Webinar Wisdom: Advanced Business Etiquette

“Etiquette is not some rigid code of manners; it’s simply how people’s lives touch one another.” – Emily Post

Advanced Business Etiquette

When people were polled recently about whether they had encountered others behaving rudely in public on their cellphones, 89% cried “Yes!” Well, guess what happened when people were asked if they themselves ever committed the same offenses? What do you know, very few raised their hands. Something’s not quite adding up …

“Etiquette is about self-awareness,” Anna Post reminded webinar attendees, “and sincerity.” Visualizing how others perceive you, whether you’re arguing with your teenager on the phone in the middle of Starbucks or sitting down nervously to a business luncheon, is step one to acing the etiquette that leads to building a relationship with someone you barely know. The manners you employ around that person, Anna said, change with time and culture. But principles are timeless and know no boundaries. Those principles are what will make you a friend or land you a deal.

When it comes to business relationships, Anna came to the webinar with a hefty list of tips and tricks to make you appear as smooth as the butter you’re not supposed to smear all over your roll at dinner. From the Two Block Rule of post-meeting privacy to the niceties of shaking hands across a table, there was a lot to learn for that next client meet-and-greet—not even counting the brass tacks of dining etiquette, which were delved into with gusto due to popular demand.

Here are some of the most vivid takeaways from Advanced Business Etiquette:

What is the Two Block Rule?

The temptation to start dishing right away about what was just decided or debated at an off-site meeting is huge, but you should always make sure to wait till you’re a couple of blocks away from the building before the discussion begins. This ensures no one overhears you, especially in those moments when you’re most fired up—and possibly overemotional.

What should I say when a valued client starts expressing political views I strongly disagree with?

Try this single sentence: “I hadn’t thought about it that way.” It keeps you noncommittal yet firm in your position, and hopefully gets you past the topic.

Can I shake hands across a table?

There shouldn’t be obstructions between you and someone you’re shaking hands with—but if someone reaches out first across a table, don’t make an awkward effort to move around it.

Is there anything I can say when I don’t want to shake hands because we’re about to eat, or I’ve been ill?

“Excuse me for not shaking hands,” accompanied by a strong smile and firm eye contact, is your best bet. It’s also growing in popularity.

Must elbows always be off the table?

Surprise! Putting them on the table is absolutely fine between courses and even shows you’re truly engaged in the conversation.

How should I eat soup?

Scoop away from you, and don’t add salt before at least tasting what’s in that bowl. (Good news—tilting the bowl to get those last few drops is acceptable!)

What is this “amuse bouche” the waiter just brought me?

Don’t worry; it’s a freebie, compliments of the chef, and not something brought to you by mistake.

The sauce was so amazing! What’s my strategy for not letting any of it go to waste?

Try cutting off a piece of your bread, spearing it with your fork and then taking it on a stroll through the sauce. Much more dignified than the tear-and-smoosh method!