Etiquette For Dummies
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No matter what you call it — manners, courtesy, etiquette, or civility — you can associate it with leadership. When you take the lead in putting people at ease and making every situation pleasant, you exhibit poise. Poise comes from being self-confident.

In today's climate, etiquette and civility are sometimes seen as snobbery. Others view polite behavior as a sign of weakness, and some professionals actually believe that it's impossible to get to the top while being gracious and polite. None of this is true. Knowing how and when to ask for what you want in a polite manner means empowerment.

When you need to ask for something, be sure to remember the following:

  • Speak up. Even if you feel intimidated or nervous, you can get around these roadblocks that undermine your efforts by speaking with confidence.
  • Invite reactions, making it easy for your allies to respond to your request or expectation. Be open to constructive criticism.
  • Be specific, focus clearly on what you really want or need, and ask for it. You may even want to jot down a few notes or rehearse mentally before making your request, especially if you're about to ask someone on a date.
  • Don't undermine yourself. Adding on demeaning tag beginnings or endings — such as, "I know this is a stupid question, but. . ." or "I'm sorry to have to ask you this.. ." — makes you sound like you lack self-confidence.

Being assertive doesn't equal rudeness. Take responsibility for nurturing and maintaining your own self-esteem. When you're competent in using basic assertive skills, you can feel confident to handle most situations and can achieve the respect you deserve.

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Sue Fox is the author of Business Etiquette For Dummies and a Professional Member of the International Association of Protocol Consultants.

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