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Business & Legal Ethics
• July 11, 2012 | 2:18 AM MDT
Several weeks ago, I met with a young man who, next spring, will graduate from an Ivy League law school. I first met Jon (name changed) a year or so ago, when I had presented my “Rules of Engagement” seminar and facilitated an etiquette dinner at a top-ranked law school in the south. Since then, Jon had switched schools and moved to New York City. Before he began his first job in a law firm, he wanted some one-on-one time to ask questions about issues he thought could arise at work.
We met while Jon was between classes. After finding a sunny place to sit, he pulled out a list of questions that he had thoughtfully prepared. Slowly but surely, he asked and I answered every one of them.
On three occasions he asked what the rules of “etikwet” were for a particular situation. Thinking he might have some speech difficulty that kept him from pronouncing this term correctly, I finally asked him. “No, no,” he assured me. He simply thought that was the way the word “etiquette” was pronounced.
Which really got me to thinking: How is it that a young person, about to graduate from one of the nation’s leading law schools, doesn’t know how to pronounce this word? Is it possible that an entire generation doesn’t know about etiquette, it’s history and how practicing it can transform a harried working world into a more cooperative, productive and thoughtful place?