What is etiquette?
Contrary to popular belief, etiquette is not a rigid code of conduct practised by those who belong to high society. It has nothing to do with wealth, social status or upbringing. Etiquette is simply the way you make the other person feel in your company. As American writer Emily Post once said: "When two people meet and their behaviour affects one another, you have etiquette." In other words, it's the way we conduct ourselves keeping three core values in mind - consideration, respect and honesty.
When I tell people I am an etiquette consultant, they perceive me as someone who is either too refined or high maintenance.
Etiquette begins with humility. Simple gestures, like holding the elevator door for a lady or an elderly person, being patient when you are in a long queue or greeting someone with a 'good morning' or 'hello' at work or even smiling, is part of etiquette.
It is not something to be extended only to those who belong to the same social standing as you; rather, it speaks volumes about one's character when he or she extends warmth and politeness to even those who are from less privileged backgrounds. As you can see, building a relationship is the first rule of etiquette.
Etiquette or finesse is broadly divided into two categories - manners and principles. Manners would include the confidence you exude, how you dine, your body language. Principles are the values you go by, how you conduct yourself under pressure and how you tackle relationships. Yes, finesse and manners are greatly valued in any social interaction. But principles are more important.
Humility is the ultimate sophistication. Class is best judged through one's behaviour and how you value others' emotions. Grace, especially when things don't go the way you hoped, is hard to achieve. It is your personality, and not your clothes, that will truly reflect your elegance and personality.
Now that we know what etiquette is, I will tackle one aspect of it every week. The next week's column, for instance, will talk about the importance of having a polished image. Till then #beextraordinary.