maryanne parker - etiquette engagement - digital expression by becki freed

Today’s Rules of Engagement – A Q&A with Etiquette Expert Maryanne Parker

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International business and social etiquette expert Maryanne Parker has been teaching the timeless practice of etiquette in the boardroom, ballroom, and classroom for nearly a decade. She is the founder of Manor of Manners, an etiquette consulting business which provides its clients with the confidence, skills, self-awareness, and knowledge that will help equip them to reach their professional and personal goals, using proven methods for easy learning. Manor of Manners specializes in engaging public speaking arrangements, elite coaching, and certification programs tailored to the client’s needs.

In addition, Maryanne is the author of two number one international bestselling books The Sharpest Soft Skill (about business etiquette) and Posh Overnight (about social etiquette). Both books are available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle editions. The Sharpest Soft Skill pinpoints the importance of soft skills, poise, elegance, and sophistication in corporate success. Posh Overnight is a contemporary guide adjusted to the constantly evolving world of etiquette, beginning from the days of Louis XIV of France down to modern day manners of the 21st Century.

Maryanne is certified by the Protocol School of Washington which trains the White House and the Pentagon, the International School of Protocol and Diplomacy in Brussels, and Minding Manners in London. She frequently speaks on the topic of etiquette and recently spoke at entrepreneurial conferences held at the US Military Academy West Point, Harvard Club of Boston, and NASDAQ.

In her free time, Maryanne is involved with the Professional Women Group of Dress for Success, San Diego, which helps underprivileged women gain financial independence and self-sufficiency. She inspires women with the message that you do not need money to have class, while sharing etiquette tips on style, dressing for job interviews, and more.

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maryanne parker 2 - etiquette expert - digital expressions by becki freedMaryanne Parker; Digital Expressions by Becki Freed

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1. How and when did you first realize you wanted to work in your current industry?

From a young age, I was amused by the refined lifestyle of aristocratic families. Also—like many young girls—I wanted to be a princess. Of course, my mother explained to me that this would never be possible…I was  told to have realistic “dreams” and so I became an accountant. The corporate world became my playground. After working in several big companies—not only in corporate America but in my birth country Bulgaria and other countries—I realized that our soft skills are even more important than our college degrees, because many of us have degrees, but how we present ourselves and how people perceive us is actually the “enchanted”  key to succeeding in the corporate world.

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2. How would you describe your personal style?

I am warm, enthusiastic about life, and very positive, because I choose to entertain only the good energy which comes our way. In terms of dress code, I like stilettos, scarfs, and elegant ensembles. My favorite color is blue, in any shade. I highly recommend navy blue for business. Not only because it looks stylish and polished, but also because the color blue exudes trustworthiness and accomplishment.

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3. What is a typical day in your life like?

My typical day starts with a cup of coffee, or two. Coffee is my daily ritual! This is followed  by  a particular meditation technique which helps me to focus for the day. I am extremely busy because I have two teenage children, both with their own schedules, and I create my schedule around theirs. But being busy keeps me very organized. I have many speaking engagements, classes and certification programs. I do travel quite a bit, because I believe in the 21st Century, we need to be ready to explore different horizons. The world is our oyster, not just the city we live in.

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4. What are three never-miss events on your calendar?

Besides my children’s birthdays? I attend several charity events annually and one of them is Miracle Babies Annual Gala. I also like to attend La Jolla International Film Festival.

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5. What are your three favorite locations in the city you reside in?

Favorite locations in San Diego – one of them is Coronado Island, I go there pretty often. It is a beautiful environment and nice for a Sunday walk. We are very privileged to have beautiful weather throughout the year in California. Also, I love Balboa Park with its many museums and art galleries. And of course – La Jolla. If you love animals, you will be able to see the seals and the sea lions lounging unbothered 24/7.

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Manor of Manners / YouTube.com

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6. What are your three favorite restaurants and three favorite bars?

Unfortunately, I cannot suggest any bars because I do not go to bars. My life as a single parent took a very different turn 15 years ago and I didn’t have an opportunity to explore the bar scene. Regarding restaurants – I absolutely love Mexican food and have several favorites. One of them is Karina’s Mexican Seafood (Mexican and seafood is my favorite combination). For Middle Eastern food – Restaurant Kous Kous in Hillcrest, and a small Russian restaurant called the Village House Kalina. These are the places in my city. I also love my traditional Bulgarian cuisine, but unfortunately, we do not have a Bulgarian restaurant in San Diego.

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7. Name your go-to:  

a. Outfit: I have a few dresses from L.K. Bennett – very simple but extremely elegant and stylish.

b. Fragrance: Alien – Thierry Mugler

c. Movie: Forrest Gump

d. Book: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

e. TV show: Friends

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8. Name your favorite vacation spot, and the hotel you stay at while there. What makes these spots special?

I do travel a lot and one of my favorite places is Freeport, the Bahamas. I stayed at my very good friend and business partner’s house. In terms of hotels, I really enjoyed the high level of hospitality in Dubai. For example, Jumeirah Emirates Towers. But again, in the UAE everything is above 5 stars. Absolutely enjoyable.

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9. What are your three most played songs? 

Men at Work – Down Under – my all-time favorite! If I randomly hear this song, I already know the day will be beautiful! I love the energy of that song and it is very summery  too. Two other favorites are Prince – Purple Rain and Depeche Mode – Personal Jesus.

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10. What are three items you couldn’t live without?

My phone, mascara, wet wipes 🙂

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11. If you could meet anyone in the world, who would it be and why?

Leonardo Di Caprio – the most incredible actor in the world! Also, classy, humble, hardworking, generous, caring….I hope I can have the opportunity to meet him one day.

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12. What is something people might not know about you?

I used to be an introvert – I had to force myself to learn how to be open to the world.

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Manor of Manners / YouTube.com

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13. Do you have any advice for those aspiring to work in your industry?

It will take some time to establish yourself but keep working.

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14. What changes do you think your industry will undergo in the next 5-10 years?

It will go in two directions: dealing with the royal etiquette as something from the past while focusing more on celebrity etiquette going forward.

What is celebrity etiquette? How does it differ from the royal etiquette?

Royal etiquette [is] conservative, strict, over-the-top rules of conduct.

[With] “celebrity” etiquette… good manners do apply, but [it’s] more bold, extravagant and “brave.”

We talk about etiquette from the time of King Louis XIV to modern day manners. But we live in a very different environment today. We are highly influenced by the celebrity culture and social media. Certain topics are taboo in particular situations, but if presented correctly, they can bring us closer together. For example, in a business networking situation we should know how to handle controversial topics. Sometimes it is dangerous to keep it too safe and that won’t close any business deals. If I work with people from the Middle East I still talk about religion…in a positive and warm way. (Religion is not a taboo as a topic if presented correctly.)

Etiquette is also a form of business intelligence, and we should be able to navigate a conversation based on the individual we are talking to. We live in a global economy so different cultures do blend in a way. Etiquette is not any more about ballroom dancing, white gloves and castles….ONLY. Even Her Majesty the Queen has a Twitter account. And Meghan Markle’s influence is a good example of blending Hollywood with royal norms.

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15. What are the biggest etiquette mistakes/missteps people make at the office, at home, and at the dinner table?

In the office: Taking food from the fridge which does not belong to us. Eating smelly foods at the office. Gossip. Everything adds up to our presentation and every little detail adds in a positive or in a negative manner.

At home: Respect is everything and it goes both ways between parents and children. We should be very careful with the words we choose towards each other because words have a tremendous power and instead of building someone, we might destroy them. We should use our manners not only outside of the home, but we should treat each other with respect in our households.

At the dinner table: We should always endeavor having dinner together as a family. This should be a regular ritual. Many experiences are shared at the dinner table and help us become closer as a family. We should always thank the person who prepares the food. If the food is not prepared according to our taste, we can still be polite and focus on something we did like. Do not leave the table while everyone else is eating. I can share many more etiquette tips, but these are probably the most important ones.

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16. How has technology affected etiquette over the past 30-40 years?

Technology affected etiquette tremendously – I can personally talk about the last 20 years. We all use e-mails and recently everyone communicates via social media and our phones, which is a very convenient way to connect but takes away from the personal touch. That’s why I always advocate for people to send a handwritten thank you note instead of an e-mail or a text message.

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17. Generally, do you find most people are rude, brusque, or unrefined? And what’s the best way for a person to brush up on their manners?

I sometimes find people being inconsiderate and not present while they communicate. We can all learn etiquette. Back in the day, etiquette was about exclusion, and something expected to be known and practiced only in the most affluent and highly educated and socially positioned families. But today it is about inclusion. We can all learn it through books and videos. I believe etiquette is influence and it can take us to places which we have never dreamt of before. As a matter of fact, I am a good example. I came to the US 14 years ago as a happily married young woman from Bulgaria. Eight months later I was living in a homeless shelter for victims of domestic violence with my two children, a toddler and an infant at the time. Next month I will be speaking at Carnegie Hall, sharing the stage with the lifestyle queen Martha Stewart. I did learn through business etiquette to build very powerful and authentic connections.

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Manor of Manners / YouTube.com

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18. Who is the most sophisticated person you know? Why?  

The most sophisticated person I know is one of my friends and business partners. You can recognize the true European aristocrat-ism in everything from her conversations and tone of voice to the way she dresses and walks. Her name is Angelika Christie. And of course, I have several other very classy friends which I truly admire.

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19. What’s the classiest example of etiquette you can retell? Please elaborate.

I was attending a social etiquette training in London and I had to leave the seminar early. My etiquette trainer Ms. Tamiko Zablit left the group to come and say goodbye to me. She stayed until she felt confident that I was comfortable and safe in heading to my next destination. I was very touched! This is what a great hostess does: Takes care of her guests—or as in this case, her student—from the beginning to the end.

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20. Is there anything else you’d like to share, discuss or promote?

My company Manor of Manners offers a variety of programs. Some of the new and very popular ones include my certification programs which I conduct in London and in the US. I certify people in business and social etiquette and help them to prepare for the challenges of the etiquette profession from an entrepreneurial perspective. My approach is blending the traditional style of etiquette from the days of King Louis XIV to modern day manners. Also, I have programs for personal development which are very beneficial. We all need it. If you do not have the opportunity to attend my classes you can purchase my books, which are available for purchase on Amazon: The Sharpest Soft Skill and Posh Overnight. They teach you how to gain confidence and raise your standards. The world is our oyster and we should know which fork to use.

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Images Courtesy of Maryanne Parker; Digital Expressions by Becki Freed

maryanne parker - etiquette expert - digital expression by becki