Etiquette is a powerful tool. It'll impact your individual success and your organizational success. Let's take a big step back. Let's talk about problem solving. It's not some rigid code of manners, we're gonna spend a lot of time talking about manners. We're gonna spend a lot of time talking about particular behaviors and social expectations. This is a moment to say, you know, there are a lot of situations, a lot of times where I just don't know. I don't know what to do. What about when you've got two people interacting who come from different backgrounds and they've got competing ideas or manners? There's a book that's kinda famous in the etiquette world called Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands. It's sort of anachronistic now, it was written 15, 20 years ago and they sort of make assumptions that are regional assumptions that don't even apply any longer. But it serves as a good illustrator, it serves as a good reminder that we all have very different expectations about behavior. But we all ca...
re about how we meet each other. We all care about honoring first encounters. We all care about respecting each other, whether you show it by deferring your eyes or whether you show it by meeting someone's gaze. So I wanna introduce a five step problem, a problem solving process. We call it the Five Step Method. This is what we use at the Emily Post Institute when we get asked a question that we are having a hard time resolving, or when there's multiple people in the organization and we've all got to come to an agreement about how we answer a question. It's also a process that we teach other people. 'Cause it's a way to carry these core principles of etiquette with you everywhere you go. What are the core principles of etiquette? Well, they're consideration, respect and honesty. So we're building a five step process out of these three core principles and how you apply them in different scenarios. You've also got two other steps. You've got a very concrete step where you actually develop a set of solutions or responses, and then you have a refinement step where you think about the how. That's where you modify your truthful answer so that it's a benevolent or kind truth instead of a harsh or a brutal truth. So let's start to work through these steps. Let's get into them just a little bit. The first step is consideration. You ask yourself, who's affected and how are they affected? So we talked about the calculus equation for etiquette, etiquette equals manners derived from principles. This is where we're gonna do a little linear algebra, we're gonna set up a little pivot table here. For those of you that like working with spreadsheets, think of it as a spreadsheet. On one axis of the spreadsheet you're gonna have the major players, who's involved. If we're thinking about our previous example, that's the instigator, that's the person who's experiencing it and that's the witnesses. So you've got your major players on one axis. The other axis is your solutions or responses. So you've got your scenario, you've got your major players and you've got a set of solutions or responses. You wanna give yourself multiple options, and this is my best, hottest tip, you wanna include a couple of solutions or responses that are not ideal. I'm gonna send the most angry, invective filled email this person's ever heard in their entire life. They're gonna know exactly how I feel about this. The second you say that out loud it makes it much easier not to make that choice. Give yourself the bad option. Everybody wants to jump to the choice where they choose the thing that's the good thing that's the good result that's the good outcome. Part of the process work here is giving yourself the option of choosing badly. So you've got one part of your spreadsheet that's the major players, you've got the other part of your spreadsheet, the other axis on your spreadsheet that is the possible ways you could address the situation, including positive and negative. Now comes the evaluation step where you're gonna look at each solution and how it affects each person. So that's where you go to the square in the spreadsheet where you get the crossing between the particular solution and the player involved. You could think of putting an X or a check on the spreadsheet. Angry, invective filled email. Well, that's gonna make me feel great, that's gonna make them feel bad, that's gonna negatively affect my company. We've got an X, a check and a check as I work my way down the spreadsheet. If the spreadsheet idea doesn't work for you you can just think about thinking about each of the people involved and how your solution impacts them. Practice your empathy. Think about how that person would feel experiencing the thing that you're describing. Step four is where you make a choice. You gotta make a choice that you can believe in. This is different than the evaluation step. I wanna separate these two things out. Respect is really thinking about how these things impact each person. Honesty's where you make the choice. And then comes your refinement step. You won't use it every time, but it's gonna improve the solution that you identify as having the most positive impact for the greatest number of people. So that's all well and good. We've now got these ideas in our mind, we've got a conceptual framework, we've got a process, let's apply it. Let's take a particular situation. This is a question that we got asked at the Emily Post Institute a few years ago. It was actually during the SARS epidemic. Multiple publications were talking to us, they wanted to know how you turn down a handshake. So we built this into a question that we processed and worked on at the institute that sounds something like this. At an important meeting, you notice someone sneeze into her hands. Minutes later your boss brings the person over to introduce her to you. She extends her hand to shake, what do you do? It's a pleasure to meet you, how do you do? What do you do? Okay, we're not gonna jump, then everyone's thinking, I know what I'm gonna do. This is that moment where you're gonna say, no, I'm not gonna jump to that obvious solution, the one that I wanna execute. Gonna go back and work the process. Work the process with me. What was the first step in this process? Consideration, who's impacted. Who are the major players here? Go ahead, call them out for me, I'll reflect them back to you. You.
The other people, maybe you're in a meeting.
Yeah, the boss who's making the introduction, who else?
Person who sneezes.
The sneezer, sure. And who else? You can play this game where you continue to work the circles outward. Boy, there's everyone in the disease vector. Right? Everyone who might be infected by that contagion down the road. There's the company that you represent, the company that they represent. I was doing international training in another country and almost everybody in that country answered, your family. And they didn't mean the people that you might get sick, they meant the people that depended on you and your job for their well-being. So who's affected here? You, the person, your boss, your organization, and those circles can continue to go out. But we're gonna look at the most sort of immediate players in this situation. Everybody in the whole world is impacted, they kinda are. That's the butterfly effect. This stuff does matter. Okay. What are some possible solutions? Go ahead and give them to me. I've heard them all before. What's one thing you might do.
Shake their hand and then think about your hand until you have a chance to wash it and try not to touch things.
Shake their hand, don't touch anything until you have a chance to wash it. Give me some other solutions. What else might you do?
I could say, oh I'm getting over a sickness right now.
Oh, pardon me, I'm not feeling well. I'm just getting over something myself. What else might you do? No one wants to do it. No one wants to say, what's the obvious bad thing? What's the worst thing you could do in this situation? No thank you, that's really gross, I don't wanna shake your hand. Give yourself the obvious answer. Give yourself the obvious, bad solution, it helps you not choose it. Why is that so obviously bad? Let's just talk about it for a second 'cause it's an important lesson. It's calling out someone else's rudeness. It's calling out someone else's unfitness. So, don't shake hands, shake hands, some version of the great escape. Pardon me, I'm not feeling well. I don't wanna get you sick. Let's do a little evaluation. How do each of those solutions affect the people involved? I don't wanna shake your hand. How does that affect you? Not sick, not grossed out, maybe you feel a little awkward. How does it affect the other person? They're embarrassed, they feel bad. Your boss, the person making the introduction? I'd say angry, upset, confused. What's going on here? What about the shake hands? I'm gonna shake hands and later on I'm gonna wash my hands, something like that. How does it make you feel? Maybe a little germy, a little grossed out, but maybe not as awkward. How does it make them feel? Accepted, like no, nothing's wrong here. This is proceeding the way I would imagine it would and should proceed. Your boss, the person making the introduction? Similar probably reaction. What about the great escape? I'm sorry, I'm not shaking hands right now, I'm not feeling well, I wouldn't wanna get you sick.
I think that's kind of a callout because then they're probably gonna realize what they just did and feel weird about it.
Maybe it's a callout. Maybe it makes this other person feel weird. Maybe they know they just sneezed in their hand and they feel like now they're being exposed. What else? How's your boss impacted by that?
They might feel like you're not representing your organization well and it might have long-standing effects.
It's kind of a little strange, and yeah, maybe you, and we're gonna get to this one, we'll address it now. Turning down a handshake's really hard. I come in peace, I come in friendship. I meet you without a weapon in my hand. I extend my hand in peace. We meet as equals. It's a universal gesture, it's become a really standard part of many business greetings and partings. Hard to turnsdown a handshake. It's one of the few opportunities we have to physically come in contact with each other. What's the biggest problem with the great escape? Pop quiz.
I think it can come off as disingenuous.
It's disingenuous. Is it true? Not really. We're about to get to the honesty step. I once had someone in a seminar tell me it's the quickest way to give yourself a cold. Now you're sick for the rest of the weekend. What about when you meet that next person who didn't sneeze into their hand? Do you turn down a handshake with them also? If you always tell the truth you never have to remember anything. It's just easier. So if you don't shake hands, it's okay for you, you temporarily avoid the problem, rude to others. You shake hands, kinda works for everybody. The great escape might address the problem immediately but the problem persists or there's a problem that persists. One of the easiest ways to lie is to tell yourself that it's better for everyone involved. It's amazing how many excuses we can come up with in our mind for why lying is a good choice. This is one of those places where I really wanna encourage you to hold yourself ruthlessly and scrupulously accountable to a standard of honesty in how you conduct yourself. You mentioned personal brand when did a word association with the word etiquette. That is a really powerful personal brand. Boy, that person is, they have so much integrity. You can always count on them. They always do what they say they're gonna do. They always represent themselves honestly. They're so forthright. The phone rings, someone picks it up, you don't wanna talk to them, tell them I'm not here. Guess what? Your word is now worth nothing. Not only are you prepared to lie, you're asking someone else to lie for you. Feels like a little thing. That white lie creeps into our lives in so many places. It's gonna help us be accountable when we make the choice that if we don't shake hands, it causes more trouble than it solves, if we shake hands, it might be hard on us but it's easier for others, ultimately it's probably the good choice, and the escape doesn't really resolve the situation. You couldn't help yourself. You threw in the refinement step to your initial idea about how to conduct this situation. It's in many of our impulses, once we start to think about a difficult situation, to resolve it. Probably gonna wash your hands afterwards. Here's a tip. When you're in public situations, when you're interacting in public, keep your hands out of your nose, mouth, eyes and ears. This is a very traditional piece of etiquette. This was the same etiquette that applied in Emily Post's day. It still applies today. This is one of those places that those traditions, those particular manners expectations are our ally, our friend, no matter what situation we're operating in. When you're shaking people's hands, don't touch your face a lot. Takes a brave man or woman to walk into a room full of strangers and not touch his or her head or face. Keep your hands below your shoulders, you're gonna be in great shape. That's our problem solving process. I wanna thank you for helping me work through it and I wanna encourage you to give it a try when you find yourself confronted with the next difficult or awkward situation.