What is etiquette training?
Etiquette training can be traced back to ancient civilizations such as Greece, Egypt, and Rome. Normalized behaviors included many practices that we mirror today, such as public conduct, rules on dining, and other communal activities. As our society evolved, these practices began including courtships and continued to evolve as the hierarchical systems we live in continued to be defined. Early 19th-century techniques introduced formalized greetings and letter writing as those who were educated formally increased. Today, though we think little of a true process, much of how we conduct ourselves is based on the practices above that have been adapted across our media platforms and email.
Looking back at the foundations, etiquette training is a structured program that teaches individuals the rules and norms of "proper" behavior and social conduct in various social and professional situations. The primary goal of etiquette training is to help individuals interact with others politely, respectfully, and socially acceptable.
Who defines "proper"? What is considered "acceptable"? That depends on your location, but etiquette training often needs to do more to account for global differences and cultural variations in rules. Ideally etiquette training focuses on
· Building confidence
· Effective communication
· First impressions in formal settings and
· Politeness and respect
For obvious reasons, etiquette training has gained popularity in our globalized world and workplace. Etiquette training, when implemented, can assist in improving social and "professional" interactions. We can always learn better ways to be polite, mannerly, and adaptable to our environments. In theory, it can assist in refining our behaviors; however, it is not a suitable replacement for EQ (emotional intelligence) or cultural competency.
Ideally, these practices would benefit workplaces at large, but too often they are used as a metric of success that many will never reach.
Why? Because these systems of "proper" behavior miss the portion of the population that are misunderstood.
Reasons why etiquette training should not be a stand-alone system:
Cultural variations in etiquette
Etiquette norms across the world are as varied as each of us. In one culture, eating with your hands or bow to enter/exit a room is appropriate. Another culture would frown upon eye contact, whereas another would consider it rude if you didn't. What is considered polite in one culture may be perceived as rude or inappropriate in another. Teaching a universal set of etiquette rules can disregard the rich tapestry of cultural differences we should value and inadvertently impose one culture's norms as the standard.
2. Eurocentric practices
Etiquette training often assumes that there is a universal standard of etiquette that should be followed. This assumption neglects that what is considered polite and respectful can vary widely from one culture to another. In essence, it treats one set of cultural norms as the gold standard, implicitly undermining the values and customs of other cultures.
3. Exclusion of non-mainstream culture
Historically, many etiquette guides and training programs have been Eurocentric in their approach. Often heavily influenced by Western standards of behavior and norms, the formulas disregard other communities at large. While these guidelines are undoubtedly valuable, they may need to fully capture the nuances of etiquette in non-Western cultures. This Eurocentric bias can marginalize and alienate individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds, minimizing what can be celebrated and understood.
4. Lag in cultural competency
Many etiquette trainers may need to gain the cultural competency required to deliver unbiased and inclusive training. This can result in well-intentioned trainers inadvertently reinforcing stereotypes or cultural biases, making the training counterproductive.
5. Dismissive of socioeconomic and regional differences
Etiquette training that fails to account for socioeconomic and regional disparities can perpetuate biases. What is considered appropriate behavior in one socioeconomic context may not be applicable or relevant in another. By not addressing these differences, etiquette training can inadvertently favor one group over another. Imagine an expert telling you that who you are is "not okay" challenging everything you have been taught is "acceptable" by your upbringing, culture, or regional standards.
So if etiquette training isn't the solution, what is? What can we do? Focus on emotional intelligence AND
Increase cultural sensitivity (not competency)
Acknowledge leadership demands etiquette, EQ, and more
Promote cross-cultural understanding with a global perspective
Developing emotionally intelligent leaders while addressing the specific etiquette of your target audience is essential and should be considered Leadership 101. Incorporating etiquette training with a sensitivity to cultural differences will foster a workplace where all employees feel respected, understood, and heard.
Want to hear Sybil #speak about why etiquette training will never replace EQ?