Have you noticed or paid attention to your behavior when you use an elevator? You may hold the door open for people to enter or leave. You may say ‘excuse me’ when you step out. If you make eye contact with anyone, you might smile and acknowledge them.

Do you know why we behave this way? It’s common courtesy to act and behave in certain ways in public. We determine how to act in public or social settings because of etiquette. Let's look at what etiquette means and its importance in our lives every day.

What Is Etiquette?

In a nutshell, etiquette is a complex network of unwritten rules that govern social interactions and behavior. It reflects our cultural norms, ethical codes and various social conventions. Etiquette is always evolving with the demands of society.

Respect, kindness and consideration are at the heart of good etiquette. We can master the rules of etiquette to build confidence, improve our social skills and progress professionally. Understanding the ground rules can help us avoid uncomfortable situations. When we learn to properly navigate social situations, we’re more likely to act in socially responsible ways.

Is Etiquette The Same As Manners?

Both etiquette and manners play a significant role in how society functions. The two concepts revolve around human behavior and are often used interchangeably. However, the two are different at their core and shouldn’t be confused with each other.

Etiquette is a code of conduct and a set of societal rules that act as a catalyst for positive human interactions. On the other hand, manners are behaviors that reflect a person’s attitude. A key difference between etiquette and manners is that the former changes with a change in societal customs and norms while the latter remains unchanged across communities.

Etiquette provides a construct within which good manners can flourish. It’s good manners to follow proper etiquette. For example, etiquette may dictate the rules of talking to someone (introduce yourself properly). Good manners will prompt you not to interrupt the person and say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ whenever the need arises.

Importance Of Good Etiquette

Etiquette dictates the best ways to behave and present ourselves to others. It helps us to live in harmony and make social progress. Here are a few benefits of practicing general etiquette in our lives.

  1. It boosts self-confidence. We feel more comfortable being our authentic selves when we understand how others expect us to behave. We don’t have to constantly monitor our behavior.

  2. It promotes effective communication with others. Etiquette is largely based on making people feel comfortable. You tend to listen attentively and respond respectfully

  3. It helps us take others’ feelings into consideration. For example, proper etiquette prompts team leaders to provide constructive feedback instead of blatantly negative reviews

  4. It strengthens social relationships. You’re familiarized with socio-cultural norms and treat people with kindness and respect. You become friends with those you’re most comfortable with

  5. First impressions count! One of the greatest benefits of developing personal etiquette is creating a good first impression. You’re better equipped to influence people’s views about you when you act according to social protocols

Types Of Etiquette

Different types of personal etiquette will teach you how to create lasting and positive impressions. Let’s look at the various types in detail.

  1. Social Etiquette

Humans are social animals and it’s important that they follow certain norms that facilitate interpersonal relationships. Social etiquette is exactly how it sounds, it refers to behavior you resort to in social situations— interactions with your family, friends, coworkers or strangers. Imagine you’re in a business conference and a stranger wants to interact with you. Despite not knowing the person, social etiquette suggests that you introduce yourself to the person politely. You may choose not to interact with the stranger as well. In that case, you can respectfully excuse yourself and move away from the person. A few basic rules of social etiquette are:

  • Make eye contact when you’re having a conversation

  • Never interrupt others when they’re speaking

  • Always be on time for meetings or gatherings

Social etiquette also extends to social media and online communication. Here are some ways to ensure proper conduct on social media platforms:

  • Avoid posting sensitive content that may hurt the sentiments of people or groups

  • Always share information about others with their consent

  • If you make a mistake, own it and offer a sincere apology

  1. Professional Etiquette

Professional or business etiquette is instrumental to advancing your career. It helps you show others the kind of values and belief systems you follow. Businesses are always on the lookout for individuals who can present themselves in a dignified manner because some of them become the face of the organization. Whether it’s interacting with clients or convincing customers, your professional etiquette can help you create a powerful impression.

There are various subcategories of professional etiquette that contribute to reputation.

  1. Meeting Etiquette 

Business meeting etiquette refers to the standard behavior expected in workplace meetings. It prompts you to behave professionally and respect others’ time and effort. Follow these common ground rules to follow proper etiquette at meetings:

  • Always be on time. Arrive a few minutes early to meetings so you have a buffer period. If you find yourself running late, apologize and sit down to avoid interrupting the flow of the meeting.

  • Go prepared for your meetings. Many meeting organizers send a meeting agenda beforehand to help you prepare and gauge expectations. Follow the action items on the agenda and make sure you have everything ready on your part.

  • Although many modern organizations don’t emphasize the need for dress codes, you should wear appropriate attire for your meetings. Consult your manager or coworkers if you’re unsure.

  • Pay attention to your body language. Whether you’re presenting or attending a meeting, you must avoid creating any distractions. For example, tapping your feet repeatedly may be annoying for the speaker.

  • Speak up so that you’re audible to everybody. If you can’t get your points across clearly, unnecessary conflicts may arise. Moreover, if you speak very softly, someone may mishear you.

  1. Workplace Etiquette 

Etiquette in professional settings or offices matters a lot. How you present yourself to your coworkers, managers and supervisors affects your professional development. Workplace etiquette is the foundation of professional success. Here are some ways to ensure you present yourself appropriately in workplace settings:

  • Understand your workplace culture and the standard codes of conduct. Apart from compulsory training exercises, learn about existing policies and procedures. Reach out to Human Resources in case you want to know more about the organization’s values.

  • Keep an open mind at work. Be flexible to new ideas, thoughts and diverse perspectives. You may be required to work with different teams, therefore collaborating with different work styles. Flexibility prevents conflicts from turning ugly.

  • Try not to engage in gossip. Oftentimes, we’re too quick to judge our coworkers and engage in unpleasant discussions. Treat everybody with equal importance and respect, irrespective of their job title.

  • Good etiquette creates a culture of trust and respect, allowing you to network and collaborate with others. You can confidently work in teams because you trust and respect your teammates. Etiquette is a vital component of efficient teamwork.

  • Find the right balance between the personal and professional versions of yourself. As social creatures, we’re bound to share information about our personal lives with our coworkers. But it’s equally important to respect and maintain personal boundaries.


Professional success doesn’t just come from meeting targets and driving business goals. It includes the ways you present yourself and navigate professional relationships. Harappa Education’s Practicing Excellence course will teach you how to go beyond your call of duty and engage with people in an ethical and respectful way. The Four Self of Excellence framework in particular will help you present the best version of yourself at work.

Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily. Let your etiquette make the difference!

Explore our Harappa Diaries section to know more about topics related to the Lead habit such as Leadership Qualities, Work Ethic, Importance of Leadership & Professionalism at Work in order to present yourself in the best way possible.

Related articles

Discover more from Harappa with a selection of trending blogs on the latest topics in online learning and career transformation