Social Etiquette in times of social distancing

The collective fear induced by the COVID-19 compelled human beings to concentrate on the essential parts of life and cast all “superfluous concerns” aside.
by Perla Kantarjian

26 May 2020 | 16:42

Source: by Annahar

  • by Perla Kantarjian
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 26 May 2020 | 16:42

Photo shows a woman engaged in an online conference call. (AP Photo)

BEIRUT: The COVID-19 pandemic has warped many of the components falling under the umbrella of human communication. In an interview with Annahar, Anne Debard, international etiquette and savoir vivre expert, discusses ways to retain poise, good manners, and elegance, both in familial and work-related environments, in times of a global crisis.

Ever since the emergence of the novel coronavirus in the December of 2019, affected countries began implementing measures that distanced human beings from each other, pegging many of the traditional customs in physical human contact venturesome.

“For the people confined to their homes, there is no longer the need to get prepared and dressed for social, familial, or business outings, nor the need to catch up with the rush of life,” Debard, who believes social and professional exchanges seem to currently be “in a state of paralysis,” told Annahar.

The collective fear induced by the COVID-19 compelled human beings to concentrate on the essential parts of life and cast all “superfluous concerns” aside.

“However, I would say that both etiquette and good manners are now, more than ever, very crucial for personal and professional relationships,” Debard said, as today, we are all in a transitional phase, attempting to cope with the repercussions of the pandemic, while simultaneously managing our familial, professional, and social lives.

Debard explained that daily life has become more relaxed and far-off the customary codes of polite behavior in society, and that the pandemic has led to the dwindling of the etiquette customs, which “anyway, modern lifestyle had facilitated” to some extent, such as the art of table etiquette.

Still, when the pandemic ceases to be, etiquette codes will always preserve their importance and not peter out, Debard believes, as that would lead to a chaotic and anarchical society having lost all forms of respect and structure.

“Adopting etiquette codes in social and professional situations reflects a form of respect and guarantees a smooth sequence of social interactions, essential for the welfare of any society,” she said.

Nowadays, meetings, conferences, classes, and even social gatherings are taking place online, and only less than half of society is physically stepping out of the comfort of their homes. Nevertheless, grooming one’s environment, both the somatic and the surrounding, should always be considered.

“Even while working from home, we must respect the Business Etiquette codes which conduct social behaviour in professional environments,” Debard advised.

“Before activating the webcam, we must take care of our physical appearances and get ready for work as we would have done before the lockdown,” Debard said. “Additionally, we must remember to organize the background behind us- the tidier the background, the more professionalism in presentation.”

A few of her other tips include to control and decrease the surrounding noises, to place the computer or the device on a supporting platform so the camera is at the facial level as opposed to filming from the bottom, which affects a tired expression, and to remember that professionalism goes on even from behind a camera.

As for personal attire, Debard highly encourages maintaining a clean and smart look, which is always appreciated. “Feeling at ease in the ‘pyjama look’ is such a good feeling,” she said, “However, we must not succumb to the comfort it provides us and instead, try to also look after our image, as a form of respect to ourselves and the people we share a home with.”

Nevertheless, despite its crucial importance, physical appearance is not the only requisite to embody elegance, which Debard defines as also “a positive component of human relations.”

“The elements of elegance are simplicity, harmony, and grace,” she said. “We can maintain elegance in our living environments by being aware of our selection of words, our speaking tone, our gestures, and by practicing acts of friendliness, care, and respect with our circle.”

In ways to develop crisis-induced stress control, Debard advises to “use this time to strengthen familial relations and finally do what we always used to postpone doing, such as sorting our wardrobes, tidying our spaces, and communicating with old acquaintances.”


She also recommends making the effort to gain new knowledge, join webinars, meet new people, and explore all the communication opportunities social networks can offer.

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Anne Debard is founder of both “Etiquette à la Française” and “AD Excellence”. After launching her career in the upscale hospitality industry in Monaco and at the international level, Debard turned to consultancy and training specialized in the luxury sector. Her specialty is rooted in training service excellence, luxury codes, etiquette, soft-skills and savoir vivre, fine dining, international clientele knowledge, and intergenerational interaction. Apart from giving seminars and holding conferences at top ranking higher education establishments, she has authored numerous articles published in the “Journal Des Palaces.” She also chairs the “CIEEF” (International Circle of Experts in French Etiquette).

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