“Really big people are, above everything else, courteous, considerate and generous – not just to some people in some circumstances – but to everyone all the time.” Thomas J. Watson
Put another way: “A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice person.” Dave Barry
My parents were big on courtesy, and so am I. My kids have referred to our home as the “manner-y house.”
There are many great reasons to use good manners. In part, being civilized generally creates a better outcome or at least promotes goodwill. However, as our means for communication have become more instant, we’ve lost some focus on communication courtesy. Here are some common courtesies we should all remember:
Look at me. How many times have you ordered at a restaurant without looking at the server. Smiling and saying “please” will give you extra credit (and probably better service).
At least try to remember my name. People can tell when you’re giving it some effort. Try this: Nancy, I stink at remembering names, so I’m going to use yours a few times in our conversation. Please bear with me, Nancy, as I try to commit this to memory!
Save up your questions/emails. If you regularly need to get information from a person (and it’s not urgent) save up your requests. Rather than having five individual conversations or sending five emails, cover multiple topics at once, saving everyone time.
Be up front about what you need. Make sure that your expectations are crystal clear. If you’re emailing, put what you need in the subject line. Response needed by 3/3/12. If we’re in a conversation, summarize expectations at the end.
Don’t waste my time. Some chit chat in meetings builds relationships. However, a 30-minute rendition of last night’s American Idol episode is usually just wasted time, particularly for those who aren’t interested. Pay attention to the time spent on non-meeting items and to nonverbal signals that indicate you’ve gone on too long.
There can be a tendency to worry more about manners around people you don’t know well. Oliver Wendell Homes would beg to differ. “The nearer you come into relation with a person, the more necessary do tact and courtesy become.”
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