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Why Others Succeed and You Don’t – The Importance of Etiquette

Why is it that some people seem to succeed in all they do? What is the difference between the colleague who gets promoted into higher positions a lot quicker and his colleague who seems to stay put with where he is in his career and who is not climbing the corporate ladder no matter how hard he thinks he is trying?

It might not be obvious at first sight, but you will find that the more successful colleague has mastered the fine nuances of etiquette.

Etiquette, or in this case business etiquette, are the delicate but critical behaviours that can impact a first impression, impress a client or make or break an important meeting.

Re-think: Etiquette is not a set of rules but a way of life

A very basic and simple definition of etiquette is “the fine art of getting along with people.” More than often, it is perceived as a rigid set of rules. No, that is not what it is. It is not about a set of rules you should follow or about being prim and proper. See it rather as a notion of communication - like language. Etiquette is about principles on how to behave, how to communicate with people in a way they enjoy, thus how people become attracted to you.

Even if many people (wrongly) consider manners not to be as important as they once used to be, you will find that especially in today’s fast-paced world it is precisely these small things that will make you stand out from the crowd. How you treat others, how you speak and your actions will reflect on how others see you. These sometimes subtle behaviours is what can ‘speak louder’ compared to other people.

Future Success can depend on your manners

80% of communication takes place over electronic channels in today’s world. An average person may spend between 5-8 hours daily in front of a computer, a tablet or any other electronic device. Due to this change over the past decades, the reliance on these devices, has stunted our ability to communicate with people and to connect with them in person.

A study conducted by Harvard, Stanford and Carnegie Foundation found out that your financial success in life, your ability to succeed in your career, to get a job, and to keep a job have to do with your ability of getting along with people and being able to connect with them.

Strategies for any life circumstance

Think of a person you like hanging out with, someone who makes you feel good and ask yourself why you like spending time with that person? Most likely it is because they are kind, they have manners, they make people feel good about themselves and treat people how they want to be treated.

How can you use that to your advantage? Well, think about it, if a person always makes you feel good about yourself, you grow fond of that person. If you are like that to others, then people will seek opportunities to hang out with you or be around you. If ever you were to ask for a favour, chance is, people will help you, because of how you make them feel. That is just how much influence you can gain from using proper etiquette, being more conscious of how you treat and make people feel about themselves and feel about you.

Basic forgotten rules of etiquette

Let us take a typical example we see all too often. A new couple go out for a meal and the phone rings (let’s say it was the guy’s phone). He says he will take that call or text message and will only be a minute. So here he is, texting and not communicating any longer with his date. The girl starts looking around the restaurant, feeling lost, waiting and not really knowing what to do as she is only there with that one person. What does she do? She also gets out her phone and starts doing her own thing. Communication is over. Something as simple as that should not even have to be mentioned, yet it happens too often and we seem to find more interest in our devices, rather than spending time with people in real life.

It does not even have to be a date, it could be a family dinner or your time at home with your children. Think if it really is more important than the time you have with the people around you. Put those gadgets away and start communicating and get to know more about the other person, how to make them feel comfortable and attracted to you. It is the small things in life that can have a greater impact than we are aware of or want to believe. Basic rules of courtesy.

Etiquette in business

Try to avoid viewing business contracts as mere numbers and not about having a personal and emotional connection to the person you are dealing with. Yes, some countries – especially in the West – get down to business right away, but in many companies and countries – even in the West – having some sort of a good connection can even be seen as a prerequisite. Do not forget, it is about how you make your client feel, how you connect with them on a personal and emotional level. If you practice the right etiquette, it gives you the edge over all your competitors, giving you the advantage that you need.

Where do you want to be in your career, in your life? Which circles of people do you aspire to be involved with? Ask yourself these questions and accordingly you will have to learn, study their behaviour, the way they talk and everything about them in order to succeed and be a part of that group.

Knowledge is not everything…

… you need the practice and you need to be aware of what you need to change and how you can change it. Make it a part of your everyday life – with practice everything is achievable.

A very simple example is ‘posture’ – your posture can say a lot about you as a person and impact people on how they perceive you. Imagine having a balloon tied to the top of your head, lifting you up. Keep that picture in mind when walking – everywhere and all the time. Eventually, your posture will change, how others perceive you will change and your confidence will grow. Find constant opportunities to practice, make an effort and it will become second nature. As simple as that.

Stop and start doing

Do something to make yourself more interesting to enhance yourself, to make you stand out from the crowd. Especially in this day and age of Facebook, Instagram, selfies, it is all about ME, ME, ME - or even the food I had for breakfast! It really is not that interesting.

A popular quote is “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people” (Eleanor Roosevelt). Make yourself interesting. Be the best person you can be.

One great way is to travel, open your mind, broaden your horizon and become someone who knows about things, has seen things, does things, and can talk about things. That is what makes you interesting. Do that with the right etiquette, and you will be the next rising star!

Join me on this new series of etiquette in culture and business and please share your experiences in the comment box below!

Need help to overcome these obstacles? You don’t know how to overcome differences? You need more information or training for your company or as an individual? Please check out my cross-cultural lessons including basic cultural etiquette!

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