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Is chivalry dead?
Well, it’s been deceased for a while, in the sense that we as a society no longer require a code to dissuade knights from harassing peasants (for the most part).
But what about good, old-fashioned manners?
The thing is, etiquette isn’t etched in stone. Social mores change over time. So some manners that would’ve been acceptable a few decades ago might make you look out-of-touch in a contemporary setting.
To find out which manners we can drop without appearing rude, Business Insider spoke with business communications expert, speaker, and “The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes” author Barbara Pachter.
She says that the majority of outdated customs stem from one thing: gender.
“Many of the ways that men and women interact in today’s business world are different, as gender has been put aside in favor of professional standing or whether one is the host or visitor,” Pachter says.
Pachter says that people sometimes behave differently in their personal life. That’s up to you, but in a business environment, it’s probably time to modernize your etiquette outlook.
Basically, be courteous to everyone, and consider letting go of some of these old-fashioned manners in your professional life:
1. Men need to do all the heavy lifting
“The new etiquette guideline is to offer to carry packages for anyone who needs help, regardless of gender,” Pachter says.
2. Women require help putting on their coats
Pachter says that it’s time to drop this habit. If someone does need help putting on their coat, feel free to help them (regardless of their gender).
3. Men must open the door for women
“It used to be that men open doors,” Pachter says. “The new guideline is whoever gets to the door first, regardless of gender, should open it and hold it for the person behind him or her.”
In certain cases, you should make a conscious effort to get the door.
“It is a very gracious host who subtly gets to the door first, and opens it and holds it for the guest,” Pachter says. “And it is a very smart junior person who unobtrusively gets to the door first, and opens it and holds it for the more senior person.”
4. Women need to be helped into and out of their seats
Pachter says that nowadays, people ought to pull out their own chairs, for the most part.
5. Women get to order first
“The new etiquette guideline is that the guest should order first, regardless of gender,” Pachter says. “If the host is a woman and the waiter comes to her first, she can say, ‘Oh, please take my guest’s order first.'”
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6. Men should pay the bill
Gents, put your wallets away. Nowadays, Pachter says the host ought to pay the bill, regardless of their gender. In this context, the host is the person who extended the invitation.
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7. ‘Dear Sir’ is a default salutation
“Many women are offended if they receive an email or letter address to ‘Dear Sir,'” Pachter says. “If you don’t know the person’s name, use a non-gender specific, non-sexist word, such as ‘Dear Customer’ or ‘Dear Company Representative.'”
8. Women shouldn’t shake hands
“Both men and women need to shake hands,” Pachter says. “It’s the business greeting. Yet, some men were taught that they need to wait for the woman to extend her hand before offering his. And some women weren’t taught to shake hands.”
So, what’s the proper modern way of doing things? Well, both parties should stand up, first of all.
“The higher ranking person or the host should extend his or her hand first, to welcome the other person,” she says. “The key is that the handshake needs to take place.”