All that stuff your Mom told you about being polite is true and great career advice. You can never go wrong by being polite and acting like a lady or gentleman. I try to act as a gentleman at all times. Polite people are mannerly. Well-informed people know and follow the basic rules of etiquette. I took some time to learn the rules. While being polite trumps the rules, knowing what to do in any social situation always helps you create positive personal impact.
My friend Sharon Hill, author of The Wild Woman’s Guide to Etiquette, makes a great point about the difference between manners and etiquette. Sharon says that manners are about kindness and caring about other people. Etiquette is protocol, rules of behavior that you need to learn and use. Manners come from your heart; etiquette comes from your head. Ladies and gentlemen are both well mannered and follow the rules of etiquette.
If you know and follow the basic rules of etiquette, you won’t look foolish in social situations. You will be admired for demonstrating class and confidence. Proper etiquette can help you get ahead in business because you will create a positive impression. Sometimes, you won’t even know that people are watching, but believe me, someone usually is.
On the other hand, manners distinguish you as a caring person, someone who values every human being. I wrote about this in yesterday’s post. Well-mannered people treat every person they meet with a kindness that reinforces the self-worth of the other person. You can know and follow all the rules, but still not be well-mannered. While I think it’s important to know and follow the rules, if I had to choose between manners and etiquette, manners would win every time.
Handwritten thank you notes are a great way to distinguish yourself as a lady or gentleman. They demonstrate both good manners and proper etiquette. Here are three tips for writing great thank you notes: 1) Write legibly; 2) Always identify the gift you received – be specific. Your note will be more personal this way; 3) Always mention how you plan on using the gift. You can create all sorts of positive personal impact with thank you notes.
These days there are companies who will do what I call “faux handwritten notes.” They take a sample of your handwriting and then use it to create messages that they will send on your behalf. In my opinion, these cards are better than an email, but they still don’t substitute for a handwritten note. Two reasons: first, you still have to compose the message and email it to the vendor; and second, while these cards look pretty good, they still don’t have the intensely personal feel of a note written by hand.
As with most things, there is one rule of etiquette that I always follow. I always do whatever I can to help the people around me feel comfortable. I do this because I want to be – and be thought of – as a gentleman.
For example, when you are dining with others, you may know that your water glass is on the right and that your bread-and-butter plate is on the left. Other people may not know this. So if someone uses your bread plate, don’t say “Hey, that’s mine – yours is over there.” Just place your roll on your dinner plate. Being right is no excuse for embarrassing someone else.
Remember, friends can help take you where you want to go. Etiquette and manners will help you make those friends and create the life and career success you want and deserve.
The common sense career success coach point here is simple. Successful people are comfortable in all situations. They follow the career advice in Success Tweet 80. “Learn and use the basic rules of etiquette. Social faux pas might not ruin your career, but they certainly won’t help it.” While being kind and valuing others is more important than knowing and applying the rules, knowing and using the rules will mark you as someone in the know – someone who is an up-and-comer. Take the time to learn the rules. In that way, you’ll be able to use them without thinking about them. When this happens, you’ll be better able to focus on the conversation and the people around you.