Interview: Essential Etiquette Tips From Downton Abbey

Who doesn’t wish they were transported back in time to 1924 and were part of the social circles of Downton Abbey?

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Celebrating the release of season 5 on DVD and Blu-ray, we have enlisted the help of Sydney School of Protocol expert Julie Lamberg-Burnet to give our readers a little insight into how important etiquette still is in 2015, with a few tips included on how to gain confidence and credibility through a myriad of short courses on offer.

How important are etiquette skills in this day and age?

Etiquette and protocols have not changed for many centuries – it is the landscape that has changed – across communications, the competitive job market and relationship building people want to know how to act and behave appropriately in a range of business, personal and cultural settings. Modern etiquette is about respect for people. In today’s world this is reflected in how adaptable we are in the way we interact with people, their circumstances and situations.

Could you briefly outline the curriculum the Sydney School of Protocol teaches?

Protocol and etiquette provide us with life enhancing skills we see as crucial at every stage of our lives. Our programs are tailored to each individuals needs through work, life, study. The majority of our clients are individuals and corporate businesses with a focus on developing soft skills to enhance their personal and business brands.

Programs include Women in Front and Outclass the Competition  a series of mastery sessions for men and women to enhance their image and presentation, build their personal brand and develop effective communication skills and tools for success. Suited to clients who wish to advance their careers, those preparing to step into the workplace after a period of time and those entering the workplace.

One of the most popular programs is Dine Like a Diplomat – an interactive, fun session which businesses and universities invest in as a team building program focused on business etiquette and international protocol. Or as parents investing time with their children to learn about manners, social etiquette and dining in a modern context.

Is there a way to modernise etiquette skills for all situations?

Nowadays we experience a myriad of challenges in our fast paced world with multicultural dynamics; a variety of communication channels through which we interact and connect with each other. From a modern etiquette perspective it is knowing what is appropriate, when.

While in the interactions in Downton Abbey, set in an Edwardian period, reflected a stiffer formality than today, the fundamentals of etiquette remain much the same. Situations and events affecting the lives at Downton Abbey in the 1900s reflect many modern day themes: constant change, the building of business and social relationships around the dining table, courtesy and respect with the servants and the power of influence and exercising power.

For example, we use a variety of communication channels today which highlight how we portray ourselves – our personal brand. For example, email etiquette: do we endeavour to respond within 24 hours, even to acknowledge the email? When do we send a thank you note to our host and which channel do we use?

What are some of the most challenging parts of teaching these skills?

People tend to fall back onto their habits and comfort zones, particularly in stressful situations. As the majority of our clients come with the desire and commitment to enhance their confidence and change something within themselves, it is most satisfying to observe the transformation that takes place.

A commitment to practice the skills in various settings makes a world of difference. For example, a client in an accountant management role, who lacked confidence in speaking English – although highly qualified – had to pluck up the courage each day to make conversations within his workplace. After gaining new skills and practicing in various situations he was delighted with the response from his colleagues, who then engaged him in social conversation.

How important is etiquette in regards to advancing your career?

Very important. Being self-aware and knowing what to do and when and how, is extremely important to advance in your career. Only then can one build progress. For success in a competitive world ‘people skills’ are key to gaining confidence, credibility and a point of difference. Most business deals and discussions today take place in social environments – over the dining table, networking, through digital channels. A polished and confident presentation will generally outclass academic and technical qualifications.

Finally, who can partake in these classes?

The Sydney School of Protocol program suite caters for everyone from teens, graduates to corporates and CEOs. Both private coaching and group sessions are tailored to suit the needs of the individuals and business.

Interview: Etiquette Tips From Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey Season 5, now available to own on DVD and Blu-ray