- The Washington Times - Monday, February 25, 2002

Michele Pollard Patrick is trying to make the world a better place by teaching proper etiquette.
Ms. Pollard Patrick started her company, National Protocol in Chevy Chase, about 15 years ago and provides programs on good manners for children and adults. She is among many who offer classes, workshops, college lectures and consultations on the art of etiquette.
"This is a belief system that gives dignity and respect to others while building a sense of integrity within you," she says. "If you start with children when they are young, then they live it and learn it. It empowers them to be self-confident in social situations. It isn't enough to have intellect. You need the social skills to get along with other people."
Dorothea Johnson, who founded The Protocol School of Washington in 1974 in the District, says people should use the rules of etiquette to bring civility back into the workplace. Her company is run from Portland, Maine, but she visits the local area to hold seminars customized for the needs of her clients.
Ms. Johnson's classes, on topics such as corporate etiquette and international protocol, are usually held at the Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner.
"Good manners go hand and hand with leadership," she says. "And you enrich yourself in the process."
Since the Washington area attracts many diplomats, Ms. Johnson emphasizes the use of proper titles.
"The informality that we enjoy in the United States is not practiced in other countries," she says. "You would never call a German by his first name. You would use an honorific, such as saying Herr Schmidt."
Ms. Pollard Patrick says qualities such as table manners, saying "please," writing thank you notes, giving firm handshakes, looking someone in the eye, being on time and keeping promises have slipped by the wayside.
Learning correct social and business practices is a key to success in life, she says.
Ms. Pollard Patrick last month appeared at American University in Northwest as a guest speaker for the class "Business Policy and Strategy." She reminded the students of the words of entrepreneur, John D. Rockefeller: "The ability to get along with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar and coffee. I pay more for that ability than any under the sun."
During her college lectures, she outlines many points, including that a first impression is made within 30 seconds. Most often, she explains this through role playing.
"Introduce yourself in a confident way," she says. "Make good eye contact. In America, your eyes reflect if you are interested in the conversation. Honesty and trustworthiness come through the eyes."
When introducing others, Ms. Pollard Patrick says protocal calls for a subordinate to be introduced to a superior and someone within a company to a possible client. In business, there is no exception concerning gender. In social settings, a man is introduced to a lady first, a younger person to an older person, and a family member to someone outside the family.
After a proper introduction, Ms. Pollard Patrick says creating interesting conversation is important, which includes discussing current events, asking for advice and making compliments.
"Respond to questions about yourself, but don't talk about yourself too much," she says. "Make sure you are listening so you can contribute to the conversation."
An interview is the one place where it is acceptable to talk at length about personal successes, Ms. Pollard Patrick says. She suggests dressing conservatively for job interviews and making sure to arrive at least five minutes early.
Sometimes prospective employers take job candidates to lunch to observe their table manners. Since many business deals are made during meals, Ms. Pollard Patrick says dining graciously is important. One should avoid slurping drinks, biting into rolls, licking fingers, placing utensils on the table instead of on the plate after use and forgetting to put the napkin on the lap.
Knowing American dining etiquette is not enough, Ms. Pollard Patrick says. Students must also know the practices of other cultures.
Americans are the only ones who use the "zigzag" method of eating, which involves using the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right hand, laying the knife down at the top of the plate and switching the fork into the right hand to bring the food to the mouth.
In the Continental style of dining, which is used by most of the world, the fork is in the left hand and the knife is in the right hand. After cutting the food, the fork brings it directly to the mouth. One holds the utensils in the hands, resting the hands on the table when chewing.
"At first, 80 percent of United States companies failed doing business overseas because executives offended someone," Ms. Pollard Patrick says. "In America, when you aren't eating, your hands should rest in your lap. In Europe, having your hands on your lap means you're untrustworthy."
Handshakes in foreign countries also vary from the American "web to web" tradition, where the areas between the thumb and index finger of two people connect, Ms. Pollard Patrick says.
Although many Asian people have adopted the American handshake, Europeans consider it invasive. In Europe, they use a limp hand shake with the fingers. In Latin America, they use a double handshake and maybe a kiss by putting two hands on one of someone's hand, which might appear condescending in the United States.
Angela M. Tressler, 21, originally from York, Pa., says learning from Ms. Pollard Patrick gives her confidence as she embarks on her career. As a senior at American University majoring in business, she takes the class "Business Policy and Strategy."
"I feel it is pertinent that all students and professionals be trained in proper business etiquette," Miss Tressler says. "With this knowledge, I believe I am better prepared to succeed in the professional world."
Jan Daugherty, professor of "Business Policy and Strategy" at American University, says every student in the Kogod School of Business must take her class before graduating.
"The little things could make you or break you," Ms. Daugherty says. "You are constantly being assessed and evaluated in the business world. This is a strategic approach to differentiating yourself among your colleagues. So there is a savvy and class about you."
Donna Schroll, an etiquette consultant from Cape Coral, Fla., says appearing comfortable with other people is essential, especially exhibiting courteous and diplomatic behavior.
"Make sure people perceive you the way you want to be perceived," she says. "In business, a lot of people have the same kind of information. Can you make the people you work with feel comfortable? Do you come across as a person of authority? Do people want to listen to what you have to say and offer?"
Whatever the situation, Letitia Baldridge of Northwest, author of "Letitia Baldrige's Complete Guide to the New Manners" and "More Than Manners: Raising Today's Kids to Have Kind Manners and Good Hearts," says people should display good manners not as a superficial formality, but because it's a sign of good character. She is a consultant for various clients.
"Be aware of the world around you," she says. "Some people walk through this world blind, as to the presence of anyone else in it. Happiness comes from having people like you. When you are nice to people, they want you around. Good manners are the opposite of selfishness."

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide