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Why integrity is the foundation of etiquette


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By Irene Ndirangu

The question is often asked of how one can recognize integrity. 

Several responses suffice, including choosing to do the right thing at all times, choosing honesty in all things, manifesting humility which means being proud of one’s achievements but differentiating between confidence and arrogance, showing respect to everybody, showing regular dependability, and even admitting when wrong.

Oprah Winfrey interpreted integrity as doing the right thing, knowing that nobody will know whether you did it or not. It goes without saying that when you live with integrity, you always aim to do the right thing in every situation. You embody the maxims: “integrity is inexhaustible knowledge and money” and “integrity creates wealth”, among others. It should therefore go without saying that integrity is a basic element and foundation of etiquette.

Etiquette and Integrity 

Etiquette gives us guidelines on how to relate with others while being mindful of where you are, who you are with, and what is socially acceptable. It helps us solve how to handle situations while in the company of others while avoiding offending and confusing them. Aiming to have etiquette runs alongside showing up with integrity, and a compromise of either is often experienced if not expressed in sensory terms. Examples of this include but are not limited to; ignoring an ‘RSVP’ (please reply) request when a host requires one and just showing up for the event regardless. This translates to not paying attention and being inconsiderate of people’s needs. The tone of voice can also be considered disrespectful, overbearing, and even rude.

It is important, therefore, to note that etiquette is the tangible, observable aspect of integrity, which, as observed above, the lack of is sensed or felt by those with whom you interact.

Demonstrating Integrity

When you stand in integrity, you act courteously and respectably. You display actions of sincerity and authenticity, and the people surrounding you take notice. There are a few actions of etiquette that you can do to demonstrate a desire for integrity. These are just some of the ways that integrity and etiquette work in tandem, including keeping your word, respecting the space of others, meeting deadlines, and knowing and communicating your intentions. Timely response to communication, giving kind and honest feedback, timely speech and action, giving others room to express their views, and listening keenly also make the list.

It is, however, not lost that there are moments when one is caught up in their thoughts and emotions. At this point, you must pull yourself back and ask yourself if your words will align with your actions. If not, draw yourself back to mindfulness in a business setup, social event, or spending time with people you love.

The great thing about having integrity while aiming for etiquette is that you immediately put others at ease. They feel welcome, included, and encouraged, and they learn to trust you because you empathize with them and, at the same time, value their opinions. As an individual, you strengthen your interpersonal relationships and feel more confident. You also avoid misunderstandings and conflict because you face situations objectively.

Always remember that etiquette ensures you put your best foot forward and create a positive atmosphere for yourself and everyone else. While it isn’t always easy, use your honesty and empathy to forgive and try and do your best.  

Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”. So do your best to make everyone feel comfortable in your presence and leave lasting impressions on others every time. That is the cornerstone of integrity. ( 


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