Please enjoy a re-post of an article I wrote for the AW Magazine… Happy Valentine’s Day! Jan
It is February. Chocolate sales soar, Cupid shoots his arrows and heart shaped valentines are passed to giggling young girls. You may find yourself reminiscing of simple days when love seemed less demanding and trouble-free. Relationships can be … well, shall we just say … complicated. They can be complex for a variety of reasons, but nothing complicates our relationships more than the ambiguity of personal rules and boundaries. Clarity brings prosperity in every arena, including relationships. Thank goodness there is expert help for relational etiquette!
Have you ever thought about what unspoken rules you live by … and require of others … both in personal and professional relationships? We all have them. We all need them. Healthy relationships require rules and boundaries that are understood and agreed upon by both parties. Could you imagine driving on a street where everyone drives by their own set of rules? Our relational streets need rules and boundaries as well or people and relationships crash. Rules give us clarity. Boundaries keep us on track. We penalize ourselves and sometimes our whole “team” when we don’t follow the guidelines. Just ask the NFL.
Fortunately, there are rules of etiquette that can help us play the relational game without getting benched or kicked off the field! The good news is that experts agree on the basic rules for civility in relationships. Here are the top five relational etiquette guidelines to ensure that you win in your relationships.
Be Others Oriented. The first rule of etiquette is this: It is not about you, it is about the way the other person feels in your presence. Stay aware of the person on the other side of the relationship. What is going on in their world? Be kind. Keep compliments alive even in your long term relationships at home and on the job. Remember the good things that built that relationship and keep doing them. Don’t slack off and take that person for granted. Acknowledge their contribution. Be attentive.
Don’t Compare. Each individual is different. No two people will ever be exactly the same. Relational dynamics are not equal. Comparison is a relationship killer. It can be very discourteous. The victim of comparison either ends up on the bottom end of the equation or perched high on a precarious pedestal. Be grateful for what this person brings to the relationship and be gracious in areas they fall short. Appreciate people for who they are. Resist the temptation to compare!
Dress Appropriately. You would not think of wearing your bathing suit to the Opera, or a formal gown to a backyard Bar B Que. Wear appropriate clothing for the occasion, whether on a date or in the office. How you dress does affect your relationships. If you dress in a sloppy manner, people will treat you accordingly. Women who show too much skin in the office should not be offended when people react to their dress. From the boardroom to social events, find out the rules concerning attire and follow them. This keeps you and others from embarrassing moments.
Keep Electronic Communication Respectful. Please keep in mind to treat online contacts (through social media and electronic devices) and relationships over the phone with the same respect you would show in person. The individual on the other end of an email, text, or phone call is no less of a person than someone you encounter face to face.
Never send anything you type when you are angry or upset. Do not say anything electronically that you would not be willing to see on the front page of the paper. (because it may end up there!)
This rule of respect applies in social settings as well. When communicating electronically, please excuse yourself and keep it private. The whole room does not want to hear your phone call nor does your company deserve to be ignored while you answer a text. If you have an emergency, excuse yourself; if it is not an emergency, wait! Poor electronic communication skills can create havoc in relationships!
Have Fun! Do not be afraid to lighten up and laugh at yourself. This puts people at ease and shows them you have a sense of humor. Laughter is good medicine. It lightens the atmosphere. Be sure you use appropriate comedy … never anything hurtful, condescending or off color. People love to be around others who are joyful. Having fun is fundamental to a good relationship.
We can all agree that we have a relationship or two that could use a little polishing this year. If you don’t have one now, you will. It is part of our human experience. Clearly communicating and following these top five etiquette rules will unquestionably produce the relational success you desire. And, who knows … Cupid may have a surprise to shoot your way.