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William joined The English Manner in 2008 before taking ownership in 2019. He is widely regarded as the freshest and most trusted authority on etiquette and civility, with his relative youth and old-fashioned values making him an arbiter of modern manners.

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Published

22 May 2023

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‘Manners’, ‘etiquette’ and ‘protocol’ are three words with similar connotations but actually are somewhat different. It is important to know what each means. When I teach the rules of etiquette, I often begin each class by asking the participants what they think is the difference, or whether they mean the same thing.

Manners

Manners are the guiding principles of putting people at their ease, not embarrassing others, and generally putting yourself second. Good manners are self-less, not self-ish.  All cultures around the globe believe in the importance of good manners.

Etiquette

Etiquette is a set of rules by which a society lives. How you become well-mannered is (nine times out of ten) by following the rules of etiquette. There are times when the rules will not be appropriate when actually the politest thing to do is to do quite the opposite as to what the rulebook says… but more often than not, the correct etiquette is exactly that – correct!

The example I like to give during my etiquette classes and trainings is the difference between most countries and Japan. In the UK, for example, if I had a cold and needed to blow my nose, the polite thing to do would be to turn away from my company, blow my nose into a tissue or handkerchief, and then turn back.  Whereas in Japan, traditional etiquette tells people to sniff and not to blow their noses in front of anyone. Sniffing in most countries would be really annoying, but in Japan, it is seen as very respectful as you are keeping the bodily mucus inside you and not expelling it in the presence of others. 

Protocol

Protocol is a heightened form of etiquette, often used for royal, diplomatic and state events. It is a series of official and accepted procedures designed to help manage relationships. Many of the rules of modern protocol were agreed upon during international conferences and conventions, such as the Congress of Vienna and the Treaty of Versailles. Protocol can also be widely used in corporate settings, especially when conducting official business overseas with different cultures where hierarchies are more important. 

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