Call me old fashion but when I was a kid, my parents instilled in me the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In other words, be polite, respectful and have good manners. Unfortunately, in this fast-paced, technology-driven world, common courtesy has fallen to the wayside, just a bit. We know the importance of it, and we’re all guilty of perhaps being a little uncivil every now and then. We can get disconnected, but like anything, common courtesy is a skill we need to practice consciously, knowing it reflects on our personal and professional brands.
So, in the spirit of bringing back the common in common courtesy, here are eight standards to practice every day.
Be on time – Let’s take meetings, for example. How often have you attended a meeting or a conference call on time while waiting for colleagues and even the meeting leader to trickle in 10 minutes later? We’re all busy, and sometimes meetings can run over, making you late for the next one. It happens. If you find yourself running behind, simply send an email, text or let someone else in the meeting know you’re running late. Respecting one’s time is common courtesy.
Be in the present – This is a tough one and, unfortunately, our smart phones have gotten the best of us. While at a face-to-face meeting or lunch with co-workers, business prospects or friends, turn off your phone or better yet, leave it behind. There’s nothing ruder than checking email, sending a text or taking a phone call when you’re attending a scheduled event with someone else. It tells him/her that you’re not important as the person who just “dinged” or rang you. If you must take a call, text or email, let the person you’re with know ahead of time and make the interruption ever so brief.
Write a hand-written thank you in a timely fashion – It’s so much easier to send a thank you note by email or text, but taking the time to draft one on stationery and mailing it within a week’s time, speaks volumes of your gratitude and shows good manners. I don’t know about you, but when I receive a hand-written thank you, I appreciate it so much more than one sent electronically.
RSVP – I know, we get busy and we forget. This is not an excuse. If someone is kind enough to extend you an invitation to an event, with a RSVP, you should promptly reply. Put the shoe on the other foot, how would you feel if it were your event? By not letting the host know you will or won’t be attend, shows utter disrespect. If you RSVP that you’ll attend, then for lord sake, attend. No shows are rude. If circumstances beyond your control prevent you from attending after you said you’d be there, call the next day with an apology. And, after attending the event, if you really want to shine, you can send a note saying how much you enjoyed it.
Smile and hello – When walking down an office hallway or entering an elevator, show your pearly whites and say hello. Not only will it make you feel good, it show’s value to the other person. It’s a good old-fashion simple act of kindness.
Don’t cell yell – Studies show people tend to speak three times louder on a cell phone than in person. How many times have we taken in someone else’s cell phone conversation because they’re talking so loud? I recently witnessed a woman shopping, checking out and walking to her car all while talking on her cell phone – loud and clear! So rude. Mind your volume, oh and hang it up when you get to the check out.
Be responsive – It’s challenging to instantly respond to every email or voice message. Most people get that. If you receive an email or voice message that you know is important to the one who sent it, you should make every effort to respond within a reasonable amount of time. I’m always impressed when business leaders respond within a few days. It sends a clear message: Your time and your concerns are just important as mine.
Please and thank you – I’ve saved the best for last. Saying please and thank you are basic courtesies, and they count a lot. People notice when you’re courteous and respectful. Whether you use good manners to the person behind the fast-food counter or to a fellow colleague, it speaks to your character. Enough said.