The Simple Meaning of Etiquette
Founder of the protocol school of Washington, Dorothea Johnson and her granddaughter Liv Tyler
Any way you slice the turkey, we are all judged by our appearance and behavior. And far more than we realize, we unconsciously pass judgment on others.
The rules of etiquette are simply the code of behavior in a polite society. But the word polite has taken on a whole new meaning. Respect and consideration seem to have flown out the window and at lightning speed.
For some, being courteous is as natural as a breath. For others, it doesn’t come easily. Those who lack social skills can feel awkward and out of place. We don’t always realize how much body language and facial expressions work to convey meaning and tone. Blame our non-verbal world on Steve Jobs and all of the other Silicon Valley brainiacs. Like it or not, we must find coping mechanisms, as so much is lost in translation when we don’t speak face to face.
We use words online, but they are electronic, and sometimes they’re in code or abbreviations so that we need to Google them just to out what they mean. To make matters worse, we tend to forget that with each point and click there is a human face on the other end, not just text and emojis. The key is to be just as polite online as you are in person.
And remember: making a good first impression applies to both online and in-person appearance and behavior. You get only one chance for a first impression, so it had better be good. It takes only a few seconds to define who you are as a person, with or without words.
As far as dress goes, if you’re looking for a road map, you can stop right here in No Cal, my homeland. We are home to the Gap and Levis Strauss and the jeans and khaki revolution. Without question, we are much more casual in terms of dress. “Casual Friday,” which is short for “business casual,” started here. Then somehow it took on a life of its own and has graduated to aloha attire, which doesn’t really work anywhere except in Hawaii (and maybe Florida). Cargo shorts, flip-flops, and athletic shoes are not business casual.
Etiquette is more about behavior than anything else. Knowing which fork to use and when is important, but it’s how we treat others that matters most. Tact and consideration are all-important here. The simplest solution is just to remember the golden rule: treat others the same way you want to be treated.
Like Emily Post, I know that time and time again we will all be called on to demonstrate our people skills. Remember: good manners don’t cost a dime, but bad ones can be very costly. If you treat everyone with tact and consideration, you will always be using the right fork!