The French word étiquette (or estiquette) was first introduced in the 1700s to mean a ticket. During the rule of King Louis XIV, signs were posted throughout the royal gardens in order to prevent visitors from walking over the intricately preened lawn.
Subsequently, the meaning of the word evolved to signify a ticket to court functions, which included a list of rules detailing the appropriate behaviour.
Prior to the 1960s, learning how to behave appropriately in various situations was part of the school curriculum. During the 1960s and 1970s, rebellion against strict guidelines of any kind resulted in a reduction in the emphasis on etiquette.
Nowadays, some level of proper conduct is still expected, especially in the business arena. Etiquette, or protocol as it is alternately referred to in professional circles, is essential to presenting ourselves with confidence in the professional sphere.
Various cultures have strikingly different beliefs towards proper etiquette. Not following the appropriate set of rules can sometimes harm relationship-building when you are doing business globally or with newcomers to the country. Codes of etiquette may be more formal in other countries than they are in Canada and the United States.
It’s beneficial to familiarize yourself with cultural differences, if you know that you will be interacting with someone from a different culture. If you’re unsure, a traditional and conservative approach is always the safest way to go until you can gauge the behavior of the person you are meeting, so take your cues from them.
If your new friend does not have a fluent grasp of your language, assist them by communicating in short sentences, but be weary of coming off as condescending by using excessively simplistic phrasing. However, avoid idiomatic or colloquial language as it may lead to misunderstandings in translation.
Ensure that you allow for questions or clarification before moving on to a new topic. Remain patient when you listen to someone speaking an unfamiliar language. Do not interrupt or finish their sentences, as this may be interpreted as rude. Instead, be polite and compliment them on their use of your language.
Although direct eye contact is well regarded in Canada and the United States, be aware that this is avoided in many other cultures. If interpreters are involved, make eye contact with the party you are meeting with instead of the interpreters.
This is the first in a series of articles that explore etiquette in today’s business world. Be sure to check our blog for the next article.