PSOW Graduate Marcel Kristel won our National Business Etiquette Week “Win a Day with Pamela Eyring” Alumni Contest. As the winner, Marcel has chosen for Pamela to provide a 60-minute presentation and Q&A session on September 15 with the students in the UC Berkeley College of Engineering. A 2014 graduate of PSOW, Marcel’s entry was a letter written to his Gran providing her etiquette tips to transition into this modern world including dining, mobile devices, e-mail and social media.
Welcome to 2015 and I hope you've enjoyed your 60-year rest. As you make your way in the modern world I'd like to give you some tips on 21st Century etiquette to help you make new friends and advance your career. Although many aspects of correct behavior or manners have stayed the same since you were last here in the 1950s, some have been modified and some will be completely foreign to you In order to ease your transition, I've provided a brief list of how to be part of today's well-mannered and polite society.
Dining Skills These have basically stayed the same. Since you were raised and lived in Europe, you should continue using your fork and knife in the same manner or what is now referred to as the “continental” style. A few aspects of socializing have changed over the years. The most noticeable difference may be a much less formal setting. This varies depending on the occasion. Dinner with close friends, for example, is casual—you won’t need to dress too formally and the atmosphere will be relaxed. On the other hand, dinner hosted by a company executive may be more formal and may include a caterer, a wait staff and a sit down dinner. Correct dining skills are a must for these events.
Another trend you’re unfamiliar with is the “Evite”—a new way to RSVP. Evites are sent out and responded to via the Internet, a system whereby users communicate without using the traditional mail system or the telephone. Evite responses allow people to accept or decline—there is also a maybe option for those who can’t make a decision or who hope a better event will find them. As the RSVPs of your day, Evite responses let the host know who will attend. However, it also allows guests to go on and on about alternate plans or how appreciative they are—many include a short novella. Please limit your responses to the provided yes, no or maybe.
Finally, one very popular type of dining party today is called a “potluck.” This is the way a host or hostess says, “I’d love to have you over, but I don’t want to put forth too much effort and I especially don’t want to cook for you.” I recommend avoiding these. All guests are required to bring a dish, and you won’t know who cooked what and it will be hard to decide what to eat without knowing whose kitchen is a clean, sanitary place or who can actually cook. If you must attend a potluck, don’t arrive hungry.
Mobile Devices You may have noticed almost everyone today clings to a rectangle that they talk into or correspond with via headphones. These are mobile devices or phones, not life-support systems necessary to survive although for many, becoming detached from this device would result in instant death. This is the most prominent form of communication today. You may be skeptical, but once you get used to it, you’ll most likely want it within reach at all times. Remember that real people take precedence over “virtual” people—the ones on the other end of your mobile device. If you are attending a social event, leave the device at home or at least turn the ringer off or set it to vibrate (this means it will move around in your pocket to alert you). If you must have it available because you’re expecting to hear from someone, let your host or guests know you may have to take the call and excuse yourself when it comes. Be assured that no one present wants to hear your conversation.
Email This is the most prominent new form of communication; as part of the Internet mentioned above, it replaces mailing a letter in an envelope and using a stamp. You’ll get used to this quickly and enjoy the speed with which you can send and receive a message from anyone, anywhere. However, like the mobile device, there are a few basic etiquette rules you should employ when using email. First of all, respond when you receive an email. Even if you don’t have the requested information at that moment, acknowledge receiving the message. There are many features available on email. The two you need to be most careful of are “reply all” and “cc”. Using these incorrectly may send messages to recipients you hadn’t intended to include. Check the “To” box carefully. And be wary of what you write in the body of your message. An email is a permanent record. If you’ve used the wrong tone or said something insulting, the recipient will have this evidence forever.
Social Media The last thing I want to leave you with is how to use social media. Social media channels let you share almost every aspect of your life. Many users record every minute of their day, regardless of the fact that no one cares to know. Remember the British WWII saying, “Loose lips sink ships?” Well a good adage for today’s telling-too-much world would be “Oversharing with peers sinks careers.” If you share too much about yourself, potential employers may feel your lifestyle doesn’t match their company’s mission statement or objectives. There are ways to prevent this. Make sure you set all of the security options on your choice of social media so you can prevent too much of your personal life becoming available to the general public. Choose different services for different needs. In other words, set up a personal social media site but use another service for your professional persona.
These are only a small example of how the world has changed. The basic principles behind etiquette, however, remain the same. Etiquette is still correct and polite behavior that helps us feel at ease in social and professional situations.