Sharifah Masten is founder of Protocol and Meetings By Design, a firm that specializes in international protocol and etiquette at meetings. Over the next few months, Sharifah will be weighing in with monthly posts on how meetings and events can have truly international appeal—and how to use protocol and etiquette to enhance your meetings and events. Without further ado, here's Sharifah's first post.
When I tell people I specialize in training and consulting on protocol and etiquette, I am often asked a series of questions: “Is there a need for that? In today’s society does it even matter? What does it have to do with the way I conduct business?”
The answer is this: Today, more than ever, protocol and etiquette are at the forefront of how we interact with others. Today, businesses are judged on their leaders and employees by everyone from stakeholders to consumers, so understanding protocol and etiquette allows us to build and manage relationships with others on a business level, but also on the increasingly-important personal level.
In my careers with NATO and the military, I’ve worked with international organizations and seen cultures around the world. And while I admit there are times that I have become frustrated during a conversation or an impasse in the middle of a negotiation. it always helps to take a step back and ask myself the same questions I ask clients: “What was my point? Did I explain it in a way that the other person understood? Did I not only listen, but did I understand what their point was? Did my body language contradict my words?” Understanding protocol and etiquette means appreciating how our actions and words directly impact, and impart, our communications and relationships with others.
Protocol and etiquette is not only about you, but equally, if not more importantly, it is about the person you’re communicating to. Most of us were brought up to respect our elders, to say Ma’am or Sir, to exercise basic manners. Extending courtesy to others is not a sign of weakness. As we grow as individuals, communicating with others becomes equal parts what we as people perceive; what we are projecting, and how others receive our words and actions. Sometimes, we need to stand our ground and make a point, but we must consider doing it in a manner that does not demean or alienate others.
In the end, our goal is not always about getting the other person or side to like us. Our goal can also be about gaining a mutual respect and understanding by all involved.
You can reach Sharifah and Protocol and Meetings by Design here, and be sure to tune in next month when Sharifah weighs in on how Americans are perceived by other nationalities. What's your favorite business etiquette tip?