The Civilized Minute

a minute of manners and musings

social etiquette or business etiquette?

The lines between social etiquette and business etiquette can blur to the point of nonexistence.  The really savvy professional knows this and uses skills from both schools of thought to the advantage of the business.  The less-than-savvy professional wrongly believes that once he/she leaves the office and heads to a dinner party, it’s time the part-y and drink up.

Recently, I held a small event to offer attendees a chance to understand and practice the rules of etiquette that should be executed with perfection whether you are at home or at the office.  And, remember,  some etiquette rules change with time, so watch out that you don’t appear outdated!

As a host, it’s not necessary that bring out the silver just because you are having friends over – even work friends that you want to impress.  Old etiquette rules would have you wound tight over a few weeds or too few linen cocktail napkins.  New etiquette tells us to relax!  The goal of any event is to ensure your guests are happy and relaxed.  So, choose a couple of really delicious nibbles and be done. 


The host is also responsible for knowing his or her audience.  If your crowd is laid back and informal, be sure the environment is one that they will enjoy.  You wouldn’t serve ribs and beer to the Garden Club or tea sandwiches to the little league ball coaches.  The real challenge is to execute your role with enough finesse to ensure guests know you took the time to prepare for their arrival without being imposing.  Look for ways to compromise, like chilling sparkling wine in a planter and serving drinks in stemless glasses rather than the more formal alternatives. 


As a guest, you, too, have a role to fill. It is imperative that you make yourself known to your hosts and the others in attendance.  To your hosts, you should express your appreciation for being invited.  To your fellow guests, you should be friendly, open and engaging.  You may find that you need to brush up on some of your social skills like introducing yourself or introducing others.  You may even need a refresher on how to handle yourself with food and drink (clink a toast with the bottom of your glass so no germs as swapped, food goes from tray to napkin to mouth, etc.) If you are with coworkers, they will notice if you stumble through happy hour and will be less likely to bring you in on a project with a new client.  They certainly will not want any awkward moments when a deal is on the table.


New etiquette dictates that we all behave in a way that makes others feel good and makes ourselves look good.  This is no less true on a patio than in a board room. 



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