The Etiquette for Breaching Social Protocols


Telling people you are an ‘etiquette consultant’ can be a pretty vulnerable task. As with sharing any passion turned to profession, it comes with the risk of exposing the competent self you show the world with the insecurities you keep hidden within.

I try to break down my lessons in a way that I hope gives individuals a better understanding of the science of civility in order to give them the autonomy to make or break their own rules of etiquette.

Teaching this type of progressive curriculum in a town known for its historical nostalgia can come with its unique challenges. What sustains the work I love, is loving those with whom I work with.

Whether I’m consulting with a former inmate who is practicing for his first interview in 15 years or coaching a graduate student interviewing with a fortune 500 company, I believe the key to success is in the hands of those willing to competently negate certain rules in order to confidently build new relationships.

Below are three examples of situations that I think self-awareness, compassion and kindness can be subjectively measured given our own personal boundaries and limitations.

Smiling in Public

Smiling is one of the most important tools in making a good first impression. Not only does a smile make us appear more attractive and trustworthy, but science has proven that smiling releases endorphins and cortisol acting as our bodies natural pain killer helping us to feel more happy and less anxious. But not every person or place demands such warmth. If you chose to appear less approachable because you are either lost in a deep thought or simply not wanting to be approached, that is your prerogative… not someone else’s pleasure in correcting.

Responding to every social media message

I was traveling out of state last month to teach an etiquette class, when my online dating profile populated on an old acquaintance’s bumble app. He kindly reached out and after a week of no response from me, followed up with an aggressive PSA letting me know that “as an etiquette consultant I should have better manners.”

Choosing to use public resources e.g. twitter, facebook, dating apps, blogs, etc. to broaden our personal or professional reach, comes with additional responsibility. Try to stay accountable, but don’t let others make you feel liable for accidental miscalculations or intentional oversights.

Staying civil with Exes

In a small town we are taught the importance of not burning bridges. But sometimes, the bridge to Ex Island should be lit with explosives to be sure it is not only burned down, but completely demolished never to be mistakenly crossed during inevitable moments of weaknesses. Taking the high road might save face for some, but once the dust settles, aren’t we scared either way? The choice to arson the paths to those not worthy of our love can be as cathartic as it is compassionate for everyone consequently entangled in a former lover’s affair.

Teaching civility makes me no more a modern Emily Post then getting married makes someone a good spouse. Sure, we hope that our doctors eat healthy and our lawyers practice moral justice, but there comes a time when personal preferences will outweigh professional protocol and I think it is trusting ourselves and our intuition that will ultimately light the paths within our own civil boundaries.



About Aly Murphy

Aly Murphy is an international etiquette consultant based in Charleston, SC. She previously lived in Manhattan while she studied the history, social psychology and neuroscience...

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