning hasn't changed - you still express displeasure at and insult
the copier - without sacrificing your professional image.
Maintaining a professional image should be your number one priority on the job, and
good manners are a necessary component of this. Pick up a guide to etiquette at
your library or a bookstore. There are literally hundreds of volumes out there, some
which are geared specifically towards business. Learning the simple rules of polite
society will make you feel more comfortable in unfamiliar situations, on interviews, in
meetings...in every situation in which you want to shine.
I had great success when I worked for AppleOne years ago. I worked two assignments with only a few days' gap in between them, then I was hired by the 2nd company. The staff members in 1999 were very helpful and friendly. I am pleased to see that the new generation of staff in that office seem to also be as helpful and friendly. I am looking forward to working with them to find my next perfect opportunity.
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