I started my last post with a little homily and this one is going to start the same way. This time, however, it’s a little motto my mother, granny, or indeed anyone above the age of 50 has said to me at some point, and it’s this:
Your manners cost you nothing
I believe in this, and live by it – I always say please and thank you, I especially make sure to thank a host for having me, and I hold the door open for someone walking through it behind me. What a nice, polite girl I am.
I’ve noticed recently though that these manners aren’t always returned. Not just in the real world, but in the virtual one too. Increasing numbers of emails I get fail to ask me how I am, enquire as to my weekend, or end with even the most cursory of sign-offs. (I’m not looking for much here, but ending an email with ‘Thanks’, ‘Regards’, ‘Best wishes’ or, if you’re really feeling generous ‘Kind regards’ is really just basic politeness, is it not?)
And it’s not just how you start and end an email either. It’s the bit in between. It now seems acceptable to litter an email with capital letters – presumably just in case you weren’t paying attention enough already – or issue a list of instructions, demands, or accusations with little regard to how the recipient might feel when reading this missive.
I got to wondering why this might be. And I realised this: I think it’s because entire relationships can now exist in a virtual, written world. There is no need to actually have to talk to anyone anymore – both on the phone and, perish the thought!, face to face. It makes it much easier to dehumanise the relationship, and not think about the recipient as a person. People who wouldn’t say boo to a goose on the angriest day of the year will happily tell it to SORT IT OUT on an email. (That, by the way, is the entire contents of one email I received not so long ago. Nice.) Someone who at a conference sits at the back, never asks a question or talks to anyone else for the duration of the event, will feel entirely at ease emailing a distribution list of 30 people (most of whom they don’t even know) and telling them everything that’s wrong with the latest version of the document/page/product they have been shown, with no attempt to balance, encourage or show appreciation of the work done to date.
These things, it seems to me, aren’t even to do with maintaining strong working relationships, building bridges, or sharing a journey together (or any other wanky phrase currently residing in your CV under ‘Key Skills’). They are basic manners that should exist between human beings no matter what their role, position or employer.
And, for the most part, they are free. The highest price you might pay is a little bit of time to ask how the baby/dog/weather is, or the effort of taking a deep breath and counting to 10 before starting out on a punctuationless, un-spell checked rant.
Manners = respect, and without that, what’s the point of anything else?