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Brushing Up On Business Skills

All etiquette, including business etiquette, is based on the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. According to June Hines Moore, author of the Social Skills Survival Guide: A Handbook for Interpersonal and Business Etiquette (Broadman & Holman), this small portion of Scripture can be found repeatedly in business books and trade journals.

Moore says that people are becoming more aware that they need to practice good manners. Good business etiquette reaps good rewards both personally and in bottom-line profits. She says that the key word to good manners in any venue is anticipate; that is, anticipate the needs of the other person. For instance, if you see someone, male or female, carrying a stack of files, be quick to open a door for them or be ready to pick up a dropped folder. You may be surprised to learn how showing good manners is like a boomerang—they usually come back to you in kind.

“Remember that we put rules of etiquette in our head, but we carry manners in our heart,” Moore said. “With the rules in our head, we won’t embarrass ourselves, and with manners in our heart, we won’t embarrass someone else.”

If you’re returning to the workplace, remember that while your skills are important, your polite practice of good manners can mean the difference in an employer choosing you over another job applicant. With advanced technology as well as mergers, acquisitions and downsizing, uncertain economic times have given rise to a need for kinder interpersonal treatment.

If you’ve been out of the workplace for some time, you may notice some changes. One of the biggest shifts in the workplace has been the rules and laws enacted regarding male and female relationships, especially in the area of harassment. In 1991, the National Institute of Business Management in Alexandria, Va., devoted 2 percent of its literature to male/female issues. In a recent publication, 11 percent of the information addressed male/female interaction.

“With more women in the workplace, the old social rules of etiquette are evolving into: Be a gentleman and be a lady, but do it in a businesslike way,” she said. “For instance, it is still proper for a man to open a door for a lady in business, but it is no longer acceptable for a male employer or business associate to call a woman ‘honey’ or ‘sweetheart.’”

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To be successful in what was once a man’s world, a woman does not have to give up her femininity, according to Moore, but she must be a good businesswoman by taking responsibility, sharing the workload and not calling attention to the fact that she may be the weaker sex.

Here are five ways you can set yourself apart from others with good business etiquette:

  1. Identify yourself as soon as someone answers when you make a phone call. For example, say, “Hello, this is Jane Smith. May I speak to …?”
  2. Always write a thank you note or letter of appreciation after an interview, after getting someone’s business or for any kindness done.
  3. Introduce people. If you can’t remember the names, simply admit it, but attempt to make the two people known to one another. Remember, everyone has trouble remembering names.
  4. Practice good table etiquette. Having dining manners gives you the freedom to focus on the business lunch or dinner without distraction.
  5. When writing an email, be brief and thoughtful of the other’s time. Never write anything in an email that you would not say to someone’s face.

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