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Friday, December 27, 2013


Etiquette is all about treating people with consideration and dignity. According to The New Oxford Dictionary, etiquette means: “the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group.” It is now more or less conceived as the very technique of human conduct under all circumstances in life. According to Confucius, courtesies, by virtue of their “coming from the heart” tend to result in “moral elevation” of an individual.  Simply put, it is a system of rules of conduct based on respect of self coupled with respect of others.

Thus in each society, there are many written and unwritten rules and guidelines that its members are expected to observe. It is this framework that usually guides human interaction; offers a road map that enables one to avoid unpleasant social happenings/avoid embarrassing experiences. Observance of manners is incredibly important. For, its absence can tend to result in discourteous responses from others. Indeed, most of the behavior that we perceive as disrespectful, discourteous or abrasive could be avoided by practicing etiquette. Basic knowledge of etiquette and its practice is therefore essential for every individual, for in a lot of situations, a second chance may not be possible to set right a wrong outcome. 

The most basic etiquette that one must remember is to be courteous and thoughtful to the people around, regardless of the situation, or the rank of the people. It makes a lot of difference to one’s personality to be considerate to others’ feelings while of course, sticking to one’s own convictions as politely/diplomatically as possible. It always makes sense to address a conflict as situation-related rather than as person-related, for it paves the way for its smooth resolution. Indeed, one cannot go too far wrong if one simply continue to practice what one had learnt in the kindergarten. 

Etiquette does change from profession to profession and country to country— what may be perfectly normal in one country can sometimes be a grave insult in another. For instance, people in Japan greet each other by bowing and shaking hands is uncommon. Similarly, expressing affection publicly is a taboo in India while it is not so in the western society. In the globalized business world, it is therefore necessary for one to acquire the basic knowledge of a country’s etiquette well before landing in it. Nevertheless, some basic etiquettes which have universal appeal are listed hereunder:  

  • Introduce others. It is a good manner to introduce team-mates/people around you to others, unless you know that they are already acquainted. It makes people feel valued, regardless of their status or position.
  • Handshake is the norm. This simple gesture demonstrates that you are polite, confident and approachable. Even in casual work atmospheres, it is worth extending the hand, for it sets the tone for future professional relationship.
  • Always say “Please” and “Thank you”.  Be it in formal or informal business atmosphere, or in one’s private life this basic form of courtesy should be practiced, for it makes a great difference. It always pays to offer apologies when one transgresses the prescribed boundaries/treads on others’ toes.
  • Don’t interrupt. In our hurry to offer our own opinions, we often interrupt others mid-sentence. Such intrusion is considered rude, for it shows disrespect for the opinions of others—be assertive but not aggressive.
  • No offensive language Pl. Be it in verbal or written communication, one has no right to use derogatory, rude or offensive language.  It is never acceptable in a professional atmosphere.
  • Don’t walk into someone’s office unannounced. It’s disrespectful to walk into anybody’s cabin without knocking on the door. If it is open, say hello and ask if it is a right time to talk. If the discussion is going to take more than a few minutes, it is desirable to take prior appointment.
  • Respect other’s privacy. It is unethical to stand over someone’s shoulder and listen to their telephonic conversations/read their e-mails.
  • Acknowledge others. Acknowledging those who call on you leads to better relations. Similarly, if you are in the middle of something important, it is alright to ask them to wait a minute while you finish. As you pass in the corridors or in the street, if you come across known persons, but don’t have time to talk, at least wave a hand and say hello. This simple gesture goes a long way in cementing relations.
  • Avoid politics and religion in professional talks. These two topics are highly charged minefields for a professional atmosphere—better to leave them off.
  • Be on time. Being punctual shows others that you value their time. Being late only says that you are inconsiderate to them.
  • No phone calls during meetings. Remember, your taking calls, or checking e-mails while in meetings annoys others—it is disrespectful to the other attendees. It also makes members lose focus on the meetings besides lengthening the meetings.
  • Return the phone calls. It is good manners to return the telephone calls. For, it tells the other man that he is important to you. It keeps the relations in good stead.
  • Exchanging business cards. Business cards are only to be exchanged—but not simply to be passed on to everyone one meets. It adds grace to one’s personality if he/she asks the other man if he/she can leave the card before passing on one’s own.
  • Show genuine interest. While talking to others maintain eye contact and make an effort to truly listen to what they are saying. Avoid haste—take the time to ask questions and importantly, evince interest in the thoughts expressed by the other man.



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