Sunday, August 28, 2016

Etiquette is Much More Than Rules

"Protocol is not there to dictate to you. It is there to help you." Barbara Bush 
Seeing Etiquette Through a Different Lens ... It’s Not Always About Which Fork to Use!

 by Hilary Robinson

There are occasions, when telling people that I provide training on the subject of Etiquette and Protocol, that they look at me like I have an extra head. Every now and then I can even see their internal dialogue written on their face: ‘that’s so old-fashioned’, ‘she’s clearly living in the past’, ‘oh no, she’s going to critique everything I say and do’. This last one is the most common; at a recent event the host of my table looked up as I approached and exclaimed, more-or-less in jest, ‘great, I’ve got the etiquette expert!’ (I don’t by the way, unless asked.)

I put these responses down to the fact that many people equate etiquette with ‘rules’ – rules that govern our every move, and get us into trouble if we don’t follow them.

Yes, there are rules when it comes to etiquette and protocol but though they can seem frivolous, they are actually very helpful. Many stem from common sense and are in place to help us navigate business and social settings; some are driven by interacting with other cultures; others, leftovers of bygone eras, fading into the past.

However, I believe, firmly, that etiquette is so much more than simply a set of rules. You can take your pick of words and phrases: etiquette, courtesy, civility, polite behaviour, consideration for others – but when it comes down to it, all of these ensure that we carry out our daily interactions – be they business meetings, hosting an event, or passing someone on the street – in a thoughtful, kind manner, which, in turn, shows others that we value their time and attention.

I don’t view the ‘rules’ as being stiff, old-fashioned directives. I see them, instead, as the tools we use to give us the confidence and freedom to interact with others under any, and all, circumstances. Sometimes it is about which fork to use – and if you know which fork to use you can ignore your place setting and pay attention to your guests.

And, the great thing about knowing the rules is knowing how, when and where you can break them.

Meet our newest contributor, Hilary Robinson, the Senior Trainer and Owner of Polished Professionals in Toronto, Canada. With her background, spent running events for Prime Ministers, CEOs and academics (in the UK and Canada), one might think that she’s all about following the rules. However, she prefers to train people to understand their parameters, what it means to follow them, what advantages there are in knowing how and when to bend them, and the value in using good manners to put others at ease. With 20 years working worldwide in events and communications, Hilary believes manners and courtesy are not only powerful communication tools but the foundations on which self-confidence and success grow. It's understanding that not all social or business situations are created equal, and knowing how to deal with those differences, that gives us our ability to be our best and to succeed. (Oh, and she’s completely passionate (and nerdy) about all this… if you have any questions feel free to ask!)

Etiquette Enthusiast Maura J Graber is the Site Moderator and Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia