The Art of Good Behavior – Living – Al-Ahram Weekly
There is a growing need for lessons on how to behave appropriately in formal and informal situations, and out of the science of human development has emerged a tool to help people do just that – namely, the art of good behaviour. That’s according to etiquette and protocol coach Hadeer Hussein.
“I graduated from the Faculty of Art Education, then I worked in the field of project administration until 2003. But I was always interested in etiquette and took courses in this area,” Hussein said, adding that she herself was brought up in etiquette. “Then I got engaged to a diplomat, so I had to learn more about etiquette,” she added.
“After about a year and a half, I quit my job for family reasons and instead decided to teach others etiquette through my Facebook page,” she said, adding that she had been encouraged by her successful experience abroad.
“I first started posting etiquette tips on my personal page, and after receiving positive feedback from people I knew, I created my own. label wa anaqat al-tasarrof (graceful etiquette and demeanor),” Hussein said. She is also now a relationship consultant who lectures at prominent venues in Egypt.
“Social etiquette in general means respectful and sensible action,” she said. “A human being tends to act with respect and consideration, and if he does so, he is always happy to be appreciated and valued by others. People need the art of behavior in all aspects of their life, at work, when dealing with friends or family members, or when traveling.People must be able to behave well when required to use an open buffet, such as at a wedding or a reception, or even when they interview an employee to be in their company.All of these situations need etiquette.
“Etiquette differs from protocol, however. The first concerns the social field, while the second is related to diplomacy and is a set of rules that must be followed strictly, otherwise there could be a diplomatic crisis. However, they have certain aspects in common, such as people who like and respect each other and want to appear in a decent state,” Hussein commented.
She said that the main goals of behavioral art are to maintain good relationships between people, to improve them, and to focus on the value of a person. If a person knows the basics of etiquette, they will be able to speak or debate properly if their opinion differs from that of others.
“If I’m in a meeting with people I’m meeting for the first time, I would know what to say and what not to say, or in an interview what questions to ask and what not to ask. All of this makes a person acceptable to others and nice to talk to. It also decreases conflict and increases a person’s self-confidence,” she added.
The art of behavior has many branches. “There’s body language, the culture of disagreeing with others, appearance etiquette (wearing the right clothes for the right occasion) and the rules you follow when eating at a business dinner or in a hotel or on a plane for example. All of these things are daily exchanges governed by appropriate behavior,” Hussein said.
She said the etiquette has long stemmed from the concepts that religions teach about proper behavior, particularly in Islam through the teachings of the Prophet Mohammad (as) and in many Quranic verses on topics such as conduct. at table. Muslims are instructed to eat with their right hand and eat what is in front of them, which etiquette also teaches people to do. Other habits taught by Islam are asking permission before visiting someone and taking special care of cleanliness and appearance.
“In the past, families taught their children what is called behavior, such as how to sit and how to chew food without opening their mouths or disrespecting elders. These are all aspects that the label also addresses. France was the first country to name rules of behavior such as etiquette, including customs, traditions and conduct that parents teach their children, as well as certain religious teachings. But the rules existed long before the French named or compiled them,” Hussein said.
DEVELOPMENT: According to Hussein, etiquette is a tool of human development since the latter consists of developing a person to deal with others without problems and the former also teaches him how to behave and interact with others.
She feels like some people think etiquette is constricting or reserved for the elite, but from her travel experience she has seen that people want to learn etiquette and are looking for a simple method to do so.
“For this reason, I choose subjects close to people’s daily lives or their preferences. It’s important to simplify the information for people to learn because that’s what it’s all about,” she said.
“For example, I tell people to put an unopened bottle of water on their table for their guests, so the guests don’t feel like someone drank it first. They can also put the water in a jug. I’m not just talking about how to organize a table according to the rules of etiquette. I give them the information they need when they have guests,” she added.
Some people tend to miss the main point of the label, especially when it comes to their looks. For example, some people believe they apply etiquette simply because they wear designer clothes and judge others by that standard. However, this is not etiquette – people should wear what they can afford and feel comfortable with and wear it in harmony with other pieces.
Some people suddenly show up at other people’s homes to iftar at dusk in Ramadan, which can cause embarrassment as there may not be enough food for unexpected guests. People should always say they are coming in advance, even if it is a relative they intend to visit. Some people arrive late for appointments, which gives the person waiting for them a bad impression. Some people ask awkward questions or don’t give others a chance to speak during a conversation because they think they know better.
“All of these things are things that we can confuse with etiquette, but they also cause communication problems with others,” Hussein commented.
She also has some tips for mastering the art of behavior.
When you drink a hot drink, never blow it cold but wait for it to cool down a bit. Women should wipe off their lipstick before drinking. If the table is low, hold both the coffee cup and the saucer in your hand. If it is high, only hold the cup.
When you receive visitors at home, you should not leave them waiting for long. You should also have everything ready to host them. Always smile and never complain about their children and have special food and a table laid for them. Accompany guests to the door as they leave. If they give you a gift, it’s okay to open it in front of them, if there are a few guests, and you should look happy even if you don’t like it. If there are a lot of guests with gifts, open their gifts later, then thank everyone over the phone. If the gift is a cake or something to eat, you should serve some of it.
If you are a guest, you should arrive approximately 10 minutes after your scheduled tour time. Stay where you are told to sit. Never just move around. Tell your children to do the same and that they should eat a limited amount of any food presented to them.
Body language is very important for people meeting for the first time, especially for work or when going out. We must use it effectively because it gives the first impression of us. If you aren’t fluent and don’t have an appropriate appearance and manner of speaking, people may get the wrong impression of you. The first impression remains.
It is not acceptable to call people on their cell phones who may be busy or not in the mood to talk when you call them. You should wait half an hour and call them back or text them and tell them you would like them to call you when they can. If you’re talking to someone you don’t know, you must first send them a message requesting an appointment to call them. It is not appropriate to use your phone when you have company.
When queuing for an open buffet, you must not take another person’s turn. Always start with the clean plate area. Never use two plates at the same time. Take only the food you can eat, because a pile of food left on your plate is never pleasant.
If you eat one type of food but want to get another, you should never take the plate you were eating from at the buffet. Instead, get a new one. If you have children, teach them to only take food they can eat so they don’t waste food. If there is an elderly person at your table, you can get them the food they want before taking yours or ask the waiter for help.
*A version of this article appeared in the June 2, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.