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The Basics of Business Etiquette

Business etiquette. In this day of casual attitudes and relaxed standards, do nice manners still count in business? Absolutely. For just as saying "Please" and "Thank You" made your parents proud of you as a child, so, too, will nice manners win you friends in business. Want to put yourself far ahead of your competition? Look good AND act nicely. People will certainly take note.

While this topic strays a little from the fashion theme of this site, it does fit in nicely with the importance of first impressions. As I've said before, how you look will get you in the door; what you know will keep you there. "The devil is in the details," as they say. Today's issue looks at some of those make-it-or-break details.

What IS Etiquette?

Etiquette is the forms or manners established as acceptable or required by society or a profession. That's the dictionary definition. In reality, people show business etiquette when they make others feel comfortable and eliminate barriers that hinder business.

Nobody likes to be thrust into a new situation where they don't know what to do or how to act. It's very uncomfortable. The only thing that makes it worse is to have someone there who's aware of your discomfort, and belittles you for your ignorance. Not only is it embarrassing, it's just bad manners.

Want to be left alone or talked about behind your back? Be a snob. Make people feel uncomfortable. Heck, even point out their deficiencies to others.

If, on the other hand, you want to manage people efficiently, be looked at as a "team player" and be spoken of nicely whether you're in the room or across the country, put people at ease and make them feel appreciated. They'll reward you with their loyalty and hard work.

So, how do you go about doing this?

There are scores of books on the subject, but here are some basic guidelines for winning business and influencing people:

1. Get The Name Right

Don't you just hate it when people mangle your name?

Me too - along with just about everyone else on the planet. Why? Because nothing sounds as sweet to our ears as the sound of our own name. Even in a crowded room, we'll hear our name and turn to see who called it.

Say a person's name correctly and often, and you'll have his attention. Contort or truncate it beyond recognition and you'll loose him, maybe for life.

It's one of the simplest ways to establish a good business relationship, yet so many people mess it up. Don't be one of them. Instead, take the time to listen and observe. It's a moment very well spent.

 Here are some suggestions on how to do this:

* Take careful note of how the other person introduces herself. If she says her name is "Elizabeth," call her "Elizabeth", not "Liz". If she says her name is "Liz", don't call her "Lizzy".

* Repeat any unusual pronunciations you hear to make it stick in your mind. If the other person hands you a business card, make a note on the back of the odd articulation so that you can say it correctly the next time you talk to that person.

* Don't assume familiarity. Call the other person by his or her formal title until they invite you to call them by their first name. If you have difficulty doing that -- like if "Mrs. Skrybailo" just isn't rolling off your tongue, no matter how hard you try, for example-ask permission to use the first name. Never assume it.

2. Don't Forget The Golden Rule

"Treat others like you want to be treated."

It's a simple rule, but one that's seldom followed in business. For some reason, we tend to show deference only to those who are higher up on the organizational chart than we are. Big mistake. Big, huge.

Why?

Because while leaders give the commands, followers execute the orders. Step on a few subordinate or lateral toes on a regular basis, and you'll find it difficult to get your job done.

You probably remember people who have treated you poorly over the years and hold a special grudge for them. Well, others will do the same for you.

Yesterday's secretary might be your boss tomorrow. Don't leave a trail of verbal victims in your wake, even if you're in a particularly bad mood. It will come back to haunt you.

3. You Attract More Flies With Honey Than Vinegar

Whether you're managing a company, a department, or your household, remember that you set the tone for those in your charge. How effective you are with your staff is a direct result of your people skills. The better you "play" with others, the more influential your group of playmates becomes.

Now this doesn't mean that you have to be everyone's best friend. Far from it. You can be fair, honest, and just with others without knowing their favorite colors or the name of their daughter's cat. Keep a professional distance, yet show respect, empathy, and interest. A kind word or thoughtful action goes a long way in "rallying the troops".

Studies reveal what great managers already know: salary isn't the primary factor in motivating people. Recognition and appreciation rank well ahead of money.

Be nice to others. It will pay huge dividends.

It all boils down to the Golden Rule: Treat others like you like to be treated. In a world where almost everyone puts himself first and everyone else a distant second, you'll stick out like a sore thumb with your nice manners.

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Diana Pemberton-Sikes is a wardrobe and image consultant and author of "Business Wear Magic," an ebook that shows women how to increase their income by dressing appropriately for their line of work. Visit her online at  www.fashionforrealwomen.com  .
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