Want to be a Success?
All you have to do is follow the rules.
At 14, George Washington — known for his impeccable manners — wrote down 110 rules from the English translation of a French book of maxims designed to improve manners, moral virtues, social interactions and self-control. This list became “George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation.” It’s one of many etiquette books on my shelf.
In 1922, “Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home,” by Emily Post, provided the newly rich and immigrants alike with tools needed to navigate a confusing system of rules. Countless etiquette books came before and after “Etiquette,” now in its 18th edition, but even Washington’s doesn’t hold a candle in popularity.
The topic of exactly what habits and maneurisms will lead to success, however, is still hotly debated, as evidenced by “Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals,” the latest book by speaker and author Tom C. Corley, in which he outlines five etiquette habits always employed by successful people. Corley studied the wealthy via his Rich Habits Institute for five years to uncover the secrets to their success.
Corley pinpoints exactly which rules that, if you only learned a handful, would make the biggest difference.
“When kids enter the real world and begin their job search they will face a tremendous etiquette learning curve that could result in being passed over for a job for some minor faux pas they never learned at home,” Corley writes on his blog at RichHabits.Net.
Corley advises parents to teach the following to their children. For those who never learned, however, my philosophy is that it’s never too late. (Note: This is available in more detail on his website.)
• Introduce yourself. Give a proper handshake, smile, make eye contact and ask questions.
• Remember birthdays, interests, spouses’ names and other little details. Corley says a cornerstone habit of wealthy people is that they build relationships with other successful people and maintain them via engaging, learning about them and following up with phone calls to just say hello or offer birthday greetings.
• Dress for the occasion. The wealthy know how to dress for work, formal and casual dinners, interviews, and every other social or business occasion. Master it.
• Table manners matter. Learn basic dining etiquette rules, such as waiting until everyone has their food before you eat. Successful people know how to eat and so should you.
• Send thank you notes. If someone does you a favor or refers a client to you, send a thank you card. Corley cautions against emailing or thanking the person on social media, asserting that the card is more personal and indicative of your character.
Basically, it’s all about relationship building. People don’t gain success in a vacuum. Every job, promotion, business contact made or referred comes about because another person thought highly enough of you to offer an opportunity. Remembering a birthday or sending a thank you note goes a long way toward nurturing relationships, which so often are relegated to Facebook friendships and nothing more.
In Washington’s list of 110 rules, No. 1 states: “Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.” You could easily remove “in company” and “to those that are present,” and craft a philosophy for life that will set you up for success: Every action done ought to be with some sign of respect. It’s never too late to develop new habits and polish old ones. Just listen to George.
Melanie Warner Spencer is editor of New Orleans Bride Magazine. Her writing has appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, the Houston Chronicle, the Chicago Tribune and Reuters. Spencer’s ever-expanding library of etiquette books is rivaled only by her ever-ready stash of blank thank-you notes. Submit business etiquette questions to Melanie@MyNewOrleans.com.