Posts Tagged 'british'



Let’s Get The Parties Started… Etiquette in the 1st UK Political Leaders’ Debate

Last night was the first ever publicly televised General Election Debate.  The pre-debate excitement was almost unbearable, as the Nation waited with baited breath to listen to what the three main parties had to say and, most importantly, to see who would triumph as Victor of Round One.

Public speaking matters.  It should reach beyond spin and PR and show the orator’s true convictions, beliefs and aspirations.  How often nowadays do we hear politicians speak on such a stage:  in the House of Commons exchanges are often no more than spats between quarrelling children, and soundbites are absorbed by text, email, newspapers and video broadcasts.  Last night was different, we were given a chance to listen to the three men who are asking us to allow them to govern our country – for better or for worse.

Communication is a powerful tool of etiquette and is perhaps increasingly so nowadays when so much is media-driven.  Pitch of voice, tone, body language and expression form an impression, together with grooming and presentation which far exceeds the importance of content.  As the Americans say, the winner is the one who can ‘walk the talk’.

Michael Foot and Margaret Thatcher, William Hague and Winston Churchill – all are memorable for their speech content and delivery in individual ways.  Nowadays so much is about the way we look and sound – and it is easy to forget that what matters is what people say and the way in which they say it.

First impressions count.  Last night each were immaculately turned out at first glance.  Gordon’s collar was too tight, but the silk ties were well knotted, and appropriately coloured.  Always use blocks of colour and avoid vivid patterns when appearing in front of the camera.  Their hair was well tamed and cut and each looked suave – though David Cameron by far the most poised and sophisticated of the three.

David stood at the podium as a headmaster might at a public school; authoritative, wise, and approachable, though slightly nervous at the start.  Nick slightly more relaxed in stature, still smart and correct, but giving an aura of chattiness – this was the one who would appear to be our pal, moderating the other two not just in stance but by appearing to stand up for the ordinary man.  Trouble is, the Lib-Dems are always well meaning, and have some idealistic and admirable policies, but they are usually rather ‘pie in the sky’ and the costs are not easy to add up to ensure they can deliver…..

"Gordon's collar was too tight"

Gordon looked, as usual, entirely ill at ease as Alistair Stewart began, but relaxed visibly after the start gun sounded and the first heated exchange came to the fore! How this proves the value of tutoring and media coaching in an attempt to improve image.  If only it wasn’t for that false smile that he remembers to flash like a lightbulb (at least it is better than ‘Teflon Tony’s’ wide eyed grin), we would almost believe him, though after 13 years of trying to get it right and failing dismally, the pretence is wearing rather thin.  We are politically biased, but there is no disguising the fact that Gordon trotted out the same old lines, trying to convince us that he knows how to run the family budget.  However, his rhetoric was well articulated and it was persuasive – he appears to have a genuine conviction that he is right and he made it sound as though by trusting him to spend more he will get us out of this black hole – how many though are happy to have that wool pulled over their eyes?

An important tool in communication is appearing to be pleased to be there.  Our three looked sincerely happy to be on parade although, as mentioned earlier, Gordon took a little longer to warm to the theme.  It was pleasing to see that each demonstrated the basic good manners of courtesy towards their opponent – which reinforces that first impression and continues to set the tone of debate.

Nick’s delivery was ‘chatty’ all the way through.  His voice is pleasant, middle England, and easy to listen to.  He uses body language and gestures well to get his point across that he is there for us and believes in a fairer system for all.

Much will be made of David Cameron’s public school background by those who care to forget that many socialist politicians send their children to private schools to secure a better education for them.  What private school does give though is supreme confidence.  You show me a room full of people and the ones who are the most at ease with small talk and networking will be those who have attended one of our private institutions.  Pitch, tone, the ability to seek out conversational topics which appeal to those of us who are less forthcoming – that is the mark of a public school child, and David Cameron has that in spades.  His body language is good and he uses hand gestures sparingly.  Eye contact is exceptionally important and he has a confidence when looking directly at the camera. In short, Cameron looks polished and he sounds polished.  Thankfully, he has the policies now to back that up.

It was disappointing that not one member of the audience invited to ask a question had the courtesy to stand up when they spoke.  Perhaps that is indicative of the low regard in which our politicians are held, and it is very worrying if that is the case.  Only one called the three ‘Gentlemen’ and he was the only interrogator who thanked them too.  I wonder how many viewing noticed that?  Good manners begin with please, thank you and treating others as you would wish to be treated.  Let us hope next week’s audience remember that the impression they each create will be formed for the nation too!

An important final note.  Alistair Stewart, that veteran broadcaster, looked immaculate and chaired the debate in a firm and forthright fashion throughout.  There were moments when he interrupted perhaps a little too readily, but clearly things could have got out of hand if he had not been ready to intervene sooner rather than later, and all in all, he did a very good job.  Chairing a meeting or debate requires authority and the ability to listen and disseminate information rapidly.  Well done Alistair.

Our politician’s must reach out to every voter and ‘connect’ if they are to hope to command a majority in the forthcoming polls.  They must appear sincere as well as polished, and the gloss will soon wear thin if the content is not there.  Who appeared most genuine last night?

The audience at home and in the studio will have returned to their homes and perhaps analysed a little more closely what was actually said.  At that point, the content of course matters, but the memory of delivery will prevail.  That all important ‘first’ impression.

"Round one to Nick Clegg"

"Round one to Nick Clegg"

Conclusion:  Round One to Nick Clegg for overall ease of delivery and the impression that he wants to be our friend, but David Cameron wins for content – and who will you trust to have the overall ability to form the next Government?  My money is firmly on Cameron – he looks as though he will stand up to the naughty children, and the warring parents any day.

In a nutshell:  old fashioned oratory demonstrates good manners if the delivery is right.  Communication etiquette matters.

The English Manner offers training in communication etiquette, with the option of voice and media training. To find out more, please contact us.

Alexandra Messervy
Founder, The English Manner

A Sample Thank-You Letter

Many people struggle when it comes to putting pen to paper with what exactly to say in a thank-you letter. Below is an example letter to give those with writer’s block some inspiration. It is by no means the most perfect thank-you letter, but it is certainly a more than acceptable one. As I said last week, these letters do not have to be make literary history – remember that a rather basic letter is better than no letter at all.

Dear Samantha,

We are, once again, in awe of your culinary skills. Thank you so much for a delicious dinner last night. It was such a wonderful evening and David and I had so much fun.

It was such a surprise to see your brother after so long – the last time we saw him must have been at your wedding; we enjoyed hearing what he had been up to over the past few years. He sounds like he has been very busy.

Once again, our most sincere thanks. You must also give me the recipe for that trifle – David has not stopped going on about how much he enjoyed it.

We look forward to seeing you all next week at Simon’s.

With every best wish,

Julie.

As I also said last week, once a formula is learned that writing such letters will become much easier.

One final word on thank-you letters – always sent by first-class post, or delivered by hand.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Compliments: Harder Than They May Seem

The British are notoriously bad at accepting compliments the correct way. Whilst it can be seen as an endearing quality, we Brits often use self-deprecation when it comes to receiving compliments. When someone admires our work we’ll say, “Oh well, it was nothing, no trouble at all” or perhaps expresses a like of our clothes, “This old thing? No, I worn this many times before”. But correct form says that when on the receiving end of a compliment, we should just accept it with a gracious, ‘thank you’ and move on. There’s no need to waffle on and argue with the complimenter: that wastes time. Just say thank you and make a note to return the compliment to them in the near future: complimenting them back straight after looks silly.

Then there’s the art of men complimenting women. More often than not, men will sound like a bit of a leach when doing this. The important thing to remember is maintain eye-contact with the woman when giving the compliment. Don’t go for the obvious compliments, such as ‘Nice shoes’ or ‘Nice colour’, show your softer side with, ‘that’s a nice neckline on the dress’.

But there’s also etiquette when it comes to replying to compliments, don’t ever say ‘Well, thank you, yes I love this top too, it’s good, isn’t it?’. We should never actually brag following a compliment, even though we may wish to inside.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Step in Line! The Etiquette of Queuing

Napoleon said we were a nation of shopkeepers, but I think he should have said we were a nation of queuers. Everywhere is a queue: in the shops, on the roads, abroad, on the telephone. And at the moment with the January sales, a lot of us may be waiting outside our favourite shops hoping to get a good deal on something we’ve had our eyes on for sometime. But, as with every aspect of life, there is a protocol that should be followed.

1) If you are with several people, enter the queue as one group. Don’t take it turns to reserve a place for your entire party. Think how annoying it must be to think, after a ling time waiting, you finally reach the front except for the one man in front of you and suddenly, out of nowhere, his five relatives join him, making your wait even longer. This is especially prevalent at theme parks.

2) Keep children under control. No free-range children, please. I saw an example of this the other day at a supermarket. Two mothers were gossiping away as they waited to have their purchases seen to by the cashier; their two ‘adorable’ children frolicked around the legs of other shoppers and nearly knocked an elderly gentleman over at one point: the mothers did (thankfully) apologise to the man but didn’t bother to control their children.

3) Be patient – everyone in the queue is the same position. I did once have a man get cross at me for the length of time he had been waiting, but it was nothing to do with me: I was standing behind him, anyway. Equally, if there has been a long queue, when you get to the desired point, try to be as brief as possible to ensure that others behind are not kept waiting.

4) Before you enter a queue (if it’s a lengthy one) make sure you’ve gone to the loo so you don’t need to disturb the rest of the line trying to get out. As silly as this may sound it does happen. If you leave the queue you cannot expect to come back two minutes later as fresh as a daisy and take up your old place. Others will not be happy about this.

5) Respect the personal space of others. There is no need to stand body-to-body in the queue, doing so will only irritate people and may heighten an already fractious situation. Also, if you are a smoker, now is not the time to light up – save that until you are well away from the queue.

6) Probably the most frustrating of all queuing faux pas is queue jumping. Quite simply: don’t! On my one and only visit to a nightclub I happened to be in a queue to get to the outdoors part of the club (no silly music out there!) and someone tried to push in. I think under normal circumstance they would have got away with this as everyone else would have been too drunk, doped and disorderly to notice or comment. Sadly for this one poor boy, I was totally sober and swiftly admonished him and sent him on his way to the back of the queue. That was the only positive I can draw from my nocturnal experience.

The British love a good queue but there are still who break the rules mentioned above. It is interesting to note than in America, a ‘queue’ is practically unheard of: they call it ‘standing in line’. I was once told – and I’m not sure how true this is – that ‘queue’ is not in all American dictionaries. That said, the rules still apply wherever you are!

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

The Year of the Blog: Reflections on 2009′s Musings

Happy New Year to everyone!

February 2009 saw the very first blog entry for The English Manner eleven months and 37 posts later, it is clear to me what a range of subjects we have been able to cover. From the very first post, which commented on suitable business attire in the modern day, to one of our latest entries about respecting age, I think you will agree that etiquette does apply to all aspects of life.

The blog has now had a slight lick of paint to give it a fresher feel; I hope you like it (if you can notice any difference at all!)

My personal favourite of all of the blog entries has to be the one from the 23rd November on Pre and Post Lactarians. I do realise that I have written a majority of the blog so it sounds almost immodest to pick one of my own piece, but what I like about this particular one is the grandiose terminology that Professor Alan S. C. Ross invented (or cited) in one of his books on the subject of sociolinguistics. It’s so pompous it just has to be tongue in cheek, I am sure.

Each year, May sees the start of the British sporting and cultural season. Last year we commented on the major events of said period, such as Royal Ascot, Wimbledon and the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. More posts on these events are inevitable, as they never fail to flag up questions of protocol and social customs. Incidentally, if any of our readers have any queries we are always willing to answer them. Please see our main website for details of how to pose your question.

The problem with writing a weekly blog (give or take a week here and there off) is that it becomes slightly difficult when the yearly cycle of events begins again. Does one post the same musings on the Royal Epsom Derby again? Should one try to cover new ground about the same event? The trouble with that is, eventually one will run out of things to say as it will have all been said. As to how we at The English Manner will be getting round this minor dilemma, you’ll have to wait and see.

What is to come in 2010, I hear thousands of you all ask? We aim to provide an insight into events such as the Oxford & Cambridge boat race, Glastonbury, and the State Opening of Parliament, as well as commenting on the etiquette that is associated with wine, flags and behaviour when abroad. Naturally, blogs are reactive and as such anything that crops up in the news that regards etiquette will probably get a look in on our blog, too.

But we want your ideas and suggestions for postings, too. If you have a subject you’d like further investigating or a couple of questions about the same topic, please feel more than free to send them to us. Equally, if you read one of the posts and disagree, are confused, or concur with what we’ve said… comment! We love reading what you’re saying – a lot of the time they can be insightful and sometimes amusing.

Here’s to an interactive 2010.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Crumbs! Brits’ Entertaining Skills are Dunkin’ Disorderly

Once it was an integral part of the British psyche, but new research reveals that Britain’s once famed hospitality has taken a nose-dive in recent years, with the younger generation in particular failing to observe basic etiquette when it comes to entertaining.

Fox’s biscuits – who carried out the study – have identified the following manners as missing in tea time action:

1)    Turning off the TV: Almost half of Brits (45%) don’t bother to turn off the TV when visitors arrive, and the younger the host, the less likely they are to do so. Only a third of 25-34 year olds (33%) switch off their favourite shows, compared to the majority of the over 55s

2)    Twitter chatter: Four out of five under 25s (78%) tweet at the table, or carry on surfing the net from their phones or PCs when their friends come round to visit

3)    Taking the coats: the tradition of taking guests’ coats and putting them on the bed or stashing them out of sight is dying out. While more than 80% of the over 55s take their guests’ coats on arrival, this drops to just over 50% of the under 35s, who prefer to leave their visitors to sweat it out on the sofa.

4)    Tea time treats: Whilst most of us manage to rustle up a mug of tea or coffee, tummies in Britain’s homes are frequently left rumbling, with almost half of Brits failing to offer their guests so much as a biscuit, despite this being identified as one of the best ways to make visitors feel at home

5)    Bring out the best china: Only 8% of under 35s bring out the best china, compared to a third of the over 65s (31%)

Instead, in true Hyacinth Bucket style, Brits today are more interested in keeping up appearances than being polite, with houseproud hosts focusing most of their time and energy on making their homes (84%) or themselves (71%) look good in advance of a visit, rather than making their guests feel welcome.

The research also identified the top tea-time crimes that an inhospitable host can commit. These are:

  1. Having a row with your partner in front of your guests (70%)
  2. Making your guests feel like they’re in the way (69%)
  3. Continuing to read or watch TV once your guests have arrived (60%)
  4. Letting your kids run riot or behave badly (53%)
  5. Nodding off while guests are still there (52%)
  6. Not offering your guest something to drink (37%)
  7. Having badly behaved pets (29%)
  8. Giving guests something horrible to eat or drink (26%)

Guests beware however, as there a few things you shouldn’t do if you want to be invited back, and the most annoying are:

  1. Running your fingers over surfaces to check for dust (64%)
  2. Criticising your host’s house in any way (58%)
  3. Leaving without saying thanks (54%)
  4. Making a mess (38%)
  5. Being fussy or difficult about the food or drink on offer (33%)
  6. Turning up late or early (27%)
  7. Asking your host to remove pets from the room (25%)
  8. If they insist on trying to help with cooking or clearing (15%)

Rachel Moffatt, Brands Sector Director for Fox’s, says: “We were disappointed to discover that tea time etiquette seems to be dying out amongst younger generations. Our survey respondents were unanimous that attentiveness and great conversation are the key to good entertaining, yet so many young adults fail to give guests their undivided attention when they drop by, despite this being one of our biggest gripes when we’re on the receiving end.

As for not feeding guests, for a nation that’s practically been built on tea and biscuits, it surprised us to learn that giving guests something to snack on, however small, isn’t always on the menu. We hope this is one tradition that doesn’t die out completely.”

International manners and etiquette consultant William Hanson [tutor at The English Manner], says “Manners and etiquette have always been at the core of what makes us proud to be British. Offering a biscuit with a cup of tea, turning off the TV when your guests arrive, and taking someone’s coat on arrival are all basic British manners. It is truly a sad day when these everyday etiquette essentials are ignored, and guests are left feeling unwanted and neglected.”

Re-printed from the press release with kind permission from Clarion Communications.



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