When I was in the corporate sector, I lived in Charleston, SC.
Charleston is a real gem of a city, full of history and “southern charm.” Most of my co-workers and I were transplants, but one male co-worker was from Charleston. At lunch one day, another colleague shared with me that our new associate had taught him so much about how to be a “southern gentleman.” For instance, he learned he was always to wear a blazer or sports coat outside, even when it was hot. When walking with a “lady,” he was to walk on the street side, shielding her from any danger. I later encouraged him to lay his jacket over a puddle so I didn’t risk getting splashed, but he declined.
Neither of those were really necessary in the modern world, in my opinion.
For one, it gets HOT in Charleston. Watching men walk around in a blazer when it was 100 degrees and humid? It made ME uncomfortable. I didn’t expect or need a male to protect me from the road. It felt strange when I went to a dinner and all the men stood when I excused myself.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with these etiquette rules, but they’re not altogether necessary in a world where women are far more independent. So when I moved back to Virginia, I settled back into a world where men take their blazers off when its hot out and everyone stays seated if a woman goes to the restroom.
After several “fancy” events this year, though, I was reminded of how much etiquette dictates our lives.
How much of that etiquette applies particularly to professionalism?
Do habits and old-fashioned rules dictate our manners? Society has become a more “open” place and our world views have expanded. Have our etiquette rules updated? Why, to so many, is our attire such a strong indication of our manners and professionalism? How important are table manners? Are we being rude without knowing?
Etiquette can be dictated by everything from binary gender systems to a CEO who doesn’t think its appropriate for men to grow beards to expecting all women to marry and be homemakers. There is need for a certain level of individuality for all of us, and the room to express it. I’m not here to discourage creativity.
But, we rarely can avoid etiquette.
With that in mind, we’re going to be exploring more of what professionalism means, how to achieve it, and how to apply etiquette to our lives.
Let’s be clear.
This is NOT going to be a series where we talk about how a lady is to act in public. I aim to be inclusive and avoid gender-based rules. I understand that gender is far more fluid than many of us understand. More so, I believe etiquette and professionalism shouldn’t be different between socio-economic statuses, genders, or company roles.
I’m very much looking forward to this new topic. I don’t want to just give information but also share WHY we should do the things we do. We’ll cover everything from thank you cards to table manners to dressing for success. I’m excited to do some research and share with you all the WHYs of etiquette and professionalism, learning new things myself.