What is a session on manners doing in the middle of a professional development seminar? Ensuring success! In a study conducted by the Stanford Research Institute, “85% of your job success is related to your people skills.” So yes, manners matter! And Suzanne Willis, APR, of Willis Consulting & Communications (http://www.suzannewillis.com/) has been minding her manners since the tender age of 11, when a trip to Europe with her beloved grandmother “Mimi” where she learned proper dining etiquette and how to enjoy Afternoon Tea.

As a member of management for some of the best known names in the hospitality industry (The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Group and South Seas Resort) Suzanne knows first-hand how important manners are in the business world. She shared some tips and tricks during her engaging presentation, including a secret to remembering which direction to look for your bread-and-butter dish and your drink when seated at the table.

There are 3 simple principles which guide etiquette:

  • Respect
  • Consideration
  • Honesty

If you’re not sure what to do in any given situation, ask yourself if the action supports those three principles.

The concept of manners guides us in knowing how to interact with each other, whether those interactions are in your personal or professional realm. As Warren Buffet has said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

Body language is telling as well. In communication, the most important thing is hearing what isn’t said according to Peter Drucker. Willis gave an example of a non-verbal signal that a speaker is uncomfortable in a situation – sucking in your bottom lip. It’s a holdover from childhood when we sucked our thumbs for comfort, she explained.

One mannerism most often exhibited in business is the handshake. Why do we shake hands? To show we aren’t carrying a weapon. The ritual began on the battlefield in the 1500’s, as a gesture of peace and goodwill. The handshakes to avoid?

  • The Bone Crusher
  • The Dead Fish
  • The Glove (putting your free hand on top of the clasped hands – politicians and preachers do this one a lot)
  • The Lady Fingers (unless you expect to have your hand kissed instead of shaken!)

What’s in a name? Everything! It’s the most important thing someone wants to hear, and Willis cautioned us to get it right. And if you engage in conversation with someone whose name you know, but can’t remember, it’s perfectly alright to say so! Some tricks to remembering names?

  • Ask the person to spell their name (this isn’t going to work well if their name is “Sam”!)
  • Focus more on them than on yourself during the conversation
  • Look at their face

Meetings have some additional manners attached. And it was during the meeting manners discussion that many questions were raised. Points to remember if you are in charge:

  • Schedule the meeting with care, being considerate of others’ schedules
  • Watch the clock, be considerate of others’ time
  • Introduce yourself!
  • Be aware of your posture/grooming/facial expressions
  • Tune in, tune out – as a meeting participant, tune in to what is being said, tune out distractions
  • Fond farewells – be sure to thank the meeting host; meeting host be sure to acknowledge others involved

The importance of manners does not stop when you enter cyber-space. Because everything you do is a reflection on you, little things like ALL CAPS, punctuation and spelling are important in your communications, whether they are letters, emails, posts or tweets. (There is a little leniency with Twitter and other micro-blogging channels given the limitations on the length of the message allowed.) And despite the advancements in communication, one old soul said it best; “Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who, with their soul, encourages another person to be brave and true.” – Charles Dickens.

Oh! The secret to knowing which side of the plate your bread-and-butter is on? Make the “okay” sign with both hands, and then look at them closely. The left hand has created a lower case letter “b” and the right hand has created a lower case letter “d”. Bread on the left, drinks on the right. Yep, it’s that simple – and so are good manners!

Guest blogger:  Ginny Cooper, The Cooper Group ginny@mycoopergroup.com