With the world as competitive as it is, and the economy uncertain at best, it should come as no surprise that we should use any and all available advantages. Having impeccable manners and understanding the rules of etiquette are critical determinants of success and key to winning people over. I do not know a single highly successful person who does not have these skills down to a science. Unfortunately, the boundaries of propriety have been eroding steadily and accelerating over the past two or three decades. The following examples may ring a bell:
- An executive who regularly returns from lunch with food spattered on his tie
- A passenger on a commuter train who is speaking very loudly on his cell phone
- An executive who walks in 20 minutes late for a meeting and sits down without a word of acknowledgment or apology
- The host of a social event who spends a disproportionate amount of time speaking to a couple of guests, virtually ignoring the other people she invited
- Audience members who talk or let their cell phones and pagers ring during a show
- Drivers who come speeding up the right shoulder to gain a couple of seconds on those who remain in lane to wait their turn and exit safely
- The telemarketer who speaks nonstop, ignores entreaties or objections, and who won’t take no for an answer
- The pedestrian who steps a few yards in front of you to be in a more advantageous position to flag down a taxi
These examples are just a very few of the hundreds, if not thousands, of incidents of rude and obnoxious behavior that occur daily and that negatively affect our quality of life not to mention the negative impact on our perceptions of the offenders.
Good manners are skills in which the lessons are best begun early in childhood. But access to these skills is free and available to anyone with the desire to upgrade and an Internet connection. Following are the my top 5 good manners that every successful person must have:
- Table manners: As alluded to above, make sure your napkin is on your lap (or over your tie), know which utensils to use, don’t talk with your mouth full and all the other lessons your mother taught you.
- Saying “please” and “thank you:” These words are like magic.
- Apologizing: When appropriate – and this may be more often than you would like to acknowledge – apologizing is an absolutely critical skill and a major differentiator in today’s unapologetic world. (Read my post on apology)
- Cell phone etiquette: No one cares what you’re doing tonight, so keep your voice down if you’re on your cell in a public place.
- Keeping promises: Nothing speaks better to the state of a person’s integrity than this. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If, for some reason, you cannot, let the promisee know.
Ruth Sherman • Ruth Sherman Associates LLC • High-Stakes Communications • Greenwich, CT