What do those opting for an etiquette class with a royal legacy have in store?
I am there for a crash course in corporate etiquette, one of the several modules they run, catering to a wide cross-section, from ladies to children above eight. So far, my trainers have been stoic nuns at my convent school to well-meaning grandaunts, generous with knuckle raps when I’d wipe grubby hands on easily-accessible clothing.
“In the old days, children from affluent homes attended finishing schools in Switzerland, while on summer break. Now, ninety six per cent of young adults who approach us can’t recognize flatware,” she says, referring to the confusion with figuring cutlery and its varied purposes.
The 20 trainers here, have all worked with their English counterparts and boast of a legacy that goes back to founder Alexandra Messervy, a former member of The Royal Household of Her Majesty the Queen, helm part-time courses that use practical situations as tools. I, like the other 19 in a batch, would have to spare anything between Rs 5,000 and Rs 80,000 depending on the nature and length of module. I can choose from wardrobe planning, social etiquette, flower arrangements, dining, afternoon tea and `special courses’ for ladies.
– How to stand
Deportment, which has little to do with being expelled from a country on account of illegal status, concerns how I stand, walk and carry myself. I am told I walk like a “little boy”. Mehta shows me how to do it right. Feet together, shoulders erect, tummy in and hands by my side.Practising with a book on my head, stepping heel to toe, will help.The unnecessary bounce or noise that your shoes make can easily be undone by adjusting your gait; heels are no exception. Do not stand with your arms locked behind your back -it is a sign of submissiveness best restricted to those called in to the principal’s office.
– The way to sit
Myth buster: it’s okay to cross your legs in front of elders. It is not disrespectful, says Mehta, rubbishing what I was told when young. “They tell that to children who may not be able to handle their skirts,” she says.the more casual yet elegant option, though, is to tuck one leg behind the other at an angle. Place your right leg near the right leg of your chair at an angle so that it can serve as marker. The angle, she explains, lends your body a pleasant silhouette without making it stiff.
Never, says Mehta, reveal the sole of your shoe to the person before you. “It is disrespectful,” she says, adding, “This applies for men too.”
– Shaking hands
When it comes to physical interactions at the workplace, handshakes are the only acceptable form of contact. So, you might as well do it right. Ensure you have clean, manicured nails. Unkempt nails are a deal breaker. Fellows, it’s the same for you.
Ideally, maintain a three feet distance between yourself and the person before you. Don’t lean in; it signals submissiveness. When you make contact, the webbed skin between your thumb and index finger must touch the other person’s. Grip firmly and shake twice, no more.
Similarly, when handing over your business card, use both hands, holding either edge of the card with the writing facing the person receiving it. Don’t forget to smile. When receiving a business card, use the same stance. Also, it’s rude to put it down before the person leaves your side.
– Never do
“Don’t fidget with your fingers. It gives away more than you intend to,” says Anita Newton Engineer, another senior trainer. If your face is calm, kudos for hiding your nerves but make sure your fingers have received the memo too.”A person’s attention must be stayed on the triangle of your face (eyes drawing down to a point). When you twiddle your fingers, you take their attention away from your face,” she explains.
– Email etiquette
Besides basic grammar, be careful with salutations. `Dear’ is appropriate; `dearest’ is too intimate. `Hi’ and `Hello’ are best avoided. If used, it should be restricted to inter-department emails. The email format follows the same rules of a letter. `Yours truly’ is not to be used in official mails unless you work for your wife.