Business Etiquette: Top Five Manners

By Peter Post

Repeatedly, I stress the idea that success in business depends on a person’s ability to build relationships because business is built on relationships. The real benefit of business etiquette is that it provides a roadmap for what you can do to improve your relationship building skills. Of necessity, business etiquette is a broad subject with a myriad of manners that govern many situations. Yet, time and again, five manners percolate to the top as the ones that are key to building strong, successful relationships.

Be on time. If I could only offer one manner, this would be it. When you are on time, you start off any interaction on the right foot. But when you are late, inevitably the first words out of your mouth are, “I’m sorry.” Starting off with an apology means you have to recover from the mistake. Instead, avoid having to recover by being on time and starting on a positive note. Interestingly, the more I have taught this point, the more I’ve come to realize that etiquette reduces the number of times you have to say, “I’m sorry.”

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Control your smartphone. So often we have a knee-jerk reaction when our smartphones signal a call, email, or text. Answer it; check it out, now. We have let the smartphone take control of us. Yet, the person we are with sees that action as rude behavior. Instead, be in control; be willing to ignore the chime or send the call to voice mail.

Chew food with your mouth closed. You can be forgiven for not following some manners some of the time, or not knowing the intricacies of finger bowls. But others are what I like to call deal-breakers. Mess up that manner and you risk hurting or ending a relationship. I’ve repeatedly been told by people that chewing food with your mouth open is definitely a deal-breaker.

Let others express their ideas. When you listen to people and give them the opportunity to express their opinion, you respect them. But if you cut people off, if you fail to acknowledge them, if you fail to introduce them, they are offended in the moment to be sure, but that offense taken at your rudeness is often remembered for a long time.

Use “Please” and “Thank you.” The best part of using “please” and “thank you” as you interact with others is those words don’t cost you anything. Yet, they show respect for the people you are with and that in turn helps you to build relationships. “Please” turns a demand into an ask and “Thank you” turns an expectation into appreciation. Most people will respond more positively because they would prefer to be asked than demanded of and appreciated than taken for granted.

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If you have a business etiquette question, please email it to [email protected] You can hear more Emily Post etiquette advice on the Awesome Etiquette podcast featuring Lizzie Post and Dan Post Senning. Listen and subscribe at infiniteguest.org.

Post’s newest book, The Unwritten Rules of Golf, Morrow, is available at emilypost.com.

Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers’ questions in The Boston Sunday Globe’s weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business” and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book “Essential Manners For Men” was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of “Essential Manners for Couples,” “Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf,” and co-author of “A Wedding Like No Other.” Post is Emily Post’s great-grandson. His media appearances include “CBS Sunday Morning,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and “Fox News.” Follow Post: @PeterLPost.

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