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Business Class: What would Emily Post do?

By Randall Kenneth Jones

Originally published in the Naples Daily News

Friday, January 24, 2014

Peggy Post is used to meeting nervous people.

After all, with the 1922 publication of the book, “Etiquette,” Emily Post—Peggy Post’s great-grandmother-in-law—would forever be known as the official matriarch of social conduct and the original figure identified in the Pop Culture catchphrase: “What would Emily Post do?”

Now, as spokesperson, author and Co-Director of The Emily Post Institute, Peggy Post has seen her life revolve around answering that very same question.

Though the words “manners” and “etiquette” may conjure up fears of omitting an obligatory “please” or inadvertently placing one’s elbows on the table, “nervous” is the last reaction Peggy Post wishes to elicit.

Emily PostEmily herself was an advocate for making people comfortable regardless of the situation.

Whether it’s in the family room or the boardroom, “It’s all about building relationships based upon trust and respect,” says Peggy Post.

Of course, so many have become “too busy” to appreciate the value of human contact, personal communication and relationships, so the road to—ahem, “not heaven”—may forever be paved with good intentions.

Following Emily’s death in 1960, the Post clan has expanded Emily’s unassailable brand into a vibrant family business that includes etiquette consulting, training, seminars and additional book titles including “The Etiquette Advantage in Business” co-authored by Peggy Post and Peter Post, her brother-in-law and co-director.

With help from a collection of Post descendants, Emily Post’s flagship publication, “Etiquette,” is currently in its 18th edition—92 years after its inaugural publication date.

Though Emily Post never lived in a world where business communication was conducted via a handheld electronic gizmo, according to Peggy Post, “One of keys to Emily’s success was that she kept up with the times.”

For those responsible for Emily Post’s legacy, of primary importance is remaining relevant and applying her core principles to today.

According to Emily, “Whenever two people come together and their behavior affects one another, you have etiquette.”

Of course, this timeless standard easily applies to face-to-face communication so shouldn’t it apply to a text message, tweet and email too?

As Peggy Post herself is quick to remind us: “There is a real human being at the other end of electronic messages—a person with feelings.”

In person, Peggy Post’s eyes light up as she shares her favorite Emily Post anecdotes; however, she has an impressive business and media footprint in her own right.

She is the author of more than a dozen etiquette books, and writes a monthly column in Good Housekeeping magazine and a bimonthly wedding etiquette column in The New York Times.

Her media appearances include Oprah, Dr. Phil, The View, Live with Regis and Kelly, TodayDateline, VH1, and CNN.

Plus, a very memorable 2004 Good Morning America appearance found Peggy Post bravely improvising etiquette scenarios opposite Robin Williams on live television.

Peggy Post from the Emily Post InstituteIn a recent email, Dr. Phil McGraw commented: “When I need an expert on manners, there’s one person I look to and that’s Peggy Post. Her books are must-reads for anyone looking to improve the way they conduct themselves in society. Peggy is down to earth, commonsensical and has a great way of delivering her message. She has also taught me a few things about manners, for which my wife Robin is forever grateful.”

While many superlatives can be used to describe Peggy Post—charming, smart, warm and witty—more than anything, she is disarmingly genuine and delightfully “normal.”

For business people, manners and etiquette may—or may not—be a part of daily routine.

When it comes to showcasing authenticity, Peggy Post wrote the book—or should consider doing so very soon.

After all, in the business world, a genuine spirit, positive relationships and workplace civility are goals that should never go out of style.

I am sure Emily would agree.

Randall Kenneth JonesMarketer, publicist, business humoristprofessional-courtesy advocate, branded-content writer, creative-development consultant, and entertaining motivational speaker Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of RediscoverCourtesy.org and the president of MindZoo, a marketing communications firm in Naples, Florida.

Photos: Randall Kenneth Jones and Peggy Post (top); Emily Post (center) — used by permission, The Emily Post Institute; Peggy Post (bottom) — used by permission, The Emily Post Institute.