Etiquette is the code that governs the expectations of social behavior, the conventional norm. It is an unwritten code, which evolves from written rules, for the Greek equivalent of etiquette is protokollon, protocol, the written formula for ceremonial. It usually reflects a theory of conduct that society or tradition has invested heavily in. Like "culture", it is a word that has gradually grown plural, especially in a multi-ethnic society with many clashing expectations. Thus, it is now possible to refer to "an etiquette" or "a culture", realizing that these may not be universal.
Norms and effects of etiquette
Etiquette fundamentally prescribes and restricts the ways in which people interact with each other, and show their respect for other people by conforming to the norms of society. Modern Western etiquette instructs us to: greet friends and acquaintances with warmth and respect, refrain from insults and prying curiosity, offer hospitality equally and generously to our guests, wear clothing suited to the occasion, contribute to conversations without dominating them, offer a chair or a helping arm to those who need assistance, eat neatly and quietly, avoid disturbing others with loud music or unnecessary noise, follow the established rules of a club or legislature upon becoming a member, arrive promptly when expected, comfort the bereaved, and respond to invitations promptly.
Roman etiquette varied by class. In the upper strata of Roman society, etiquette would have instructed a man to: greet friends and acquaintances with decorum, according to their rank, refrain from showing emotions in public, keep his womenfolk secluded from his clients, support his family's position with public munificence, and so on.
Violations of etiquette, if severe, can cause public disgrace, and in private hurt individual feelings, create misunderstandings or real grief and pain, and can even escalate into murderous rage. Many family feuds have their beginnings in trivial etiquette violations that were blown up out of proportion. One can reasonably view etiquette as the minimal politics required to avoid major conflict in polite society, and as such, an important aspect of applied ethics. An etiquette is sometimes considered to reflect the underlying ethical code itself.
In the West, the notion of etiquette, being of French origin and arising from practices at the court of Louis XIV, is occasionally disparaged as old-fashioned or elite, a code concerned only with "which fork to use". Some people consider etiquette to be an unnecessary restriction of freedom of personal expression. Others consider such people to be unmannerly and rude. For instance, wearing pajamas to a wedding in a cathedral may be an expression of the guest's freedom, and may also cause the bride and groom to suspect that the guest in pajamas is expressing amusement or disparagement towards them and their wedding. Etiquette may be enforced in pragmatic ways: "No shoes, no shirt, no service" is a notice commonly displayed outside stores and cafés in the warmer parts of North America. Others feel that a single, basic code shared by all makes life simpler and more pleasant by removing many chances for misunderstandings.
Common norms of etiquette
Though etiquette depends on culture, some expectations are widely shared.
Say "please" when you need something from someone else, even if this person is your subordinate.
Say "thank you" to people who help you, even if this person is your subordinate. Often, writing a note of thanks gains you significant emotional capital.
Say "I'm sorry" when you have injured someone inadvertently, or when you have injured someone intentionally and need to reconcile.
When someone has injured you, but says "I'm sorry," try to forgive the person. You can do this by saying, "I forgive you," or "Thanks for apologising."
Use insulting humour very sparingly. While common in entertainment, many people find insulting humour to be offensive and hurtful. Often, you can use your same skills at creating insults to create teasing compliments, which makes everyone feel good rather than bad.
Do not abuse other people, especially those weak or disadvantaged.