Business Etiquette: 5 Rules to Remember
Tomes have been written about business etiquette in different cultures and various situations. The widespread use of mobile and Internet technology in business also gave rise to a new set of dos and don’ts when communicating via email and SMS, for example, or when meeting clients for the first time. This time, however, we’ll only focus on the basics that never go out of style and that most cultures appreciate.
Rule 1: Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude
Be grateful for the good things that have happened to you and to the people who have helped you. Cultivate this general attitude not only for business, but also for modern living. If you can’t say ‘Thank You’ personally, then sending an email, a text message, or a short note seems enough. Sometimes, a simple gift, such as a bouquet of flowers with a card, may suffice. At other times, a gift of equivalent value as the kindness extended to you is a better option.
Contrary to this attitude is a sense of entitlement that seems out of place in this century. In the old days, the gap between beggars and kings is so wide that blue-blooded individuals arrogantly expected they’d always get what they wanted without giving back in return. Not so much today for billionaire celebrities, like Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates, who’d given up a huge portion of their earnings to charities and established their own non-profit organizations to help other people. In fact, Oprah was known to have said “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”
Rule 2: Apologize and Own Up to Your Mistakes
Be brave in admitting that you’re sorry for the things you’ve done whether they were deliberate or not. See your shortcomings as a person and as an employee, and strive to improve yourself. Of course, this requires a lot of courage to accomplish, but once you get past your fears of rejection and ridicule, you’ll have an easier time facing up to your erroneous ways. From your mistakes, you shall learn how to be a better person and acquire more expertise.
However, don’t apologize by way of calling, emailing, or messaging the other person. It shows insincerity on your part and will further put a dent on your business relationship with the offended party. Make an appointment and say the words personally. Bring a peace offering or ask a mutual friend to mediate between you and the other party. After all has been forgiven, move on from the incident.
Rule 3: Be Genuinely Interested in People
Fakers don’t get much love in any business. Counterfeit products are hated by brand manufacturers as much as those by customers who expected the merchandise to last at least a year or so. In the same way, advertisers who lie aren’t worth the money they’re paid and companies that deceive their customers through bogus deals quickly lose them. Show genuine interest in what others have to say and be honest with your dealings with other people. Even in the practice of law, showing genuine interest in a relationship with clients and colleagues leads to higher billing rates.
Rule 4: Arm Yourself with Knowledge
Before going to a meeting with someone, make an effort to get to know the other party. Search for the client’s name or business name online and find out whatever you can about the person and the company. When faced with uncertainty in meeting a Japanese colleague, read up on social etiquette that foreigners should follow in a business setting. Do the same when going to a special event or a dinner party, and you’re not sure whether to dress in a cocktail dress or a long gown. Better call the host beforehand for confirmation of your attendance and ask casually about the dress code.
Rule 5: Learn to Keep Things to Yourself
Although authenticity in business is important, not everything about you should be shared with others. Conversely, any piece of sensitive information you uncovered during your background check about a client or work colleague you’re meeting should be set aside. Focus only on business matters at hand and practice the principle of confidentiality during conversations. Being honest doesn’t mean you’ll have to say the truth every time someone asks you.
In many contracts, a confidentiality clause is included to protect the business from unscrupulous deals where the other party might profit from the information he or she has learned about the company or the other person. Unfortunately, sorry doesn’t quite cut it for the offended party. Situations like this almost always end with a legal action made against the lying cheat who though he could fool the victim.
In the world of business, many more tips for the right social behavior to display are given by etiquette gurus. From the dining room to the boardroom, these valuable bits of professional advice have helped business people cope with their own social faux pax to dealing with other people’s bad behavior. Avoid making a mistake which you cannot fix by studying these rules of engagement.