Many of us are busy attending functions, meetings and social events to woo and win clients and customers. To further our careers, we’ve learned sales and negotiating skills, proposal writing, technology skills, marketing, public relations and a host of other tools to help us in our business life. But what about the softer skills or the intangible elements of the work relationship that may help us land the deal?
Etiquette and business manners is not a topic that seems to be discussed too much these days. Perhaps people consider that it is not relevant in today’s modern business world. Etiquette workshops used to be a popular request, but I find now that is rarely considered, I wonder why?
Cocktail parties, networking, and business lunches are becoming an increasingly important part of our everyday working life. Being at ease in these situations and behaving in the most appropriate manner doesn’t always come easily to everyone. It pays to perfect some social skills if you’re looking to stand out in your business or your career.
The way we present ourselves especially in social situations says a lot about us. We may come across as insecure or lacking in confidence if we bumble through introductions at a networking event. Our lack of table manners could raise the eyebrows of the all-important client you’re trying to do business with.
I reflected back on a summer holiday I had in Italy which prompted me to revisit his topic.
As often happens on holiday I spent much of my time people watching and observing the different culture, behaviour, and customs, and noticed that Europeans on summer holiday are intent on enjoying la dolce vita and display it with a great deal of affection. You see people kissing everywhere.
So what about the kiss? In Australia we also like to show affection to friends socially with a kiss on the cheek – not two kisses, two cheeks like our European friends. A peck on the cheek and a hug is quite acceptable in social situations. But as my blog is about the business of personal branding and building professional relationships, I say, when in doubt leave the kiss out.
When I conduct workshops in companies on business etiquette, the subject of kissing seems to cause much discussion and confusion. I’ve been part of an executive leadership team where we’d shake hands in the boardroom and when out at informal social functions kiss each other on the cheek. Yes, it is confusing and really wouldn’t it be simpler and more professional if men and women were treated the same in the workplace.
However, I understand that sometimes you have to use your own judgment. If you feel a woman you know well goes to offer you her cheek, then it would be acceptable and probably rude if you didn’t kiss. But what if you don’t know the person well? Probably a bit uncomfortable right? I believe it is just more professional all round if women and men greet each other with a handshake in the corporate working environment.
So how do we shake hands?
- If you are sitting down – stand up
- Be ready. Make sure there is nothing in your hand like a handbag, drink, food or a table napkin and no hands in pocket
- Look the person in the eye – make good eye contact and smile
- Hand vertical with thumb pointing to the ceiling, arm straight, head straight and body facing front on to the other person
- Make contact with the other persons hand and yours web to web (the area between thumb and index finger) and close your fingers and thumb firmly around the other persons hand
- Squeeze firmly but be careful not to grip so tightly that it becomes a bone crushing handshake.
- Shake the hand up and down once or twice from the elbow for about 3 or 4 seconds and then let go
Need some help with business etiquette? Take a look at our range of corporate workshops.
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Sue Currie is a speaker and the author of IMPRESSario, Present and Promote the Star Within You. She is recognised as a leading authority on personal branding to boost image, profile, brand and business. Through her image management programs, workshops, consulting and keynote presentations, Sue helps businesses and entrepreneurs present an influential brand image.