Business Etiquette – First Impressions Matter
Updated: Jul 29, 2021
As the globe slowly trots towards becoming one huge market place for businesses to interact, having and maintaining right business etiquette’ has become a crucial point to ponder on. Right from key people, forming that first ‘right impression’ about us within seconds of meeting them, to clinching that crucially important deal, business etiquette’ play a huge role in getting us what we want.
Does it then make sense for us to be prepared? Isn’t preparation always the key to success? Most of the time, YES. Gear up! Here are some tips to help you on your way.
GET, SET, and GO.
Understanding Business Etiquette’. What does it mean?
With decreasing distances, technological advancements, creativity and innovation thriving, the online and physical traffic around the world has increased. There is a lot of communication and coordination going about, between people of different countries. People and businesses have become open to building relationships across the globe. This evolution has brought with it, a need to become business etiquette savvy. Understanding business etiquette is not about following strict rules and regulations. It is in fact the basic requirement of making people you interact with, irrespective of whichever culture or country they belong, comfortable and better able to communicate with you.
Every country or region has a culture of its own. Some regions might share similar cultures while others follow a completely different one. Business etiquette differs from region to region and from country to country. Cultures are complex and personal to that country, hence require sensitive treatment. It is therefore, very important to prepare oneself with the knowledge of the country’s culture and etiquettes, while planning your travel. A tip –look out for what you are expected to do and say, or to avoid doing and saying. Basically prepare a Do’s and Don’ts list and you are set.
Few examples of culture differences
In Hong Kong, it is rude to start eating before the host, whereas, in India and the Middle-East, guests are expected to eat first.
In Taiwan, one is expected is leave some food on his plate, whereas in Denmark you are expected to finish everything that is served to you.
In China giving a gift can be tricky. The gift has to be carefully selected and should be given in a group setting. You cannot give a gift of scissors or knives. They are symbolic for severing ties. Clocks or handkerchiefs, symbolize funerals or death. Yellow wrapping with black writing symbolise death. White, black or blue wrapping are also a no-no.
In the United States, being on first name basis is very common, even if you are barely acquainted. In UK, one is addressed more formally. This is the case even while communicating by email or letters. In countries like France and Germany, calling someone by their first name is not done, till a close relationship is established.
In the Middle East, when someone locks eyes with you and gives you a prolonged gaze does not mean they are staring or flirting with you. It’s a quite common gesture. It’s the opposite in Britain where eye contact is avoided.
You see why it’s important to do your homework. Understanding business etiquette makes cross-cultural communication easy. The business scenario being what it is today, it has become even more important for organisations to train their managers to cultivate the right business etiquette, since they would be representing the company to the world.
What is required?
Present yourself as a professional
Follow expected behaviours and expectations
Be thoughtfully considerate of the interests and feelings of others
Gather culture understanding and behaviour
Treat people you meet with respect and courtesy
Minimise misunderstandings with open and correct communication
Do your homework and create the right impact
Cultivating the right business etiquette – Some basic etiquette tips, everyone the world over, likes.
Just imagine what a collaboration of individuals with such diverse experiences and cultural backgrounds would bring?? An explosion of innovation, creativity and technology. And how can that happen. When we as professionals, are sensitive to the cultural requirements and have a thorough understanding of business etiquette. The most successful organisations are aware of this need of the day and work towards effectively training their workforce to ingrain the best business etiquette skills.
Let’s have a look at some of these etiquette, which will help you make a lasting impression, globally.
Communication and Listening Skills: Effective communication is a factor which binds businesses and establish strong professional relationships. Proper etiquette demand, that when one party is talking, the other must actively listen and not interrupt. It is also equally important for the speaker to know you are listening to him, so maintain good eye contact.
Politeness and Behaviour: We spoke of first impressions and its importance. Equally important is, to be on your best behaviour, because everything you do or say is noticed and recorded. Be polite when addressing someone. Say the necessary ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ when required. Pay attention to what is being presented and say your part when your turn comes. Do not engage in side conversations with other members. Last but not the least, keep that mobile away when in a conversation.
Time and Attendance: Show up on time for meetings and appointments. Come prepared for the meeting with necessary stationery and presentations. Don’t cancel meetings at the last moment or forget to inform in the event of unforeseen delay.
Clothes and Body Language: A sloppy dress sense puts people off. Most people like to do business with professionally dressed people. It shows that you care about making a good impression and are serious about the business. Make sure you wear the appropriate clothes and that your clothes are neatly cleaned and pressed. Wearing the right clothes goes a long way to influence positive outcomes.
Sensitivity & Tact: Acquiring these qualities come handy in every area of our lives and this holds true for business etiquettes as well. Sensitivity, means the degree of awareness and responsiveness one must have towards internal and external people and the demands of the situation. Refrain from passing judgement and using thoughtless words and actions. Knowing what to say and when to say it without it leading to a negative outcome is tact. As strong knowledge of these factors is a gift and will add value to every interaction you have. This will make your personality even stronger which will be useful for your business.
Some more tips you should follow
Names and titles matter. Ensure you know who you are meeting and address them appropriately
While eating, observe proper table manners with respect to that country
While speaking, ensure your tone is as neutral as possible. Maintain eye contact and avoid “talking down” to others.
Once the meeting is over, irrelevant of the outcome, don’t forget to send a thank you note. It creates a platform for future transactions. Keep the communication formal.
Business etiquette is not what it used to be. It has evolved over the years. As travel and communication across the world has increased rapidly along with innovations and advancements in technology, people across the world have started to become more accommodative. Appropriate mannerisms, proper work attire, and working environments, which was once considered the norm, has evolved and is here to stay for quite a while.
Everything said, one can be open to improvisations to be with the time, but tried and tested formulas always works.
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