In my last blog I wrote about the purposes of human communication and suggested that social closeness is essential for effective communication. Janice Light, in her 1988 model, described social etiquette as the ability to conform to social conventions of politeness and one of the key purposes of communication.
I believe that social etiquette has been overlooked when working with people with communication difficulties. Social etiquette may be seen as ‘the cherry on the cake’ and not really necessary, when getting a basic message across is so difficult for someone with a communication disability. However, the way in which someone greets you when they meet you, how they show interest in what you are saying or how they say goodbye, all effect how you respond to them and can influence your subsequent interactions with them.
Moreover social etiquette can often be done non-verbally – a smile to show you are pleased to see someone, a nod of agreement to show you are following what they say, a handshake or ‘thanks for coming’/’good to talk to you’ when you say goodbye. These are all basic and almost universal communication symbols.
Social etiquette is not just a communication add-on that can be missed out because it’s too much effort. It can be crucial in developing and maintaining relationships.