Is etiquette still important in today’s casual business climate? Some entrepreneurs say it’s more important than ever. Traditional etiquette rules are based on kindness and courtesy, and no one hates being treated nicely.
Even as people around you are losing touch with civility, using proper etiquette can powerfully enhance your personal brand and your company’s customer service reputation.
Watch Your Language.
Of course, you want to sound warm and friendly in your communications, but it’s better to err on the side of formality. Studies show that workplace swearing is on the rise, particularly among young women. If that kind of openness is welcome in your office, enjoy it, but remember that it’s still shocking in many business contexts. Similarly, opening an email with “Good morning” is always acceptable, while “Hey” works only with people you already know well. While it may seem stilted to end your business emails with “Warm regards,” almost no one is going to be put off by that.
Make the Effort to Learn and Use Names.
Addressing people by name is powerful. In fact, researchers have identified a special brain activity that occurs only when people hear their own names. Avoid punctuating every sentence with the listener’s name like a used car salesman in a bad movie, but do address people by name when you’re greeting them. You can do this in person, on the phone, by email, even occasionally in your text messages. Double check spelling of names when you’re typing them; most people respond very strongly to seeing their names misspelled.
Handle Introductions Properly.
If you’re talking to someone at a gathering and a third person walks up, you should always introduce the two individuals. Likewise, if you initiate a group message with two or more people who don’t already know each other, take time to introduce them first. Give each person’s name, tell what they do, and add something nice about them if you can honestly do so. When someone is introducing themselves to you, pay attention. If a business card is handed to you, take a moment to look at it before you tuck it away. If you are seated when a new person is being introduced to you, stand up to shake their hand. In fact, you should always stand to greet people.
Master Phone Etiquette.
Proper phone etiquette can prevent a lot of wasted time and irritation. Be prepared before you dial, with an idea of what you want to say and any resource materials you will need at your fingertips. Allow a minute or so at the beginning of the call for connection-building chitchat, but then get down to business. Give the caller your full attention during the call and follow up with an email afterward to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Etiquette may seem like a dated concept, but it’s really a concise word that conveys the ideas of niceness and courtesy. If you pay attention to social protocols, you will be perceived as more professional, more pleasant, and easier to get along with. There’s nothing old-fashioned about that.