Crossing Cultures: International Etiquette
Let's talk a little bit about Crossing Cultures. This is going to set us up for thinking about international etiquette in ways that are significant. Often times when I am doing a business etiquette training, I do a word association game with the word etiquette. One of the things that I often hear when I do that word association game with an audience, if I let it go on for a little while, I'll hear someone give me some version of something they call the golden rule. The golden rule: treat other people the way you would want to be treated. Has anyone ever heard of the evolution of the golden rule, the platinum rule? Is this a familiar concept? No? Yeah, let me hear.
Not exactly what I've heard the other way is like treat people the way they want to be treated.
Absolutely. Treat other people the way they would want to be treated. I was giving a talk at a tourism and hospitality industry conference and there was a man who stood up and introduced me to the platinum rule. I've since deve...
loped a really long and for me, significant relationship with this man. He hosts a conference that's focused on diversity, equity and inclusion. He introduced me to the concept of the platinum rule. It's the idea in a world that is increasingly diverse and complex, it's not enough to go around and apply our standards to everybody that we meet. That it's critically important that we're willing to meet other people with the expectations that they have and on terms that they're familiar and comfortable with as well. So absolutely, that's what I think of as the platinum rule. What is the golden rule? Treat others the way you would like to be treated. What's the platinum rule? Treats others the way they would like to be treated. I like the ideas of these rules being golden and platinum because I think of them like precious metals. It's not that one is better than the other. It's not just that one is an evolution of the other. It's that they are precious and you want as much of both of them as humanly possible. Maybe not in the same ring. But it's nice to have the gold and it's nice to have the platinum. So how do you know which rule to apply in which situation? You can't wear them in the same ring. That's kinda a little tacky. So which rule to you apply when? On which situation is the golden rule appropriate? Which situation is the platinum rule appropriate? Earlier, in our course where we talk about the core concepts for good etiquette, we talk about etiquette being a combination of manners and principles. The manners are those particular social expectations we have of each other. The principles are the values. They're the core principles that those manners are meant to express: consideration, respect and honesty. I think it's pretty obvious when you think about etiquette being an combination of manners and principles. That one rule applies to manners and one rule applies to principles. I actually think it's the other way around. I think the golden rule applies really well for principles. And I think the platinum rule applies really well for manners. That no matter where you go, no matter what situation you find yourself in, you want to hold yourself accountable to core principle standards of consideration, respect and honesty. That you think about others, that you care about them, that you recognize their worth and value and that you behave in a way that's honest and sincere. But when it comes to how you show that respect, that consideration, that honesty be like a chameleon. Be willing to change and adapt and evolve to whatever situation you find yourself in. So do I kiss, do I bow, do I shake hands? I don't know. What country are you in? Who are you interacting with? It's going to vary from one situation to another. I think this is a really powerful framework for navigating cross cultural expectations. What did Emily Post say about it again? It's not some rigid code of manners. It's simply how people's lives touch one another. There are manners. There are codes of conduct and behavior that are specific that helps us know how to interact, but that's not the whole story. Really good etiquette doesn't isolate or confine us within a certain tradition. It empowers us and gives us tools to navigate cross cultural boundaries and expectations. So international etiquette is one of those places where our ability to navigate those cross cultural boundaries or expectations start to get tested. It's one of the places where our etiquette can really shine and can really be an asset to us. So when I talk about cross cultural boundaries or expectations, obviously, countries or regions have cultures but so do religions. There are cultures that are particular to the role that you are playing, the client or the prospect role. Very similar to the host and guests roles that we were talking about earlier. They even vary from one family to another. We teach a children's etiquette program. There's a question that emerged in our children's etiquette program at one point. It went something like this. Names are changed to protect the identities of children. I go to Tommy's house. Tommy goes to bed at eight o'clock. I go to bed at nine o'clock. Do I have to go to bed at eight o'clock? What does my mother say to the young gentleman who's asking the question. Tommy's house, Tommy's rules. I love this idea. Tommy's house, Tommy's rules. Narrative stories help us build connection ideas. Remember Tommy. Remember to adhere to Tommy's rules. Our expectations vary depending on the country we're in, religious context, the role that we're playing, the company that we're working for. Do I wear sneakers to a job interview? I don't know. Are you going to a sneaker company? Yes, wear some sneakers. If you're going to that high powered law firm in the big city that you live in? No, get some black leather shoes. Make sure they match your belt. Let's talk about two powerful ideas. Generalizing and stereotyping. When I was first learning to teach this material, this is one of the concepts that I found most illuminating. If I were to ask you, what do you think is the difference between generalizing and stereotyping? How do you know you are doing one and not the other? What makes one a good and powerful thing and one an awkward, difficult, and potentially dangerous thing? Here, give it a shot. Yeah.
To me it feels like a generalization is based off of some level of empirical knowledge, whereas a stereotype is some level of creation that you may or may not have any backing for.
I think we're dancing around the idea there. Certainly, generalizing is a powerful concept. Think about the bell curve. If you've got a group, or a situation and something like 80% of the people conform to a certain generalization about that group or that situation. That's a fact. That's truth. That's a certain reality that can be important to identify and recognize. I'm visiting a certain country, people in that country eat a certain cuisine. I think it's a fair generalization to say people in this particular country eat a certain cuisine. I should be prepared to participate and enjoy and interact with that cuisine. Does that mean that every single person in that country likes that cuisine? Does that mean that's the food that every person in that country eats? Probably not. That's stereotyping. When you start to identify a generalized concept or trait and apply it to every individual that you meet. So there's something to me about directionality here. Our ability to generalize, to think ahead, to think about what might be common expectations, is an important tactic or strategy or tool in our tool box. The tendency to then take that generalization and apply it to any individual that we meet is where that generalization becomes much less useful. In fact, becomes potentially hurtful or harmful.