Are being true to yourself and polite mutually exclusive? What should you do if the rules go against your grain? As is always the case, rules of etiquette are merely guidelines and not “written in stone”. Even the German doyen of etiquette, Baron Knigge, was actually more interested in making human interaction easier; something that can only happen if everyone feels comfortable.

We have sub-divided the fundamental differences into 4 “personalities”, illustrated by how they typically greet others. You may recognize yourself – or are you a combination?

  1. The Dynamic Personality
    They are pragmatic – direct, quick, do not think about things too deeply. If they want to walk through the door, then they will. Without stopping to consider if anyone else should go first. Is there a dress code? Fine – that means they won’t have to worry about what to wear.
    Typical greeting: A short “Hi” or a pithy “Sup”. They are in danger of overlooking others and should, at minimum, give a brief nod of the head.
  2. The Relaxed Personality
    Laid-back, lovable, fun. Who cares about the dress code? Their openness allows them to create a relaxed atmosphere and they are popular networkers. They are not afraid to make a blunder – their charm will always save the day. But a word of caution – too much youthful nonchalance can quickly result in your not being taken seriously.
    Typical greeting: Yes – you can also greet the mayor with a friendly “Hello” – but please don’t shout it across the room! Failure to remember this can result in a fast transformation from carefree soul to clumsy oaf.
  3. The Natural Personality
    Their strengths are authenticity and empathy. They wear what feels like fancy dress just because the dress code demands it. This personality places great value on cooperative relationships. One of their assets is being able to understand other people’s points of view. Their moral aspirations can, however, quickly, destroy the cozy atmosphere.
    Typical greeting: They prefer a “Good day” or a similar regional greeting. Using the other person’s name serves to additionally emphasize their attentive nature.
  4. The Traditional Personality
    The rational being. Clear rules, age, and hierarchy. They view going against the dress code not as an expression of personality but as plain bad manners. Their strength is their factual manner. They don’t say a lot, but when they do, they have something worth hearing.
    Typical greeting: They expect younger adults and children to greet them first. This can, however, sometimes mean that they forget that not everyone shares their view of the world. A friendly smile will encourage the other person to react.

If you have recognized yourself among these personalities, then this is an indication that you are already aware of your strengths and weaknesses. If, in addition to this, you stick to three basic rules, then you should be able to handle any situation:

  1. Be conscious of conventions. Rules provide orientation. What is ok? What will make my opposite number uncomfortable? To gauge the reactions of others correctly you must know the rules. If you are aware of the rules, then you will still be able to modify your behavior where appropriate.
  2. Know yourself. You may already have found yourself in the above-mentioned personalities. If you recognize your own stumbling blocks, then you can avoid them without too many problems – while staying true to yourself.
  3. Comment on any rule you break. If there is a good reason for breaking a rule, then everyone will be able to understand it. So be sure to comment on why you are the first to take off your jacket – because it’s very hot – or to start eating – because your food will get cold otherwise. It is possible that not everyone will agree with your actions, but at least they will know the reasons for them and not simply view them as a thoughtless blunder.