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THE ESSENTIALS OF BUSINESS ETIQUETTE
HOW TO GREET, EAT, AND TWEET YOUR WAY TO SUCCESS
By Barbara Pachter, Denise Cowie
McGraw-Hill EducationCopyright © 2013 McGraw-Hill Education
All rights reserved.
What's in Your Name? A Lot!
Names are important. How people address you and what you call yourself really do matter. Names can confer dignity or take it away. They influence how you are perceived and whether people take you seriously.
In a business situation, you should use your full name. An intern working for me answered the phone by saying: "Good morning. Pachter & Associates. Brianna speaking."
I asked why she used just her first name. She said she hadn't realized she was doing it. I suggested she provide both her first and last names. That would not only give her standing but would also provide an easier way for people to identify her. After all, there could be other people in the office with the same first name.
POINT TO PONDER
Early on, basketball legend Michael Jordan recognized the value of a name. The television news magazine 60 Minutes did a segment a few years ago on the famous athlete's history, including the time he scored, as a first-year college student, the winning basket in the 1982 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship game. According to the reporter, that's when he went from being called "Mike Jordan" to "Michael Jordan."
The flip side of using your full name is knowing how to address others. Etiquette says you should call people what they want to be called:
Pay attention when people introduce themselves, or notice what they write on their name tags. They are giving you information about how they would like to be addressed.
Don't shorten someone's name or use a nickname unless you know the person wants it that way. A man in one of my seminars said that his name was Roberto. If someone called him "Robert," he would not respond.
If you don't know what to call a business associate, you can always ask.
TRY THIS SUGGESTION
Name tags often are used at meetings and conferences to identify people. Place your name tag on your right-hand side, slightly below the shoulder. This makes it more visible when you are shaking hands.
Q. My last name is very difficult for people to pronounce, and they get frustrated trying to say it correctly. Should I change my name?
A. If people have stopped addressing you because they can't pronounce your name—which is usually not done out of malice but embarrassment—one solution is, as you suggest, a name change. But changing your name is a very personal, often difficult decision. An alternative is to let people know to call you by your first name and to hand them your business card showing the proper spelling of your last name for any correspondence.
If your first name is difficult, you could create an easy-to-pronounce diminutive version for common use. One man I encountered had a first name that was 11 letters long. He did shorten his name, and he has never regretted it.
The Name Game: And You Are ...?
It seems so obvious, but it's surprising how often people fail to do this: Remember to introduce yourself after someone has introduced himself or herself to you.
This may seem like a little thing, but it's important.
Let me explain. Before most of my seminars begin, I shake hands with each participant and say, "Hi, I'm Barbara Pachter, your instructor. Welcome, and enjoy the day." Many people respond appropriately and introduce themselves to me.
This etiquette give-and-take paves the way for a connection between the two people and makes it easier for conversation to begin.
Yet, there are some participants who don't give their names. They just shake hands, or they shake hands and only say "Hi." An awkward silence usually follows. This means that I will often jump in and politely ask, "And you are ...?"
When people don't volunteer their names without prompting, they can appear shy, timid, or standoffish. As a result, making a connection or starting a conversation can be more difficult.
It's not just in my seminars that people fail to give their names. People tell me the same thing happens to them when they attend meetings and introduce themselves to the men or women sitting next to them.
Why do people do this?
In my classes, I know that some people simply are startled. They are not expecting the instructor to practice this protocol. A woman recently sent me a thank you note emphasizing how much she enjoyed meeting me before the seminar started. She hadn't experienced this with other instructors. In other situations, some people don't give their names because they are preoccupied, and others just don't know that they should do so.
TRY THIS SUGGESTION
Monitor your own behavior. Pay attention when people introduce themselves, and—please!—respond with your full name.
In the business world, people often find themselves in situations in which introductions are required. Who should take on this task? Many times it will be your responsibility. If you are the host, the person in charge, or you know both parties, you need to make the introductions.
These days, the name of the person of highest rank is said first, regardless of gender. For example, "Mr. Greater Importance, I would like you to meet Ms. Lesser Importance." Don't drive yourself crazy trying to determine who is more important. If you don't know, mention first the name of the person that you would like to flatter. The key is that the introduction needs to take place.
You could also add some information about each person to encourage conversation. For example:
Brittany Miller, this is Jennifer Cortez. Jennifer just joined us as a new sales representative. Brittany is the manager of sales training.
POINT TO PONDER
People often won't notice whether their name was said first or last. They will remember—and potentially hold it against you—if your lack of introductions made them feel uncomfortable, regardless of whether this happens in a business or a social setting. As one seminar participant told me:
My ex-boyfriend would never introduce me, but he finally got the point when I started saying, "Hi. I'm Jenny. I'll introduce myself because I know he won't do it." His lack of introduction always made me feel awkward and insignificant.
(Note that she did refer to him as her ex-boyfriend.)
Occasionally, if you are the stranger in the room, you may need to introduce yourself. This self-introduction should be planned and practiced, but it also should be tailored to the event. Keep it short, but provide enough information to help start the conversation. For example, "I'm Brian Corbett, the tax expert on today's program. It's a pleasure to meet you."
Q. Last week I entered the elevator, and the president of my company was already there. We were the only two people, but I just said "Hi." Should I have said more?
A. You can greet the person (which you did), but you also can introduce yourself. If you can, open a dialogue. Make a brief self-reveal statement ("I'm part of the new marketing team, and I look forward to working here"), or make an observation ("I see you have a new iPad; I just got one and really like it"). If he responds with more than a nod, you can continue the conversation. If he seems preoccupied, you can feel good that you said "Hello." Make sure you say goodbye, and use an exit line when you leave the elevator ("Bye. Have a good day.").
I'd Like You to Meet ... Er ... Um ...
I was so embarrassed. I forgot my colleague's name when I went to introduce him to my boss. I just wasn't expecting to see him at the meeting.
This kind of comment from a seminar participant is one I get a lot. What do you do if you start to introduce someone to another person but realize midintroduction that you've forgotten his or her name?
You admit it. Everyone forgets a name occasionally, and some of us more often than that—which is why you should have some standard lines ready:
"I'm sorry, I've forgotten your name."
"Your face is so familiar; I just can't recall your name."
"My mental computer is down. I can't access your name."
"My mind has gone blank. What is your name?"
Keep it short and sweet, and practice saying it until you feel you can deliver the line without excessive apology or embarrassment. That should get you through a difficult moment.
This is a technique I call Know Your Line—knowing in advance what you might say in an awkward situation instead of being at a loss for words. If you have practiced what you want to say until you are comfortable saying it, people are more likely to be comfortable when hearing it.
It's also a useful technique for getting through some of those discomfiting conversational moments that crop up all too often. For example, one woman who was very tall often had people approach her and say, rather thoughtlessly, "Boy, are you tall!" She wanted a rejoinder, a line without curse words in it. Her line became: "Yes, I can paint without a ladder!"
POINT TO PONDER
Should you ever try to bluff your way through when you realize you've forgotten the name of somebody you have to introduce? Maybe—but be aware of the risks. You can say, "Have you two met each other?" and hope the answer is affirmative. But if both people respond "No," you'll find yourself in the middle of a very awkward situation.
Sorry, Mom: Do Talk to Strangers
It's [Taylor Swift's] tireless courting of her fans that may be the key to her success. Remarkably, she spends an hour before every show meeting and greeting and charming.
—Lesley Stahl, 60 Minutes
No doubt your mother told you not to talk to strangers. That is good advice for children—but it doesn't apply in the business world. Say "Hello," "Good morning," or simply "Hi" to people you know, and to those you don't know. You really don't need to know someone to say "Hello" to him or her. (Clearly, different rules apply in dark alleys!)
The person you greet on the way to the meeting may be the person sitting next to you at the meeting, and by saying "Hello," you've already established minor rapport. You will more likely be viewed as an approachable, friendly person. And who doesn't want to work with people who connect with them?
POINT TO PONDER
Consider this feedback from a job applicant: "I was told that I got my position because the front-desk folks thought that I was friendly and very welcoming and the other candidates were not. The two receptionists said the CEO always asks for their opinion."
People assume they practice this very basic courtesy of greeting others, but if everybody really were doing so, I wouldn't keep hearing this comment: "I walk around corporate America, and no one says anything!" So I ask you, who is doing the greeting?
Also be mindful of what greetings you use because not all greetings are equally acceptable and people can get offended. I was asked to coach a man who used "Howdy" when he greeted his customers. One of his customers called the vice president to complain that he was acting "too casual" with him.
"Yo!" is not a corporate greeting. Say "Hi" or "Hello" instead. You may hear people greeting others with "Hey!" at work, but this really is too informal for most business situations.
Be aware of your own behavior. Make sure you are greeting and acknowledging others. And if someone says "Hello" to you, you must say "Hello" back. It's not optional. People often tell me that when they do start saying "Hello," people sometimes don't respond. That is just rude—but not everyone realizes that.
POINTS TO PONDER
1. A bleary-eyed salesperson didn't feel much like talking to anyone when he climbed on the treadmill early in the morning at his conference's hotel gym, but he greeted the man on the machine next to him, anyway, and they spoke for a few minutes. Later in the day, he discovered that his treadmill buddy was the key person he wanted to see at the conference. His good manners had an unexpected payoff—the man was glad to see him again, and they ultimately did business.
Excerpted from THE ESSENTIALS OF BUSINESS ETIQUETTE by Barbara Pachter, Denise Cowie. Copyright © 2013 McGraw-Hill Education. Excerpted by permission of McGraw-Hill Education.
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