In my former life, my boss pushed the importance of business etiquette.  In fact she believed in it so much she had a speaker talk to us during one of our team meetings about its importance and gave us a book of which she strongly recommended we read.  While at the time I thought the session was an hour I’d never get back, as I said to myself, “I have good manners.” What I learned is there is much more to business etiquette than saying “please and “thank you.”  The session prompted me to read The Etiquette Advantage in Business by none other than Emily Post.  Since that meeting, I’ve read the book and have gone to it many times to review how to handle several situations.

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Some may ask, “Why does etiquette matter?”  Well first if you don’t have the basics, you more than likely will not get further than your first conversation.  Etiquette is a very broad and misunderstood word.  When asking most, they immediately go to manners, much like I did, or other words like polite, common sense, etc. come out when someone attempts to explain/define what it is.  But when you get right down to it, etiquette is building relationships.  Etiquette gives you the structure on how you should act or react to any given situation.  From an agency side, that allows you to focus on building and maintaining your relationships, which is 80 percent of what makes some successful in my opinion.

Ms. Post references three basic essentials that affect relationships:  your actions, your appearance and your words.

Actions.  The things we do can have both positive and negative impacts on your relationships.  Think about your actions when you’re meeting with a client or interacting with co-workers.  Do you answer emails when in a meeting with another client?  Do you answer a chat from a co-worker while meeting with his/her colleague?  You think the answers are “no-brainers,” but take a moment to think if you’ve done this within the past week?  My guess is yes. By doing one or both of the above, your actions tell the person you’re not fully engaged with them.  This doesn’t help build a relationship.

Appearance.  Bottomline, it matters.  Dress like a slob and people will think you’re a slob.  But what most people fail to realize is that body language falls within this category too.  Twitching during a meeting can send signals that you’re nervous or not really interested in what the meeting is about.  For example, I have the horrible habit of twisting my hair.  I do this mainly when I’m tired or thinking, but doing this while meeting with a client could evoke a message of not being interested.  This doesn’t help my relationship if the client thinks I’m not interested in the topic of the meeting.

Words.  Choose them wisely.  Coarse or bad language is really never a good practice.  It also applies to speaking with proper grammar.  When you are in meetings, using the right words can make people take notice of your thought or cause them to focus on that one word and not your idea.  It can also offend your colleague or client which harms the relationship.

The best thing about good business etiquette is that when it is practiced it is unnoticed.  When you are practicing the three basics and they are all working together the focus is on your content, not on you.  Slip up and it’s on the area that was flawed.  Now, we all mess up, but being conscious of these three simple things will not only build your relationships, it will build upon your success in your personal and professional life.