Last year, I did a series of podcasts on career and life success. Lydia Ramsey was one of my guests. Lydia is the author of a great book, Manners That Sell. She is a leading authority on business etiquette and protocol. She works with corporations, non-profit and educational institutions, helping people avoid the faux pas that can derail a career. She also writes a weekly business etiquette column in the Savannah Morning News.
Here is an excerpt of my interview with Lydia.
Bud: One of the things I’d like to discuss is a word I use a lot. And that word is “gentleman”. I tell people that I try to conduct myself as a gentleman at all times. When I say this, I sometimes get some pretty weird looks. I’m wondering what your take is on this. Is being a gentleman or being a lady a dated concept?
Lydia: Well, in some ways I think that it has become that way. We’ve gotten so politically correct with the terms that we use that we’ve lost some important words in our language, like gentleman and lady. We’re just overly cautious. Many people in business don’t necessarily want to be referred to as gentlemen and ladies. They want to be men and ladies. On the other hand, there are organizations like the Ritz Carlton who want everybody to be referred to, including their own employees, as ladies and gentlemen. Their motto is “ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen”.
Bud: That’s really interesting. I take it just from what you write and your whole focus on etiquette that being a gentleman or a lady can never be harmful to your career.
Lydia: Right, you can never be too nice. And you can never be too courteous and respectful of other people. That’s really what etiquette is about and what manners are about.
Bud: I agree. So why are manners and etiquette so important for success?
Lydia: Well, I like to think about etiquette and manners as not necessarily about the rules, but about the relationships that we have with people and the way that we treat people. And all of this, as you know, is really built on relationships… relationships with your clients, with your customers, with your coworkers. Treating people well and with courtesy and respect is a way to build those relationships and to maintain them.
Bud: That’s interesting. Tell me a little bit more about this – not rules, but relationships. I’m interested because I think a lot of people feel they need to pull out their Amy Vanderbilt or Emily Post book and make sure that they do things exactly correct. What I’m hearing you say is that’s not as important as the way you treat other people.
Lydia: That’s right. If your mindset is really about being courteous to other people and just basically being nice to other people then you’re going to be exhibiting good manners. That’s really what it’s about. It’s not about a whole set of rules that somebody came up with that were designed to make us all a little crazy or paranoid or whatever. But it’s really about knowing what to do in certain cases. Obviously you want to do the right thing. But you will be doing the right thing if you’re thinking about the other person’s comfort and the other person’s ease.
Bud: So the real key thing is to think about the other person, put yourself in their place, try to make them feel comfortable and you’re likely to not go too far wrong from an etiquette or a manners point.
Lydia: That’s right.
I like Lydia Ramsey’s common sense approach to etiquette:
- Think about other people,
- Put yourself in their place,
- Try to make them feel comfortable.
If you do this, you won’t go wrong from an etiquette or manners standpoint. What could be easier or more common sense? In other words, most etiquette comes down to behaving like a lady or gentleman – the point I make in Success Tweet 76.
The common sense career success coach point here is simple. Etiquette is a matter of common sense. Lydia Ramsey, a leading etiquette consultant, says it’s as simple as one, two, three: 1) Think about other people; 2) Put yourself in their place; 3) Do whatever you can to make them feel comfortable. Follow the career advice in Tweet 76 in Success Tweets. “Always act like a lady or gentleman. It’s not old-fashioned; it’s smart business and leads to a successful life and career.” Ladies and gentlemen are gracious. They don’t worry about the rules. They worry about making other people feel comfortable and accepted.