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INTRODUCTIONS AND THE SCIENCE OF FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Six Seconds

It only takes a brief look, an estimated six seconds, for someone to evaluate you when you meet for the first time.  Immediately, the other person forms an opinion about you based on your presence, posture, appearance and clothing, your body language, demeanor and your mannerisms. First impressions are almost impossible to reverse, and they often set the tone for the relationship. 

A Bit About Etiquette

In today’s society, emphasis on culture and manners is more important than ever. In a time that seems to have jettisoned etiquette as if it were a burden and all boundaries have been broken down, we need to realize that etiquette provides along with its many other features, safety. Etiquette is not just a list of rules in a dusty old book somewhere on a shelf, it is the basis of gracious living. Etiquette is respect, kindness, consideration, and care. Etiquette is ageless, it is without geographical borders and it transcends all cultural differences. It is a key to opening up doors and living side by side with the world graciously. Etiquette is a lifestyle. It is not only knowing how to navigate your way around a place setting, although of the utmost importance, but it is the ability to make people feel that they are important to you. The art of listening as well as speaking. Etiquette is a code of behaviour which holds us together as a society while setting up necessary perimeters that protect our dignity, virtue, self respect and that of others. In this age of technology we are losing our abilty to relate socially and graciously to one another .

Are handshakes always convenient?

I was sitting at an outdoor cafe and I noticed a couple, just in front of me, sitting and having a meal. A friend of theirs was passing by when he stopped and spoke to the couple and offered his hand to the man sitting and eating. The man sitting reached to shake the hand of the man standing and he knocked over his drink. It got all over his pants but he proceeded in shaking his friend’s hand. A few more words of greetings followed and the friend left and walked away. I thought, now was that really necessary? When someone is eating and someone else comes to greet him should the handshake be avoided? I think so. It is uncomfortable and not at all hygienic. Simply speaking is enough in this case. I believe that one should be courteous but keep in mind the importance of hygiene. It is also important not to disturb. A simple hello, how are you, is enough in a situation like this one.

The Kindness of Etiquette

I traveled this past summer to a famous European capital amidst the rolling hills of central Italy. It was my first trip back to where I had lived for 30 years, after a year and eight months away. After such a long period of not being able to travel to see my loved ones, due to the various lockdowns and restrictions, I was elated to be dining with them and others, on my first night after a long trip and laborious arrival. The restaurant was exquisite, by the river immersed in lush green herbage and fragrant, colorful flowers. A perfect setting to come together and enjoy each others company. Incredibly tired from the adventure of just getting there, I was settling into the warmth of the atmosphere. Everyone raised their glasses to toast the occassion and my arrival. I was so enthusiastic with my perfectly chilled Prosecco in hand, I raised my glass, and after the toast, proceeded to gently extend it to the person across the table from me and was promptly told, “oh we don’t do that anymore”. “We just raise our glasses, nowadays we don’t klink them” . There I sat, glass in hand. With a smile, I simply replied, oh, I see. The fact is that, as one of my fields of competence, I have studied etiquette since going to finishing school, very young, in Los Angeles, and I have always been fairly aware of changes along the way, but I hadn’t heard this. I suppose the news just hadn’t reached me in the Middle East where I had been living prior to this event. I later did some asking around but came up with no conclusive evidence that this major change had been officially instituted. My whole purpose of telling this story is simply to say that etiquette is kindness, it is putting emotional intelligence to work and exercising empathy. It’s making people feel at ease so that no one experiences embarassment or discomfort. True etiquette promotes harmony in a group, it doesn’t single one out and correct. It’s quiet and it’s gentle and it’s thoughtful of the feelings of others. Genuine etiquette is a code of behavior based on treating others with care, respect, and consideration. 

By DéLise Vaccino

“What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?” —Jean-Jacques Rousseau. 


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