What Is an Etiquette Breach?

Etiquette refers to rules of acceptable behavior.  It is how one makes others feel comfortable in his or her presence.  A breach is an infraction or a failure to comply with something. Hence, an etiquette breach is a failure to comply with a particular behavior necessary for a situation or environment. 

Now that we have that out of the way, how should you handle a situation when you "mess up"?    

When I started my business, I received a generous number of stories from individuals about associates who had committed breaches of etiquette.  Most of the individuals had no idea they were in violation of an unwritten code of behavioral protocol.  Everyone seems to have a story or two of someone who did something very wrong, according to his or her definition of proper protocol.  Some breaches were as small as licking a knife in a restaurant.  Others were bigger, like taking a cell phone call to talk about weekend plans during an interview.  Then there was the story of the bride who drank her finger bowl at her wedding in front of several hundred prestigious guests. 

Some breaches were simple, straightforward little mistakes and some were tsunami-size catastrophes.  Regardless of the size, if you are aware that you have broken the rule of making others feel comfortable in your presence, own it, acknowledge it and apologize for it.  

Recognize that you have made an error in protocol and apologize.  It doesn’t undo what you have done; however, it lets the other person know that you are aware of your inappropriate behavior. Ignoring a breach makes other people think that you didn’t know any better or even worse, that you didn’t care. Acknowledge your mistake.  Say what you should have done.  Then apologize for the breach.  We are human and make mistakes. How you handle a faux pas can sometimes work in your favor!

Colleen Harding

Hello my name is Colleen Harding.  I am the founder for the Cleveland School of Etiquette and Corporate Protocol.  I started my company 7 years to address a niche and a need for protocol training.  I received two certifications from the American School of Protocol in traditional etiquette and corporate training.  Today, I work with individuals, schools, companies and organizations that recognize the importance of social polish in daily life and the corporate world.

I spent 22 years in the corporate arena as an outside sales representative with 15 years in Broadcast Sales.  I recognize the competitive advantage a person has when they respect etiquette and have received protocol training. 

I am a Bay Village resident.  Graduated from Magnificat High School and The Ohio State University. 

I am an active volunteer for the Westside Catholic Center, St Raphael Women’s Guild and Village Foundation Board Member.

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Volume 3, Issue 5, Posted 3:50 PM, 11.05.2015