Etiquette as an Opportunity Versus Obligation
Daniel Post Senning
Etiquette as an Opportunity Versus Obligation
Daniel Post Senning
1. Etiquette as an Opportunity Versus Obligation
Etiquette as an Opportunity Versus Obligation
There's a structure that I really like to stick with when I'm teaching and that's that I like to welcome people whenever I begin. I think it's really important to acknowledge the investment that anyone puts into any relationship and I think about our time together as a relationship. And when I think about my goals and objectives for that relationship, I really think about it in terms of being the best possible resource that I can be for all of you. So, I also wanna encourage you, if there's anything that occurs to you, a thought, an idea, something that just pops up in your mind as I'm talking about something, please feel free, let me know 'cause I want to hear it. It'll help me guide and direct our talk in ways that are most useful to you. I talk about this material all the time. I'm presenting about etiquette to lots of different audiences, but it really helps me to hear how that material is being received so that it continues to say fresh, so that it evolves and changes. Having said...
that, I do have an agenda. I have some basic ideas about some material that I wanna get through with you. Some concepts that I think are really important because they're gonna set us up for doing all kinds of work and frankly, for making tangible improvements in our lives. Why does etiquette matter? We've been talking a lot in an earlier session about what etiquette is, what it is fundamentally, how it's a combination of consideration, respect, and honesty that are shown through manners, that express those values, those principles. But why is this important? It's important because it impacts our relationships and it impacts the quality of our lives, but let's start to investigate this question about why etiquette really matters. That's gonna be the first thing that we talk about. My pitch is gonna be two-fold, I'm gonna give it away just a little bit. We're gonna talk about the impacts that it can have for you individually and we're also gonna talk about the impacts that it can have for organizations. Etiquette's powerful, it's transformational for individuals, it is also powerful and transformational for organizational culture. We're also gonna look at ways that we can apply those core principles of etiquette, the consideration, the respect, and the honesty, to all kinds of different situations and scenarios. We're gonna start to elaborate and evolve a problem-solving process that you can use to work through any difficult situation that you find yourself in. This works for organizations, it also works for individuals. We're gonna map out a process that's based on basic etiquette and then we're gonna do a sample problem, we're gonna work through that problem together. So, that's our goal. That's out objective. (chuckles) Let's get to it. Why etiquette? Let me ask you the same question the way I asked you earlier what you thought etiquette is. Why business etiquette? Why is it important? I've given it away a little bit, but let me hear in your own words. Why would you be interested to begin with about etiquette? It's important to maintain strong business relationships for the sustainability of a business. It's important for business. What's one of the oldest cliches? We call them cliches because we say them all the time and sometimes we think, oh, a cliche loses its relevance or its significance. The reason we say it all the time is because it's true. Business is built on relationships. In the same way our lives are built on relationships, good business is built on relationships. So, good relationship skills are good business skills, absolutely. Why else? Why etiquette? Gives us confidence. There are all kinds of situations that we find ourselves in where having some basic idea about the social expectations that are at play in that situation or scenario are helpful 'cause they give us confidence. They allow us take our focus away from those particulars and bring them back to the things that really matter, the quality of the interaction that we're having with other people. Sometimes it's good to know the rules so you can play the game. You know the steps so that you can dance well. I'll spare you my waltz step, it's pretty terrible, but we all wanna be a good dance partner. So, why is etiquette important? Why is business etiquette important? It'll help you maximize your individual success, it'll also help you maximize organizational success. I think it's important to think about it in both ways. We live in a world where, increasingly, we think about the portability of our careers. We think about ourselves as independent agents, people who take our work to different places and different environments. I think if you're really gonna connect the idea of business etiquette being important, if you really want it to be relevant, I think you wanna think about it as something that's gonna be a benefit to you no matter what profession you choose, no matter where you work, no matter what situation or context you find yourself in. When I talk about using etiquette as a problem solving process, that's where I think it can be most helpful. There's a portability to this that's really fundamentally important. I also think it's important for organizational success. We talked about corporate mission or value statements being built on very abstract concepts. How you make those abstract ideas an explicit part of the way that your business conducts itself can be tricky. Putting those abstract concepts into practice is tough. Etiquette provides a way to do that. That's the etiquette in action. So, as an individual, here comes the big pitch, etiquette can be a differentiator for you. The idea of informality verse formality came up already, one of my favorite little word plays, is the idea that the very concept of informality implies an awareness of the formality from which we're departing. Oh, I'm just informal, I'm just casual. Really? I think you might just be doing what you do. Do you have some idea about what a more formal behavior would look like, would feel like, how to put it into action, how to put it into play. If you don't, you're just doing what you do. You're not making choices. Etiquette provides us an opportunity for distinction. It gives us the possibility of pushing the ceiling for our formal behavior just a little bit higher, for establishing absolute floors for our behavior that we're not going to penetrate or dive below. No matter who you are, no matter where you are in your life, we all have the possibility of raising our ceiling just a little bit or of putting the ground that we stand on on just a little bit... On a little bit more solid of a foundation. The very idea of informality implies an awareness of the formality from which we're departing. We live in an increasingly casual and informal world. I live and work in Burlington, Vermont. We treasure our casual work culture in Burlington, Vermont. If you wear a tie to work in Burlington, Vermont in some of the most successful companies, they will cut it off you. Ben & Jerry's. We treasure that casual work culture and yet, at the same time, we take pride in who we are, we take pride in the work that we do. How you navigate that environment is tricky, it's not always easy. My mother used to say she knew where my father was going to work. He worked at different places based on what he wore in the morning when he walked out the door. He was making choices, making choices about how he presented himself. It's not an obligation. You don't have to do these things. We talked about a definition for rudeness that says it's behavior that causes harm or distress but isn't so egregious someone's likely to mention it to you. If you fail to write a thank you note after that next major interview opportunity that you have, it's not likely the person you interview with is gonna contact you and say, you know, you failed to write me a thank you note. I'm not gonna come find you and hold you accountable and say you failed to write a thank you note after that major interview opportunity. I am also going to tell you if you write a thank you note to someone after they take the time to interview you in person, it will make an impression on them. It will have an impact. They will remember it. It very well might differentiate you from other people who interview and do not do it. I do the intern hiring at The Emily Post Institute. We get applications from students that come from the same three schools on a pretty consistent basis. Their resumes look very similar. They belong to the same organizations, they have similar extracurriculars, they are self-selecting high achievers who want to intern at an etiquette institute. We have a couple positions to fill. There's recently an addition to one of the schools that we work with where they post these boards, they post these positions broadly, and we're getting a volume of applications that we haven't seen in the past. I interview the highest potential candidates. We have an interview checklist on our website, the seven tips for navigating interviews successfully. What do you think the last tip is on that interview checklist? Write a thank you note if someone takes the time to interview you. What percentage of people that I interview do you think write me a thank you note? It's about 30%. I think that's high. I think that's a high percentage. Three qualified applicants, 10 qualified applicants, two positions, I get a thank you note from one of 'em. Guess what? Filled. It's such a simple thing. It's an opportunity for distinction. These opportunities are all around us in an increasingly casual and informal world. It is not an obligation. I guarantee you that many of the parents of those students who wanna intern with us have told them write thank you notes. They probably practiced writing thank you notes with them. Do I have to write a thank you note? No, it is not an obligation. The more you can approach etiquette through that lens of opportunity and the less you approach it through that lens of obligation, the more powerful it's gonna be for you, the easier it's gonna be to seize those opportunities when they present themselves. Do you have to do it, no. I'm not telling you you have to. In fact, I'm telling you that, by definition, this is stuff you don't have to do. I'm also telling you that, by definition, this is stuff that's good for you if you do choose to do it. That's the big pitch. That's the pitch to individuals everywhere. It's the pitch to the individual that you are sitting there hearing this right now. Say to yourself, where can I get just a little bit better? What can I do? That's the opportunity, the opportunity for distinction.
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