What is etiquette? In a nutshell, it is an unwritten code of behaviours, designed to ease social interactions in both our personal and business lives. Learning and mastering the rules of etiquette will help you build confidence, engage with others, and progress professionally.
For many people the word ‘etiquette’ has rather unfairly acquired old -fashioned connotations that hark back to a time when gentlemen wore hats and ladies kept their hands covered by white gloves. Nothing could be further from the truth. Etiquette is just as relevant today as it was in Victorian times – perhaps even more so, as we live in a world where technological globalisation has seen our daily interactions transcend geographical boundaries and move beyond face-to-face communication.
Respect, kindness and consideration sit at the very heart of modern etiquette and these principles should inform our conduct and behaviour at all times.
Etiquette and good manners – what is the difference?
Put simply, etiquette refers to the rules that apply in a given context while manners involve more general behavioural guidelines, such as respecting your elders and not interrupting when someone is speaking. Good manners are a reflection of who you are and often remain similar across cultures. Etiquette, on the other hand, varies depending on a specific country’s culture and customs and has to be adapted according to your geographical location.
A good way of thinking about the difference is that manners are a mindset while etiquette provides the roadmap that will guide you safely through a myriad of social and professional situations. If you display good manners and follow the rules of etiquette you will always present the very best version of yourself to the outside world.
Why is etiquette important?
The point of etiquette is not to confuse or irritate people. Quite the opposite in fact: etiquette exists to make everyone’s lives easier – including your own. When you know what rules to follow, you feel more at ease and are able to focus your attention fully on the people around you.
Treating others with courtesy, kindness and respect is vital if you want to succeed in today’s competitive world.
Good manners often become second nature if we are taught them from an early age so parents need to be aware of the behaviours they are modelling. However, the good news is that it is never too late to acquire good social skills and master the etiquette rules that will help you sail through a job interview, formal dinner or international business meeting.
Is etiquette only relevant for the upper classes?
Orwell once called England “the most class-ridden country under the sun” but etiquette pervades all walks of life and is not exclusive to the upper echelons of society. Learning the correct protocol will in fact level the playing field as, in most social circles, how you conduct yourself carries more weight than which school you went to.
Good manners are not about being “posh” rather they are a way of ensuring that we treat everybody we meet with the same courtesy and respect, regardless of age, background or race. At The British School of Etiquette we firmly believe that etiquette training is about breaking down barriers, not erecting them, and ultimately creating a more civilised and egalitarian society.