It may sound like something out of Downton Abbey but there are still butlers buttling out there in the real world today
Charles MacPherson is a modern butler, having worked in the profession for 26 years right here in Canada. He is also the founder of Charles MacPherson Associates, the only registered school for butlers and household managers in North America, as well as a master trainer at the Protocol School of Washington, DC.
MacPherson is also an author – his most recent book, The Pocket Butler: A Compact Guide to Modern Manners, Business Etiquette and Everyday Entertaining, cover topics from how to lay a proper table, no matter where in the world you might be, to how to properly hand over a business card.
At The Protocol School, MacPherson teaches businessmen and politicians how to be respectful and polite when abroad.
“The most important thing is being aware of cultures around the world so that you don’t offend them and can integrate with them.”
Differences in cultural communication can lead to awkward situations and even derail business dealings. It’s also one of the most common issues when it comes to etiquette, according to MacPherson.
“I think the hardest thing that we have to learn as North Americans is we’re very linear communicators, where there are many parts of the world are circular communicators.”
Linear communicators tend to be direct, getting down to business without a lot of small talk. MacPherson says this can be offensive to circular
communicators, who place more emphasis on social rituals and getting to know business partners before beginning work.
Comfort in custom
Etiquette is about making people comfortable, says MacPherson, and giving self-confidence in a social situations. Knowing what is expected of you and how you should behave around and relate to others can smooth the way for business success.
Here are six etiquette tips MacPherson says anyone can use to smooth the way in everyday business situations.
- How to hand over a business card: Use both hands when giving someone your business card. According to MacPherson, the top of card should be between the fingers of each hand and the text facing toward receiver so that it can be read.
MacPherson says some cultures consider business cards a part of the soul and a representation of the self and should be treated with respect and care. With that in mind…
- How to properly receive a business card: Make sure you look at and comment on a business card when it is handed to you; don’t immediately shove it in a pocket or put it away in your wallet. MacPherson says the card should remain in view for the duration of the conversation in which it was given. If you’re at a board meeting, you may place the card on the table.
- Don’t be the first to offer a handshake in an interview. Instead, let the interviewer offer you their hand.
- How to introduce a client to your boss: Introductions are all about rank, says MacPherson, which can make them a little tricky. “You introduce the lesser person first: younger to older, lower ranked to higher,” he says. However, introducing the client first is generally a safe bet.
- Don’t introduce ‘you to,’ introduce ‘to you’: This is a subtle point that many people are unaware of. When introducing two individuals in a business setting, MacPherson says you should introduce the lower ranked person to the higher ranked person. If introducing a client to the president of your company (as in the above situation): “Mary, allow me to present Bill, president of our company, to you.”