Defining Etiquette

The definition of etiquette in Webster’s third college edition dictionary is “The forms, manners, and ceremonies established by convention as acceptable or required in social relations, in a profession or in official life.”

The key phrase “established by convention as acceptable” is what most of us are not aware. You need to know what is acceptable in business environments. It could cost you dearly if you’re caught unaware of what is expected in a social or business environment.

In 1977, I read that a young man had gone through eight rounds of interviews and was invited, along with several other candidates, to join the executives in their corporate dining room. He was the most qualified and the favored prospect up to this point.

When lunch was served, the young man picked up the salt shaker and salted everything on his plate. He did not get the job. When he asked why he was eliminated, he was told that it was obvious that if he salted his food before tasting to see if it needed salt, he would more than likely make important decisions prior to having adequate information.

That might seem drastic to some of us, and we might not ever expect to find ourselves in the executive dining room, but I believe the example speaks volumes about how we say and do things without being aware of how others might perceive our actions.

How do we make a favorable impression? Being polite at all times seems obvious, but it involves more than the basic “thank you” or “please.” It requires being conscious about the words we use, how we connect with people and how we involve everyone around us. I always revert to including everyone as though they are my best friends.