You need to avoid pointing in Thailand, pour drinks for your companions without filling your own glass in Japan, always say 'Bonjour' when you meet someone for the first time in France and don't show the soles of your feet in the Middle East. There are many cultural etiquettes that vary by country, but what about in the world of business? There are many big personalities and people with huge egos that you need to learn to manage in order to be more effective and see fruits from your meetings.
Treating others with respect is something that should come naturally to anyone who has received a reasonable education. In a business context, these same elements are crucial in contributing to business effectiveness. Being punctual for a meeting. Listening to your customer. Observing niceties such as taking an interest in someone's views, their family, and what has happened to them recently can be important in building rapport. Picking up hints on their mood, character and real needs is also vital. Observing the other party's attention to their etiquette can also tell you a lot about them.
Most people today have a degree of stress in their working lives. People are busy, they’re multitasking, meeting deadlines, meeting targets (or failing to), dealing with frustrations, and dealing with rudeness. Many people are carrying burdens we are not even aware of. It’s incredibly refreshing to meet someone in a work setting who smiles when they first meet you, someone who looks happy to see you, who enquires about you. On the flipside, having a pre-determined agenda, impatience to execute, combined with arrogance and an unwillingness to listen to others sets many people up for failure.
Etiquette is such a simple thing, yet it has a profound and immediate impact on managing big egos and building good relationships. It is really just observing fundamental rules of politeness, but it shows interest, humanity, respect and is very effective in terms of getting a good result. Very successful people have this habit of putting the other person at ease.
One of the biggest challenges in etiquette over the last twenty years has been brought about by electronic communications such as emails, WhatsApp, Skype and other social apps.
Some basic things you need to be checking on are how you address people through these tools, being careful of who you are copying in the email, avoiding all capital letter sentences which seems like you’re shouting at someone, and checking for errors before sending out your message or e-mail. All these basic things help to reduce the chances of offending someone.
When it comes to WhatsApp or equivalent messages to clients or business partners, you don’t want to be extremely formal, but you don’t want to come across as rude either. The general rules of courtesy should still apply but in an abbreviated form. For instance, you could start with “John” or, if you want you can say “Dear John” and then you wish him “Good morning”, “Happy New Year”, or ask him how he is. You need to put in something pleasant before you dive into the main message of the text. You can then still end with “Best Regards” or something similar.
While you may take care of the basics, the person you’re communicating with may not. The reality is that we have all been upset by messages that seemed curt, or disappointed by replies that seemed to have been made with haste and lacking proper attention to the message we had sent previously. The opportunities for turning communication into miscommunication are many. So how then do you deal with others to ensure that you meet your business outcomes?
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Former Managing Director