These days, the world is changing rapidly and becoming increasingly globalised. In such a global society, what is more important when communicating with people from all over the world is to receive and deliver a clear message well enough. Particularly in Japan, people only focus on improving their English, the universal language, and assume that it is the only means of communication.
However, communication is not just established by words, your attitude is also a language, and if you fail to do the right things to express yourself, your messages will be lost.
Then what is the most important thing to do?
It is etiquette, and furthermore, diplomacy and intercultural business involve understanding the culture of the other country and practising protocol.
In this article, I am going to write about what etiquette and protocol are and why they are important for people living in the global community.
What is etiquette?
When you hear the word etiquette, you may think that it is ” too formal, uninteresting and it is just a full of rules”, “only posh people do that” or “rules are to be followed, so you just have to follow the rules on the books.”
This understanding is widely recognised worldwide; however it is by no means correct. Etiquette is far more than that and is fundamental to living a fulfilling life.
Etiquette is a norm expressing compassion and a code of manners.
In some countries, the simple word ‘etiquette’ itself should be avoided as some people dislike formality, and in this case, they are supposed to follow their informal culture, which attitude is considered to be well mannered. In fact, not being formal is itself their etiquette.
In Japan, for instance, formalities are quite often followed even between friends, and courtesy is considered the most important aspect of communication.
Etiquette differs in different countries and cultures, and also changes over time.
What has always remained the same is that compassion is the basic idea, and etiquette can be practised as a positive behaviour if it is considered as a way of respecting and pleasing others, rather than as a passive way of not bothering others.
Etiquette is a wonderful discipline that nurtures humanity.
What are manners?
“So what are manners?” and “What is the difference between etiquette and manners?” are some of the questions received.
Manners are more about etiquette. It is about the mindset of how to behave and respect whatever etiquette is required.
For example, there may be times when you have to break a rule known as etiquette, but you still have to behave in a manner that is respectful. In many countries, including Canada and Australia, informal attitudes are preferred in many situations. Rules may also be broken in order to be more friendly and welcoming.
This behaviour can be off-putting to some people, so you need to know what is comfortable for them and follow what you think is right. This is an attitude based on good manners.
As the Japanese word ‘manner’ includes both the meanings of ‘etiquette’ and ‘manners’, many Japanese feel that manners are rules that must be followed. Japanese people love rules, but some of them feel that rules are rigid. As a reaction to this rigid cultural attitude, some people suddenly become surprisingly rude without any hesitation, perhaps because they feel they are better than the meek people who seem to be fine with being treated unpleasantly.
No matter who you interact with, people with good manners are preferred. This is a universal feeling, regardless of country, culture, religion or race. Therefore, good manners are even more crucial in this global society.
What is protocol?
Beside etiquette, there is a word”protocol”, which I will write further in the next article, but just quickly explain about what it is.
Protocol is different from etiquette and manners. If you search on a dictionary, you will see descriptions as below.
- the system of rules and acceptable behaviour used at official ceremonies and occasions
- a formal international agreement
- the formal system of rules for correct behavior on official occasions
- A protocol is also the rules to be followed when doing a scientific study or an exact method for giving medical treatment
- a formal international agreement between governments relating to a particular activity
- a set of technical rules that control the exchange of information between different computers or computer networks
- the system of rules and acceptable behaviour that people or organizations should follow in official situations, for example when they have formal discussions
In other words, protocols are network rules within or between organisations, designed according to cross-cultural etiquette. They play a very important role in global business.
More explanations will be written in another article.
Etiquette is a language
Etiquette can change as norms change in different countries, cultures, environments and over time. And as I wrote earlier, etiquette exists to express respect and courtesy towards others, so if used incorrectly, wrong messages will be delivered to the other party.
I will use Japan as an example as it is a very suitable case. And the other country will be the United States of America.
As you know, there are so many rules of etiquette in Japan. If not used properly from time to time, the messages will not be conveyed correctly between Japanese people, who communicate without speaking much language. As I wrote in my previous article, Japanese is often exchanged silently as people understand each other by looking at the body language and etiquette of the moment.
Would this be the case if Americans, who communicate verbally and have a larger body language, behaved the same way in Japan as they do in their own country?
In the USA, many people hug in greetings, but in Japan, hugs are exchanged only between for lovers or very close friends and not even for family members. Therefore, it could be perceived as a sexual approach. Eye contacts are often not made by Japanese people, which Americans may find impolite.
It would be quite challenging for Westerners to understand the Japanese preference for silence as a form of communication whilst it may be very hard for the Japanese to say a word verbally not always because of their language or communication skills but because of their culture.
The source of miscommunication, which cannot be compensated for by these languages or the manners of your own country, can be correctly conveyed to and understood by others by clarifying expressions from the communication tool of etiquette.
By greeting and conversing according to the etiquette of the country you have entered, you can establish a better rapport with the other person. On the other hand, if you follow the way of your country, you will not be able to convey what you have communicated in that language at all, and you will not even be able to understand the other person.
Therefore, learning international etiquette is the utmost importance for people living in this global society.
Does etiquette only apply to posh people?
Some people seem to think that etiquette should only be worn by the classy, the special and the upper class.
As explained above, etiquette is a language used by all ‘people’. It is not necessarily used only in formal situations.
There is no class in the way people treat others with kindness and care. People should have respect for others, regardless of age, gender, race or religion, no matter whether they are superiors or subordinates.
So how do we learn it? Who will we learn it from?
The most obvious way is to customise your life from the learning of the high society. This is because the etiquette of the upper classes has already been formalised into a form.
Therefore, the study of international etiquette requires the study of protocol, and the basis of protocol always includes the content of international etiquette.
When you think about what behaviour is appropriate in the community you are in, this etiquette learning has a great effect, it makes people around you happy, people love you and you can live a happy life, it is a magnificent learning.
Culture, race, religion, class and job title have nothing to do with learning anthropology and developing your humanity.
Why is it essential in the modern global society?
With the previous explanations, it may be abundantly obvious whether learning etiquette is essential in the international community.
As countries change, their manners change. There is no universal etiquette, and Protocol is not a universal international etiquette.
And this learning is not something as light as just practising to learn how to behave, it is a liberal arts learning that requires all kinds of study of history, religion, culture, people, philosophy, and so on.
To begin with, it is advisable to learn Western etiquette, which is a manner that is accepted in many situations and by people from a number of countries, in the same way that people around the world learn the English language. Maybe you are a Westerner, in which case, do you have a good command of the etiquette of your own country?
And it is always a good idea to study the etiquette of the country you are in contact with.
At the same time, or afterwards, you can acquire and practise the above-mentioned studies, which are learning of their essence, and drop them into your own mind through continuous practice and by making new discoveries on your own.
This way, you will no longer have to exchange incorrect messages forever in an incorrect manner.
So, learn from today and make your life easier with good manners!
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