An Interview With Deborah King, AICI, CIP
By Catherine Schuller
For many of my fellow readers, we have gone through and continue to go through many permutations and transformations over the past few years. But, one thing remains constant: my need to communicate, support and encourage women as we make our way on our mutual gender journey.
This past summer, twenty fellow image consultants from the organization AICI (Association of Image Consultants International) of which I am a professional member got together and decided to co-author a “group book.” With each of us being expert in our particular fields under the umbrella of image consulting, we divided up the chapters amongst us and off we went to write, edit and publish “IMAGE POWER: Everything you Need to Look Your Best.” For the first time in 20 years, I was not asked to do the chapter on plus size! Rather, with my work centering on diabetes and my newfound charity association as Image and Style Director of DIVABETIC, I gave voice to how image impacts healthy self-care with my ‘Don’t Get Down, Get Diva’ chapter. The book-writing project also enabled me to interface with other image consultants and learn about their various interests and specialties. One of the authors, Deborah King, President of Final Touch Finishing School, Inc., is an etiquette expert and through her I was delighted to be reawakened to the joys of etiquette and the importance of civility, gentility, manners and the importance of good “social skills.”
It dawned on me that plus models might be interested in eavesdropping on an interview I did with Deborah as her chapter on Etiquette is fascinating and a good reminder of what it takes to be in control not only of one’s appearance but social behavior.
Catherine: Why is etiquette important? Why did it get such a bad name over the past few decades? Was it always important even though we didn’t care to teach or stress its significance?
Deborah: Etiquette deals with fundamental rules of social interaction. When a person understands these rules, they enjoy a greater level of confidence and are able to move from informal to formal situations with ease. Many think etiquette is boring, dated and stiff, and in truth, nothing could be further from the truth.
The rules, or guidelines, of etiquette provide the map for living with civility. Those who embrace civility discover a greater level of emotional, relational and physical health. As our society continues to change, so does etiquette. Since about the 70’s we have seen a relaxed attitude toward etiquette and this has left many not knowing many basic fundamentals of social skills. The interesting thing is, that no one tells you when you flunk social skills; you simply lose opportunities. Good manners will open doors to you that money, position, power, an Ivy League education, any prejudice dress size ever will.
Catherine: Why is etiquette and manners experiencing a resurgence of interest?
Deborah: Rude behavior has left our society frustrated and fatigued. Although no one wants to return to rigid rules of etiquette, most people would like to see a greater demonstration of civility.
Catherine: You’re so right. I just notice how I don’t even like someone if they don’t know how to relate and honor a fellow human being. As my mother used to say, “Children, what does it take to be nice?” It takes a person who knows how to follow the Golden Rule of do unto others, that’s what I think!!
Deborah: You hit on a key benefit. A certain mannered grace shows intelligence and friendliness, cooperation and a generosity of spirit.
Catherine: That brings up a good point — how many aspects of life does etiquette influence?
Deborah: Etiquette touches every aspect of life. Possessing a working knowledge of etiquette helps us in everyday situations. When in the mall, we know to stand to the right on the escalator so others may pass on the left; in the office, we know the value of greeting coworkers daily with a smile and hello; around the dinner table, we know which drink is ours and that food is passed to the right. Armed with this knowledge, we are part of making the world a more pleasant place to which to live.
Catherine: Where in daily life or one’s routine does etiquette seen to be lacking the most?
Deborah: Technology is one area people seem to lack basic etiquette. The ease and speed at which we can connect through technology is ripe for miscommunication. Making calls or text messaging when with others sends a clear message that they are not valued. Emails lacking good form, full of emoticons and abbreviations, void of a signature line, and carrying a tone that may be perceived as rude, are sent every day. In the rush to hit the send button, many do not think of the impression they are leaving with the receiver.
Catherine: How do you feel the current economic crisis will affect etiquette and protocol? Doesn’t frustration and anxiety make us tense and self-absorbed?
Deborah: More than ever we must embrace civility and have a working knowledge of etiquette, especially in the workplace. Most people invest a great deal to develop their technical expertise and almost nothing on developing social skills. Good manners enable us to build bridges to others – not barriers – and we all look for opportunities to do business with those we like. Many homes have set aside the family dinner table in favor of drive through restaurants so they could save a few minutes as they rushed to another event. Eating dinner out of a paper bag in the car has left us a nation overfed, malnourished and unsatisfied. The benefits of gathering around the family dinner table have been sacrificed for sports, meetings, and other special events. I am hopeful that families will once again experience the joy of creating a nutritious meal, the beauty of setting the table, and the connection relaxed conversation builds. You don’t need to be an accomplished chef, although I would love it if I were, to make a healthy meal. Ask friends what they make for dinner and learn from them. Check online or pull out your old cookbooks. Set the table, dim the lights, light some candles, play music, and take a few minutes to connect with those you love. No one ever regrets time spent in this manner.
Catherine: Oh, good…. that’s great…how about some other examples? What things would you say a person should always do in order to practice good etiquette?
Deborah: Civil people value all people. Smiling, making eye contact, greeting others, extending a warm and sincere handshake, being a good listener, valuing another point of view – even when you disagree, saying please and thank you, replying to phone calls and emails in a timely manner, letting your host know if you will be attending an event, and sending thank you notes, are all small, but powerful ways of demonstrating you value another person.
Catherine: Does the current president’s platform of “change” tie in with something as traditional and classic as etiquette?
Deborah: Just as society is changing, so are the rules of etiquette and, for them to be useful, they must address the real life situations we are faced with each day. Etiquette exists to guide us all in a more civil lifestyle. As a global community, we must embrace the timeless values of respect, restraint and responsibility. Living life in a posture of kindness and respect for those we meet, whether in the boardroom, the classroom, or the bedroom, is essential to peace and goodwill. Cultural differences will be seen in the small details of life, like presenting a business card, specific dining techniques, or gift giving. Even if one does not know what is correct within another culture, if they will demonstrate a respectful attitude they will be well received.
Catherine: We just finished our self-published, co-authored book IMAGE POWER and I think between my chapter on how image impacts healthy self care and your chapter on etiquette, we are starting to emphasize things that really impact quality of life. If we take good care of ourselves and our appearance is pleasing to others, and ourselves, we will treat ourselves, and each other with greater honor and kindness and allow our soul and spirit to be reflected in all of our daily activities, be they inward driven or outwardly motivated. The best thing is that these two topics do not cost anything to incorporate into one’s life. Try practicing random acts of kindness and take a little effort to do our makeup and hair and put on some clothing to adorn and express our inner beauty. The world will be a better place and all of our individual efforts to push for a “change” that our new president so enthusiastically inspired during his campaign and inauguration.
The best thing about new civility is that it will allow for greater receptivity between people and this is a wonderful by product we can achieve within our own circle of family, friends and acquaintances. I have a little exercise I practice while I walk down the streets of bustling Manhattan. I look at people and as they pass me by I say to myself “I wish you well.” Try it – it’s an amazing exercise and very enlightening and freeing. I learned that from Richard Gere and the Dali Lama during his last talk in Central Park a few years ago.
Deborah: Well, that’s fantastic. And where would we be without affirming our experiences as we go thru life, too. So, in the spirit of all this, I’d truly like to take the time to say Thank you for your time and insight. This has been a terrific interview on a subject I value more and more as time goes on. It was great working on the book with you as well. I hope your book sales are brisk!
Catherine: It has been my absolute pleasure. I must say that dealing with someone of your caliber who respects etiquette to such a great degree has been a delight. You answered all my phone calls within a day, you apologized for late email replies and you spent quality time with me on the phone when we did have a chance to finally connect! You walk the walk, Deborah! I hope your book sales are through the roof, too! Your success is my success!