A huge bank balance is not enough to make you arrive. You need a large dose of etiquette too, experts tell SUBHA J RAO
Rajat was one of those brainy types that never got math or science wrong in life. He landed a plum job, and reputation of his grey matter preceded him at the workplace. Day One saw him greeting awe-struck colleagues. And, then it was lunch time. Suddenly, everyone else at the dining hall could hear his mandibles working furiously on an unyielding chapatti. Amid furtive glances and giggles, his reputation just flew out of the window.
Times are changing, and people too. No one really wants to put up with someone who lacks refinement and etiquette, even if it is the boss who’s at fault. Opening the door for a colleague is not passé. Nor is talking into the receiver. The whole world and its cousins need not know which fancy hotel you went to last or, how rude you were to the waiter.
Sadly, the boom in salaries has resulted in a new breed of nouveau rich that believes flaunting money will help it fit in. How very wrong, say etiquette trainers, who now conduct programmes to help people make the transition from boors to sensitive beings. Thankfully, no age is too old to learn etiquette, provided you make an attempt.
“People must understand that etiquette is not only about looking stylish. It is a way of life, and involves simple things such as eating with your mouth closed and speaking in a refined way without using swear words,” says Mumbai-based etiquette consultant Chhaya Momaya. “Traditionally, we are a refined lot. Somewhere, there has been a dilution. It is time to get back to the basics,” she adds.
Importance of soft skills
Prabha Chandrasekhar, Head, Cross-Cultural Training, Global Adjustments, says that a professional must realise he/she is projecting a brand, and that any slip reflects on the company. “Behaving like an upstart does not take you far in life,” she adds.
Somewhere, the nouveau rich feels that following protocol is unimportant, and that any behaviour will be accepted because he/she is successful. That has to change, she states. The saving grace is that people are receptive to suggestions. “The younger lot wants an explanation, but once it makes sense, they accept it,” says Prabha. Sita Kamath of the soft skills department at Tecknoturf Info Services, which trains fresh recruits, says most of the new kids know that soft skills are the need of the hour, and that they can no longer stop with working on a computer. “The importance of interacting with people is sinking in. They understand that people are watching them all the time, and have realised the importance of a visual resume — how you dress, behave and present yourself,” she adds.
That is why a finishing school is still so relevant. Tulsi Bhatia, Dean, Good Shepherd Finishing School, Udhagamandalam, says etiquette is gaining importance as the world is becoming a flatter place. “It is a level playing field. You might have the technical know-how, but what makes you stand out is etiquette. Learn to care for those around you, be a little more considerate, and learn table manners,” she says. It does not mean learning how to wade through a seven-course dinner. Focus on the basics — eat with your mouth closed, don’t eat and talk at the same time…
So, why do people throw their weight around and behave like they own the world? “Because, they think that it is cool to be discourteous. Also, this is their way of drawing attention to themselves.
They are loud and drop names in an attempt to cover up what they don’t know,” says Tulsi.
The use of expletives is another issue. Chhaya has a simple tip to get rid of the habit — translate every swear word into your mother tongue! And Tulsi would love it if people did not keep others waiting or turn up late for appointments. “Everyone has work, and the new kids must realise that,” she states.
Though pointers can come from all sources, the change has to come from within. And, it must not be merely cosmetic. Quips Chhaya: “Take for instance, model Naomi Campbell. She is so wonderfully dressed, but look at her behaviour.”
Points to ponder
* Stay quiet in public places
* Avoid using foul language
* Turn up on time for appointments
* Appreciate others’ space
* Learn dining etiquette