To understand why business etiquette is never out of fashion, we have to go back in time. The initial idea of etiquette was not to tell you what to do or to make you wrong for not creating separation between social classes. Rather etiquette was designed to honor the person you are with, to show them respect and to treat them kindly and elegantly. It was part of celebration of life, and a way to create a special moment where you enjoy and honor yourself and those around you.
Taking these thoughts and ideas about etiquette to 2020 will immediately change our point of view about etiquette. Business etiquette defines standards to not offend each other without knowing, to create a space where people involved are honored and respected. When you are in business you want to create business relationships, sell your product and at the end make money. Following business etiquette is not about copying others and never standing out. It is not designed to make all of us equal and the same. To the contrary: True business etiquette will make you unique and stand out because of it.
Dress for success
A very wise man once said: “You never have a second chance for a good first impression.” When you choose your clothes for a business meeting don’t make it about yourself – you’re meeting in a business setting, so don’t clothe yourself in attire as if you’re going out on a date. At the same time, you need to be comfortable and confident; so, do not exaggerate in the other direction and dress up as someone you are not. Find a balance between what works for you and what is not offensive to others. Be sure to take pride in yourself and avoid heavy or intense colognes or perfumes. Be yourself, be comfortable – and impress with who you are and what you have to say.
Business events are never about the atmosphere or the food – the focus should be on the business being conducted.
- You never order something more expensive than the host. When you are the host, guide the table and always let your guest know what you will choose. Are you the guest? If so, pay attention to the host or ask what he/she recommends or chooses?
- Order food that you know how to eat – watching you fighting with crab legs or lobster shells distracts from having a conversation; the same applies to artichoke leaves and snails. If you are not an expert in eating it, don’t order it.
- Educate yourself on table manners, how to hold knife and fork, and never chew with your mouth open – it’s just not nice for the person sitting opposite of you to see these details
- Get rid of your chewing gum before you enter the restaurant and do not take a new one until you are by yourself again.
What you should never talk about
There are some topics that are not designed to be talked about in a business setting: such as religion and politics. These two topics are the most intimate and private areas of life and also the most diverse and different in every culture. Especially at an international business meeting, these two topics are considered taboo. The chance to offend or irritate someone with these topics are so high that you should simple not go there. Never bring it up or take a conversation in that direction, and if someone else does, try to elegantly change the topic. If people resist or insist on carrying on in that direction, politely excuse yourself to go to the bathroom.
Never fight – invite to new perspectives
When you are having discussions or negotiations in business try not to fight for the rightness of your point of view or opinion. If you really want to “win” and get your ideas implemented, invite your business partners to new perspectives instead of fighting for your idea: Be the elegance of silence. Silence is one of the most powerful tools to attract attention.
The way you communicate in business is part of who you are. The way you write and communicate should therefore always be the way you naturally communicate. Keep in mind the way you speak to your colleagues or business partners, avoiding the jargon or conversational tone you would use with a friend or close relatives. There should be a distinct difference between these.
With this “generation smartphone,” a new way of communication was introduced to business etiquette. We use WhatsApp, text, Skype and e-mail – nobody writes letters anymore. This seems a lot more informal than what occurred 30 years ago, but there are still some things you should always remember:
- Typos “aer” ok – especially when using a smartphone – you are busy and were in a rush, but incorrect spelling and grammar still irritates and shows a lack of education.
- Emojis are ok, but if you add them, never replace words with an emoji.
- Bring it to the point – don’t do story telling. The shorter your text, the higher the chances that people will read it.
These tips will make a huge difference, especially when you follow the original intention of etiquette. Turn meetings into a space of elegance, of honor and celebration, where people enjoy themselves and what they are doing. Add the uniqueness of you and your impact will be more meaningful and will point you towards success.