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What is Etiquette? Why is it Important?

By Colleen Harding

What is etiquette? The dictionary says it is:

  • The customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group.
  • Conventional requirements as to social behavior; proprieties of conduct as established in any class or community or for any occasion.
  • The code of ethical behavior regarding professional practice or action among the members of a profession in their dealings with each other.

The French take credit for introducing it between 1740 and 1750. There was a time when etiquette divided the classes. How a person behaved demonstrated a social class status. It separated upper- and lower-class people, white- and blue-collar industries, and old money and new money in society.

Today etiquette is not reserved for just the elite because it has evolved into a conduct that anyone and everyone can appreciate. Etiquette is how we demonstrate and respect ourselves and others. It is about how we adapt and fit into particular situations and environments, demonstrating that we belong. It is not loud or obnoxious or brazenly outspoken or offensive. It is polite, kind, and comfortable. It is an environment in which everyone can feel at ease.

Why is it important?

If we only consider ourselves when making decisions, who will want to be around us? Who will trust us? Who will want to do business with us? Realistically, when was the last time you chose to be around someone who was completely self-absorbed? A person who thought only of himself or herself when speaking and making decisions for others? It would be exhausting.

Etiquette allows people to relax and be content. Etiquette explains the rules to put people at ease, and different environments require different behaviors.

The bottom line is if the room is casually dressed and dancing in the aisles, then dance away. If the room is dressed semi-formally or professionally, indicating a socially polite atmosphere, then participate at the same level. The key is to recognize and respect the different atmospheres and environments.

Where we get into trouble is when we want to dance in the aisles while also presenting some gracious and good manners.

Colleen Harding is a protocol coach and the founder of the Cleveland School of Etiquette and Corporate Protocol. She can be reached at (216) 970-5889 and colleenharding@ymail.com.

 

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