Our first experience with etiquette, or good manners, is through our upbringing. On this “childhood base”, we build our human story as adults. Modern times bring us plenty of various activities and great opportunities to travel. International politics and transnational business are made of a delicate and very sensitive tangle of rituals, symbols, customs, and rules. How well we know them can significantly determine our success rate – whether we are politicians, diplomats, international lawyers, businessmen, senior civil servants, or artists. These days, protocol and etiquette simply are not about what kind of fork to use during a meal, what is the appropriate length of a skirt, or the right size of a jacket.
How good you are in what you do depends on your expertise and knowledge, as well as on your ability to establish and maintain good contact with your partner, to understand his or her non-verbal signals, cultural and social context, your skill to negotiate successfully and to leave the best impression for any potential future cooperation.
Sometimes, paradoxically, extensive possibilities to travel and meet make people believe that etiquette rules and protocol are something “annoying and unnecessary”. They think that the key to success is informality and that private travels easily make them experienced negotiators.
The truth, in fact is:
- Informality does not automatically mean “friendliness”. Very often, with informal approach the greatest damage is caused. Informal behaviour can quickly become an insult that is very difficult to apologise for. The door can close firm, and for a long time.
- To be prepared for a meeting or a negotiation is not only about the actual subject matter. What makes you an excellent negotiator and business partner is your readiness in all areas, including good manners, unwritten rules and formal protocol. If you underestimate this, you are sabotaging your own success.
- Hardly anything is as deceptive as a feeling that one is experienced enough, and nothing can surprise him/her. And, on the contrary, much damage is caused by lack of experience and preparation.
- The best leaders in world business, politics and diplomacy surround themselves with the best experts working for their benefit. Having a personal protocol and etiquette consultant and advisor is an advantage, not a weakness – it shows you are smart and forward thinking. Exactly as your own clients can rely on you and your expertise, you can rely on your personal advisor when you need to be one step ahead of your competition.