As I rebuild this blog, I think of many topics to cover, and that I’ve covered in the previous iteration of Miss Lola Says. There is one, however, that haunts me. That topic is the one that informs my work, the impetus for this blog, and how I live. I’ll just say it…
Most people get etiquette wrong, including the ones who get paid the big bucks to teach it.
Etiquette or soft skills are important. I cannot tell you what knowing the finer points about good manners has done for me. This morning I thought of 5 things that have changed the course of my life, and how I view others. These are the things that helped me understand etiquette and soft skills much better.
Knowing which fork to use and when to speak or eat are great things to know, but feeling good about my unique personality and make-up as an individual means more. I will never be the type to wear beaded gowns or eat at the palace, but you can bet if invited, I will be taking my most authentic self with that knowledge. Sometimes etiquette experts support the false notion that people become someone else once they learn those rules. No. There is greater acceptance in the rules – for self and for others. Self-acceptance is or should be enhanced not embellished.
There is no destination with these rules. Listen, there is an infinite amount of etiquette rules. There are as many rules as there are people on the planet. Just when you master 3 rules, fifty-nine more await you. Travel? Well, the rules you learn in Ohio just won’t cut it in Virginia or in Australia. The rules will change and there will be no finite ending to them. Etiquette, protocol, and soft skill lessons are lifelong learning.
There are many layers to the rules of etiquette. It really is not as simple as keeping your elbows off of the table. Do you know why and when to keep your elbows off of the table? Do you even care? Truth is, most of us just want to learn enough of these rules to navigate life and sticky situations. Truth is, a great number of us couldn’t care less. Etiquette is really for those us who have to deal with those who do not care. The layers can drive you freaking nuts, so don’t worry about them.
Unless you’re in an industry fully dependent on the rules of etiquette, there is no reason to devote your life to studying all of the rules. Take what you need and leave the rest.
Knowing when to do what is a great thing. However, the greatest thing next to being comfortable in your own skin in social settings, is making others comfortable in your presence. Being polite is really about being hospitable and making people feel valued via your behavior.
There is no one more socially awkward than me. I will not always use the right fork or remember to remove my elbows from the table or converse with someone in a manner that makes me look reasonably intelligent. I started studying these rules to be comfortable with myself, but discovered that at a meal or in a meeting or at a party I have made others feel at-ease with their own awkwardness. In the private sessions I’ve had with new professionals, I’m often pleasantly surprised to learn that I’ve made them feel okay with not knowing all of the rules. I’m grateful when a client walks away self-assured in their own awkwardness and armed with a bit more ammo to win.
These rules are not for snotty people. The rules are for the rest of us. We’re the people who really just want to be ourselves with a bit of polish and refinement. It takes entirely too much work to be pretentious.