FLORIDA, November 4, 2012 — These days, many people imagine etiquette as being the stuff of history books.
To some extent, perhaps they are right. Common decency, let alone proper manners, has seen a downturn in popularity over the last few decades. It would seem safe to say that the results of this speak for themselves.
However, not everyone is resigning themselves to such a sorry state of affairs. Gloria Starr has devoted her career to educating the movers and shakers of our world about etiquette. Today, she is one of the foremost authorities on the subject.
In this first part of a candid interview, Starr explains her views about why being on one’s best behavior has fallen out of style, just how important self-image is, whether or not first impressions make all the difference, and much more.
Joseph F. Cotto: Etiquette is a concept with which most of us are familiar. Nonetheless, it is not as prevalent as it once was. Why do you suppose that the times have changed?
Everything seems to be so very casual in the current decade. Parents have less time and perhaps less interest in teaching manners and etiquette and even may not know the basics or beyond with etiquette or the value of etiquette and manners. Etiquette and manners open the doors wider to greater success. We now have two generations with limited knowledge of every day manners.
Priorities change and I see a greater interest in the youth today after they graduate from college or university as they begin to realize that they have the same degree as thousands and manners can be a competitive edge. Manners include polish, poise, posture and presence PLUS showing respect, addressing someone with Mr. Mrs. or Ms., a good handshake, direct eye contact, and respecting time and space. I believe the biggest education is after formal schooling is completed and then we begin the life-long learning of essential skills of adding value and contributing to making the world a better place.
Cotto: From your perspective, how important is it for people to present a distinct image of themselves? Are any of us truly just another face in the crowd?
Starr: Most people are truly just another face in the crowd. The youth have not established their personal identity and are easily influenced by trends and fashion. Example: they will pay for designer sunglasses, handbags, shoes etc. They are paying top dollar and then wearing these items with very obvious logos to promote the designer thus minimizing their own identity and
If someone really wanted a competitive edge, they would enter the work force as a well-dressed and mannered individual. Align themselves with the company core values, select a mentor and become a rising star worthy of promotion. We are at an all-time low with average showcasing itself everywhere. Entitlement is rampant. Someone needs to raise the bar and set a higher standard. It is obvious I will never run out of clients or be able to retire!
Cotto: While trying to create a personal image, can the importance of apparel selection be understated?
Starr: Personal Image goes beyond clean, neat and tidy. Color, quality and style are also key components. Plain garments have more visual authority than patterned garments. Less cleavage showing, skirt length: to the knees, no piercings, etc. I saw women wearing the “gladiator” shoe, but they did not own a “gladiator” outfit. What were they thinking? Men: wear the jacket to a suit only with the matching trousers. No white socks! Dress shoes when wearing a suit. Clothing always makes a statement about you either positive or negative.
Clothing covers (or should cover) 90 percent of the body in a work/business environment. Send one message of commitment to excellence in everything to do, wear and say. Clothes talk, people listen.
Cotto: How might proper etiquette be of benefit in professional environments?
Starr: Etiquette and manners is about respect in many ways. Eye contact, voice projection, respect, giving more than expected on the job, no gossiping etc. boardroom etiquette, phone and email etiquette, no social networking sites or personal computer activity while on company time, cubicle etiquette, lunch room manners, and NO smelly foods in the company fridge and lunchroom. The minute you step outside of your home, you are on display for the world to see and judge. Strike a profile for profit and dress to conquer the world each and every day.
In my 28 years in this wonderful business of manners and etiquette NOW is the easiest time to get up, dress up and show up with a level of excellence and commitment.
Cotto: What role do first impressions tend to play in the business world?
Starr: First impressions truly are lasting impressions. In a job interview: the prospective employees are waiting for their interview. They may be reading a novel, chewing gum, on a personal phone call, BB / texting / etc., not dressed appropriately, slouching. These people are immediately eliminated by a quick visual three-second glance even though they qualified in education and résumé writing.
Dining etiquette in the business world is vital. How to order, eat and discuss business at a restaurant is vital. Interactions with clients / colleagues of different cultures can make or break the deal. People from Asia: do not discuss business while dining. Middle East /Gulf/Mena Region: do not eat with your left hand. No jokes, slang or inappropriate behavior.
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