Mrs Janet Adetu is the leading authority on the issue of Etiquette in Nigeria. She is a Certified Executive, High Performance & Etiquette Coach. So good is she that she has become the most sought-after motivational speaker of choice.
A few days ago, she was a guest on City People Instagram Live Chats and she spoke about etiquette issues and why we all must pay attention to it, that is, how to cope and adjust to the New Normal (new way of life).
Below are excerpts of the Live Chat.
Why is it important for people to pay attention to Etiquette issues?
It’s really important. You know a lot of people don’t really understand that word Etiquette and I want to put in a lay man’s perspective. Etiquette is all about your personal development. So, whether you are a CEO or an Entrepreneur or an individual, everybody must try to develop themselves.
Don’t stick only to what you have learnt in school, start thinking of other things you can do to make your life better. You run a business, how can you make that business better? You need to improve yourself, not just the business.
So, it’s about personal development and there are three things you must always resonate Etiquette with. A, b, c; you parents, your behaviour and the way you communicate. Those are the easiest ways to remember what Etiquette is all about.
Your Dress sense, for instance, we’re not asking you to overdress, but dress appropriately for wherever you’re going.
Behaviour is always important. You might be at a place where you think nobody knows you and the person is at a distance watching you. Don’t wear good behaviour in the morning and take it off in the night. Anywhere you are, anywhere you go, you have to conduct yourself in the best way possible.
And of course, when it comes to Communication as well, you must learn how to talk, how to talk on the phone, your body language as well is a form of communication. Do you shout, do you insult, do you abuse people? How do you pick up the phone, how do you talk to people?
All of that is really what Etiquette is all about. And if you’re looking for promotion, if you’re looking for people to buy your goods and services, you really need to be Etiquette savvy.
Behaviour is key. Appearance is key. Then Communication too is also your voice. On the telephone, how do you come across to people? These things matter. They make a big difference, right? So, when I say communication, it’s about your verbal communication with your voice, it’s about your virtual communication, how do you communicate over the computer, over the internet. It’s about your non verbal.
We can say so much without saying a single word by our actions. So, what are we saying by our actions? You know how to tell someone to keep quiet without using your mouth to say it, all you use is place your finger over your mouth. So, all these things are really important about appearance, behavior and communication. There are some other things.
If for instance I wanted to talk about D and E I would talk about Dining. How do you dine? Do you eat with all your mouth? And the E is about your existence, your presence. When you walk into a room, do you command respect or do people just ignore you? So, etiquette is really important.
It’s about your personal development and how you want people to perceive you. For instance, you’re running for president or something and you hear people say, I can’t go for that person, he doesn’t have the charisma. That’s how important these things are. And that is what we’re talking about. How do you come across to people?
When you’re outside, when you’re at home, when you’re with family, with your associations, with your group, with the society, with the world in general, how do you represent? So, that is very important. It creates trust. It creates respect. It creates integrity.
It’s all about everything to do with your character and your attitude. Imagine if you’re going out to represent Nigeria and you go and misbehave, what does that speak of you? You’re not speaking about yourself alone, you’re speaking about your nation as well. So, all of that matters,, if you understand what I’m trying to say about everything put together.
How have you found the response from people over the years because I know you’ve been doing this for about five years now…
No, 10 years, since 2010, all the way from my days in Nairobi, Kenya.
When I started in Nairobi, Kenya, you know they are very into blue collar jobs, they’re not that entrepreneurial, so they received it extremely well because they felt that was the beginning of their promotion and that they need in order to get promoted.
Coming to Nigeria, initially, it was a new terminology. A lot of people were wondering what is all this, is this about trying to be what you’re not? But you know, a lot of companies and a lot of people have come to realize how important it is. And now they realize that if there is stiff competition out there, how do you stand out from the crowd? How do you distinguish yourself from the amateurs and the professionals? What is it that you’re going to do differently that will make people want to buy from you?
Now, the reception is alarming. They are now seeing the importance of it, they are now doing a lot of training regarding it and it’s something they feel that would distinguish them as an organisation or as an individual from the rest of the world. Now, they’re taking it very seriously. And guess what, you don’t need to go to the university to know how to be etiquette savvy. You don’t even need a first class or second class degree, if you behave well, people will perceive you as that.
And I must say one thing, Manners cost you nothing, but the absence of manners can cost you millions. You’re selling something and somebody walks into your shop and you don’t greet that person and somebody wants to buy a car from your showroom and you don’t have the decency to greet that person.
The person would feel a little slighted, he would walk out of your office or showroom and go to your next door neighbor who is your competition, and you lose millions just by not saying a simple hello. And that’s how easy it is to bridge etiquette by simple acts.
Sometimes you don’t even know when you have stepped on someone’s toes. It’s important to know that little things like that make the big difference. Like hello, good morning, good afternoon, I’m sorry, you’re welcome, how can I help you? Little things like that make a big difference.
There was a research done in the UK. If you’re familiar with MacDonalds, where they sell fast food. They said they made about eighty-something billion dollars just by their attendants saying, ‘Welcome to MacDonalds. Thank you for coming to MacDonald.’ People felt welcomed. People felt recognized.
The customer wants care and that alone makes people keep coming back. I’m happy to say that some banks and eateries in Nigeria at some point also realized the importance and imbibed that. You hear them say welcome. You hear the security guard say welcome and the staff saying ‘thank you for banking with us. And that really does help. It’s a big deal.
As you move around town and you attend events and all of that, do you often get worried when you see the attitude and behavior of some very important people the way they behave and how do you react when you see such?
Yeah, of course, I see it all the time and I’ve realised that many people are not even aware when they’ve bridged etiquette because it’s become a norm, it’s become something they’re so used to. It has even become a habit. But now, some people who consider it important are taking it up.
For instance, not long ago, the first lady had a workshop for wives of government officials and I was the first speaker because they felt Etiquette was the first thing that we should talk about. It was a fantastic workshop and they are now realizing how important it is for the wives to understand these things. Because they are in the public eye and they’re representing, they realized that this is an area that they must address.
For us women, we don’t have an excuse not to be polite. We don’t have an excuse not to Etiquette savvy. So, when I go round, I see these things. And to be honest with you, when I see it in a place where I can correct it, I always correct it. I find that a lot of people see what is wrong and they walk away.
So, even when you see your children, the youths, doing something wrong, its our duty as adults to correct them. If you don’t correct them now, they’ll grow up into adults and it will be part of them. So, what this means is that you don’t just correct your own children, correct other children and also those people looking up to you because you’re their mentor.
You may not even know it but you’re mentoring many from a distance. How? They’re watching your behavior, they’re watching how you do things, they’re watching how you conduct yourself and they’re copying you. So, you must correct when you see people doing things wrong, even if they don’t receive it well or they feel like what’s your business, just do the right thing. If we can be a society where we do the right thing and we follow laid down rules and regulations, our society will be a fantastic place to live in, that’s the way I see it.
Now we all have to live with the New Normal, what’s your advice to Nigerians as they watch and listen to you at this time?
Oh, there are so many ‘New normals’ and I want to say that the one that is really here to stay is what we’re doing now – Virtual Communication. We are having a one on one meeting and it’s Virtual.
So, virtual meetings, virtual parties, virtual get-together and gatherings are here to stay. You could see during the lockdown the number of birthday, weddings, meetings that were virtual. Naming ceremonies, formal meetings, association meetings, everything was virtual. And I would like to say this, for those who were saying I don’t like this Zoom thing, what is this Zoom or Google meet all about? Listen, they are all here to say.
And I have some tips for you. Remember, whether you’re using your phone or your computer for your zoom meeting, get ready. I know a lot of people are still trying to figure out. So, the first thing is, they will send you a link. Log onto the link. Yes, indeed, we don’t have control over the internet, we have spent so many minutes trying to connect today for this interview, don’t worry, don’t get frustrated, it will work.
Make sure you get the link before the day not when its time and you’re looking for the link and you’re looking for the pass word or the pass code. Get the link as soon as you register for that event and take a note and put it down. Write it down somewhere, not that you’ll start looking for it when you need it.
Then make sure you try to have as good an internet as you can possibly get. And make sure you have data, that’s number one. So, once you have good internet and data on your phone, you’re good to go. But the thing is this, try to test everything on your phone and make sure it’s okay. But even at that, try to make sure that when you’re having that important meeting find a quiet place.
The last thing we want is to hear so much noise in your background you. Find a nice quiet even if it’s just for 30 minutes or one hour. A lot of people just pick up the phone and sit somewhere and before you know it we’re hearing conversations, you’re hearing dogs barking and you’re also disturbing other people.
Then, please try to come on time. A lot of people feel because its virtual it’s okay to come late for a meeting or a training. Why do you want to come late? Absolutely not. Another thing is that you must stay somewhere that’s properly lit. We have seen people who are in a really dark place and somehow we can’t see their faces, we don’t really want that.
We want to be able to see the person’s face. Now, if you’re still busy in the kitchen or busy dressing up and you’re not ready for the meeting, keep your video off. If you connect, keep your video off, until you’re ready don’t put your video on. Once you put your video on, get seated so we can see your face. We don’ want to see half of your face, we want to see your full face.
And please dress appropriately. Don’t say because it’s a virtual meeting so you can just put on something shabby. And please don’t wear something that has too many stripes or too many poker dots. Don’t wear something that is too tight that could make you become uncomfortable and don’t wear something that is too flashy. Have a nice decent hairstyle.
For the men, make sure you’re well groomed because we can see everything when we spotlight you. Another thing is that you do not have to set your phone so far away from you and then we begin to see so many things in the background like your untidy kitchen, we don’t want to see all of that.
Also, we don’t want to see a blank screen, we want to see you. And for some people, when they have a blank screen, they put Galaxy 9, Galaxy S10. Please change it and put your name there. That’s Etiquette. And in addition to putting your name, put a nice picture so that when you’re off the screen we can see something nice.
Then there’s also the issue of distraction. Some people are in a training and they are busy on their phone. And please keep your mic off and when it’s time for you to speak you can put it off. That way, we won’t be hearing all sorts of noise or arguments going on in your background.