Business Magazine

Mind Your Manners

Posted on the 25 June 2012 by Candacemoody @candacemoody

Clarence Thomas said, “Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.”  Carolle Vargas would agree. She’s a business and etiquette coach and will be the speaker at the June 28 meeting of the WorkSource Professional Network. She teaches leaders the tools they need to refine their presence and improve the way they connect.  Her coaching helps professionals present themselves with greater confidence and authority, forge stronger relationships, and get and keep more clients.

 Vargas worked as a manager and trainer in call centers for Dell and Qwest, jobs which honed her understanding of how etiquette can impact success in business. She moved to Jacksonville from Austin, Texas in August of 2011 and works now with business professionals who want to understand the rules of etiquette and improve their people skills. She trained at the prestigious Protocol School of Washington, which is recognized as a leader in protocol, cross-cultural communication, and business etiquette.

Good manners, she says, are about respect and making the other person feel comfortable. You can be wrong even if you’re technically correct, she asserts. “Being right about an etiquette rule doesn’t matter if you embarrass someone when you point out mistakes.”

Vargas lists what she considers to be the three most important skills in etiquette: good eye contact, good listening skills, and a strong awareness of your environment (and the people in it.) Eye contact and listening skills make other people feel that you’re truly present and that they matter. Those are important factors in the respect component of personal interaction. Vargas also explains how a keen awareness of your environment is also critical to good manners. “People who notice that someone is trying to speak on the phone moderate their voices so as not to disturb them. They introduce themselves first if they see someone struggling to remember their name. It’s those small things that add up to how likeable you are.”

We have protocol and etiquette rules to prevent chaos, Vargas goes on to say. When we all understand how something should be done, like which way to pass food at the table, we can relax and focus more on our conversation and interaction. (For the record, you should always pass to your right.)Most manners are simply common sense and center around deferring to your host or the most senior person in the room. For instance, you should wait to be seated or to begin eating until your host or the most senior (in age or in status) person sits or begins. If you were to think it through, that’s the course of action that would probably come naturally. Etiquette training can help take the guesswork out of situations just in case you’re not a natural.

Introductions set the tone for many business meetings, and it’s an easy place to make your first faux pas (French for “false step.”)In both business and social situations, you should always introduce in the following order(courtesy of

  • Younger people to older people;
  • Junior ranking professionals to senior ranking professionals;
  • Business contacts and staff to clients;
  • Personal acquaintances and family members to business professionals when attending a business function; and
  • Guests to their hosts.

The way to know whether you have it right is to mention the name of the most important person first. The easiest and simplest introduction sounds like this: “Mr. Jones, this is Mary Peterson. She just started in our sales department as an assistant buyer.” Vargas says that business situations are gender neutral; you don’t need to observe certain rituals simply because one of the parties is a woman.  That might be confusing for someone who was raised with a set of rules that applied to the fairer sex, like standing when she leaves or enters a room, opening doors for ladies, or deferring to them as the most significant in the introductions above (unless they do outrank the other party.)

Do you have a pet peeve about modern manners? Not sure if your manners are top notch? Leave a comment.

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