Etiquette is a Way of Acting
When you were a little child, some of the first words you learned were please and thank you. Your parents may have called them the magic words. You might have asked for a cookie and your mom would say “What’s the magic word?” She was looking for your response of “Please”. As you get older, etiquette sounds like a big scary thing for old fashioned people.
It includes things like which fork to use first at the dinner table and, in fact, just how to set that table. Most of those parts of etiquette are governed by both common sense and custom. For instance, you always start with the fork on the far left (the first fork on the left) for salad because that is the first course. The next fork is for the entrée which comes later in the meal. The dessert fork is often placed horizontally at the top of the dinner plate.
Today Parts of Etiquette Have Unfortunately Fallen By the Wayside
Stop and think for a moment. When is the last time you received a handwritten note in the mail? I don’t mean email or printed bulk mail, but mail intended specifically just for you and written by the sender? I was taught as a child that all gifts required a thank you note. It should be handwritten and mailed in a timely manner. The note should mention the specific gift you received and how you intend to use it, as well as the words “thank you”.
In business it’s a nice touch to send a handwritten thank you note to contacts. You can send them to people who help you out or to prospects who are still in the decision making process.
One very important part of etiquette in life is the handshake. You may have children who are still growing. Take some time and teach them how to give a firm, respectful handshake, not a floppy one. It is something to be practiced at a young age and reinforced throughout their formative years.
You can go far in life by knowing and using proper etiquette. When in doubt, Google Emily Post!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June of 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.