Business

Port Orchard chamber gets a lesson in manners

Etiquette consultant Stephanie Horton said that good manners are even more important in tough economic times. - Courtesy Photo
Etiquette consultant Stephanie Horton said that good manners are even more important in tough economic times.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

The multiple distractions in today’s business world coupled with the prevailing short attention span can cause people to forget their manners and therefore suffer a business disadvantage, according to a locally based etiquette consultant.

“The biggest mistake we make today is not giving people our full attention,” said Stephanie Horton, president of Top Dog Etiquette, which is based in Grapeview. “People are multitasking, and always looking at the other people in the room. They take a cell phone call or a text message, and don’t focus on the person they are talking to.”

Horton addressed the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce at its Dec. 11 meeting.

Giving a business preference for the best behaved or most courteous person is nothing new, in many occupations style can be as important as substance. In tougher economic times it can be a deciding factor, so it is a good idea for everyone to brush up on their manners and think about ways they can increase their presentation in order to give them an edge.

Horton said this can be accomplished through a certain degree of self-improvement; visiting Web sites or just examining your own behavior.

She has, however, written and published a book, “Are Bad Manners Driving Your Clients Crazy,” which breaks down good behavior into digestible bites. With this quick read, people can get an idea what they are doing wrong and how they can fix it quickly — in time for their next job interview.

Aside from the listening tip, which is fairly obvious, Horton suggests that people always wear their name badge on their right side to make it easier to read while shaking hands, and to never wear perfume.

As for handshakes, they should be quick and firm.

And there should be no hugging.

“I don’t know why people insist on hugging when they meet people,” she said. “It shows no consideration for the person being hugged. What if they just had shoulder surgery? What if they don’t like being hugged? It sets a bad precedent for the next time they meet.”

Another guideline is to treat everyone politely, and consistently.

Giving a famous or “important” person better treatment embarrasses both the people you treat well, and those you treat less well.

Horton, 54, acknowledges that good manners are mostly common sense.

Still, people who are much younger than she haven’t been schooled in etiquette and have not developed such an instinct.

Manners instructions comes from your parents, who no longer have the time to attend to such details.

“It is common now for both parents to work,” she said. “They don’t have time to talk about these things. They don’t sit down and have dinner together, when they do eat they are in front of the TV. Or it is pizza, or tacos, or something that doesn’t require utensils. They don’t learn the art of conversation, and they don’t take the time to talk.”

As a result, people don’t know they are doing anything wrong or offensive. And this leads to another one of Horton’s cardinal rules: Don’t embarrass anyone.

If a colleague has an annoying habit it is worse to bring it up than to let it slide. As a result the colleague will be clueless, and lose out to someone who knows to have a firm handshake or not blow their nose in public.

So if a job candidate wears perfume or cologne to an interview, that fact will not be mentioned in the rejection letter.

Or if someone is involved in a long cell phone conversation in the restroom, they won’t have a clue about how that behavior lost them the job because their future boss was in the next stall.

Sometimes good manners won’t give an edge, a lesson that Horton has learned herself. While she has spent the past 10 years giving speeches and presentations, business has fallen.

As a result, she has taken a customer service job at Macy’s in Silverdale, where she observes how people interact — both good and bad.

“I needed to get a part time job that was flexible,” she said. “In tough economic times, training and consulting comes to a screeching halt.”

Horton counsels that business conversation should center around positive topics.

Medical ailments, however important, should be avoided. And staying positive, for most people, shouldn’t be too hard.

“Our culture is basically nice,” she said. “There is a level of kindness in our society, even if people don’t always know how to express it.”

To contact Horton go to www.topdogetiquette.com.

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