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The Short Version: People may think of etiquette as knowing how much to tip at a restaurant or holding the door for someone else. But Jodi RR Smith, Founder of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, wants people to expand their concept of manners. According to Jodi, etiquette involves rules for behavior that make both people involved in an interaction feel respected. Behaving well on a first date — or early in a new relationship — is important, which is why Jodi has so many single clients who turn to her for etiquette help.
A bride-to-be was struggling to develop a healthy relationship with her future mother-in-law. Her fiancé’s mother wanted to help her plan every aspect of her wedding, something the bride-to-be didn’t want.
At the same time, she didn’t know how to tell her soon-to-be mother-in-law not to be so pushy with wedding planning. She also had to navigate asking her future husband to stand up for her — something he hadn’t done so far.
The bride-to-be was conflicted, so she connected with Jodi RR Smith, the Founder of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, to discuss how to proceed.
“I encouraged her to take a step back. The wedding ceremony is the foundation for your relationship going forward. I asked her, ‘Ten years from now in your marriage, do you want to make your husband have every conversation with your mother-in-law?” Jodi said of the situation.
People may not think that solving an issue like that would fall into etiquette coaching, but Jodi suggests that the traditional definition of etiquette is limited. Manners are more than just knowing which fork to use or when to put your napkin in your lap. They are rules of behavior that make both parties involved in any interaction feel comfortable and respected.
Jodi encouraged the bride-to-be to make a compromise that would leave them both happy.
“I coached her through ways to include the mother-in-law in the wedding planning project. I helped her demonstrate a level of respect while having a difficult conversation,” Jodi said.
In the end, both the bride-to-be and mother-in-law were satisfied: The older woman planned parts of the wedding the younger woman wasn’t interested in. That set the tone for their relationship in the long term, which meant they could settle conflicts without the groom’s involvement.
Jodi helps her Mannersmith clients achieve results that affect many aspects of their lives, including making a good first impression on a date. That’s why singles frequently turn to her for advice and guidance as they navigate the modern dating scene.
Jodi said she didn’t start Mannersmith to help clients understand the etiquette of dating or interpersonal relationships, but she quickly discovered that her expertise in manners coaching translated to many different settings.
Before she founded Mannersmith in 1996, she worked in HR and noticed that many smart, kind people weren’t getting the promotions or raises they sought. That was typically because they lacked the interpersonal skills they needed to move up at work.
So Jodi developed a coaching program that focused on teaching etiquette skills for professionals. As she moved from company to company through her career, she was repeatedly asked to deliver the seminar.
“I was presenting so much I thought I should quit and start my own company,” Jodi told us.
That’s precisely what she did, and while she continues to offer coaching for professionals, she has expanded her offerings to help those struggling to navigate tricky situations in their dating and personal lives.
“The skills I was teaching people to use in the workplace were the same skills they could use at home. If you have to have a difficult conversation with a coworker, for instance, those are the same skills you’d use to talk to your significant other,” Jodi said.
In the dating world, Jodi gives her clients advice about how they can present their best selves to a date. According to Jodi, when you first start dating someone, you don’t want your potential partner to focus on a bad habit you have and decide they’re not interested in a second date.
“You always want to be your best self, so you have more options. There’s something to be said about getting dressed up and chewing with your mouth shut. You want to make sure you like the person before dealing with their foibles,” said Jodi.
Jodi and her partner Marianne Cohen also offer one-on-one coaching to those struggling to present themselves well in dating situations. They believe that etiquette isn’t just necessary in certain circumstances, but should be practiced all the time.
“Whenever you’re trying to have an interaction with another human being, you need to have these skills,” Jodi said.
That philosophy explains why Jodi has developed so many materials to help people present themselves well.
Those having trouble with interpersonal interactions could take the Personal Protocol Seminar, designed to improve specific skills. Others may want to sign up for “The Art of Gracious Dining” or “Seven Savvy Secrets for Personal Polish.” Both seminars are only a few hours long and can offer participants an edge in interacting with new co-workers or romantic interests.
People can also search the website’s database of articles for specific etiquette tips, including those relating to the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Jodi has been offering advice about navigating difficult situations during this unique time. Her articles include, “The Etiquette Of Social Distancing: How To Deal With 5 Common Scenarios” and “How to Navigate the World of Online Conference Calls, Meetings During Working, and Studying Remotely.”
She has also published books that discuss the most common etiquette mistakes both men and women make, and one focused on general missteps. The first two books are “From Clueless to Class Act: Manners for the Modern Man” and “From Clueless to Class Act: Manners for the Modern Woman.” Her comprehensive manners book is titled, “The Etiquette Book: A Complete Guide to Modern Manners.”
If readers can’t find the answer they need, Jodi will answer their questions via email.
“You can download the articles for free and ask me questions for free. I’ll give you some suggestions about how to solve your problem,” Jodi said.
During this time of social distancing, when most people aren’t actively dating in person, Jodi suggests that singles rethink their habits. For instance, she said she thinks that most people are overusing dating apps and texting tools to get to know potential partners.
“Those tools are there to get you to the date; they’re not the date itself. Those factors might not be there when you meet in person,” Jodi said.
She also suggests singles consider what they want from dating. Do they want to have fun or find a long-term partner?
“Knowing that goal will direct your behavior. The same things that satisfy your hormones are not the same things that make a long-term relationship,” Jodi said.
Perhaps what stands out most about Jodi’s advice is that it doesn’t sound like traditional manners. Instead, she offers relevant, timely suggestions for behaving well. That’s what Jodi said she most wants to convey about her profession: Manners are not stuffy or old-fashioned. Instead, they are continually evolving rules to make living in society easier for everyone.
“Etiquette is about providing guidelines, so we actually enjoy interpersonal interactions. These are all things that make interacting with each other more pleasant,” Jodi said.
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