Common Courtesy

I went to my local library to research materials, check on some books and  movies. When I checked out the man behind the counter said, “You’re the second person in a row with impeccable manners.”  What were the actions or words that the first person and I said that held this man captive to good manners?  A simple, “please,” “thank you,” “sir,”  or good eye contact, or all of them?  I don’t know, I didn’t ask.  I was pleased that it made a difference to him.

Common courtesy are two words that more often than not escape our daily lives and we apparently are used to it.  That saddens me.  Those simple, yet powerful words -please and thank you – may not always be heard, but they are always appreciated when they are heard.  When someone doesn’t abide by the common courtesy of please and thank you, then people roll up their sleeves and ready themselves for either disappointment or confrontation.

I let people into a line a traffic.  Maybe 25 percent acknowledge.  I send someone an article, a card, a referral or an invitation and maybe that percentage jumps to 75.  Why isn’t it 100 percent? 

Acknowledging someone’s phone message or e-mail comes under common courtesy too.  Why do we ignore someone’s request for information, an answer or just a reply – “yes” or “no.”  Sales people are hardened to rudeness and people not calling back to say, “No, thanks, I’m not interested right now.”   “Yes, that sounds great, and please call me in six months.”  Whatever the situation, e-mail takes seconds to respond and yet people don’t take the time.  They do take the time to spend hours if not days on Facebook, but to a majority of people, a quick, “No, thank you,” or any response, seems too much to ask 

I leave messages for people and some of them call right back, others may not even let me know they got the message.  Does the silence tell me that they want nothing to do with me?  Does the silence mean, ” I’ve got more important, more pressing, more valuable duties to perform than to call you back,” “I don’t think you’re important enough to give you a call back”?  I don’t know.  Yes, I too am guilty of this petty rudeness. It’s not a trait that I’m proud of, and I make an effort to call back sales people, return calls to those who leave messages.  The same with e-mail.  I also get bogged down in routine, projects or meetings, and forget to call or e-mail back.  Forgiveness comes to play.

We’re all busy, or at least pretend to be.  Why do we find the time for what we want and requests or comments that are important for us, but don’t give the same respect to those we expect to return our calls or e-mails?  It’s frustrating for me.  Even friends, co-workers, business associates, managers, clients and others sometimes ignore their fellow human’s request for acknowledgement.  That’s sad.

I don’t know the rule – what would Miss Manners say? – for the time to get back to someone on e-mail.  Two days?  Three days?  If no auto responder tells me that someone’s out of the office, I presume s/he’s more than likely at her/his desk at least part of any given day; at least within two days.

Martha calls Rick.  “What happened to our appointed time together yesterday?  Please call me back today (gives phone number),  if possible, or send me an e-mail today and let me know what happened, and when we can reschedule.  Thanks.”  Rick doesn’t answer for three days.  He e-mails to leave some lame excuse for missing the meeting and asks when would be a good time to reschedule.  Martha e-mails right back and gives the day.  Three days again, and she still waits to hear from Rick.  Nothing.  They’re co-workers.  What is it?

Phil needs Barry to sign a PO for some products the department needs to order for the new project.  Barry’s never been one to answer immediately, so Phil sends him the PO a month before it’s actually due, but asks if it will be approved.  Three weeks, nothing.  A phone message to  Barry.  Nothing.  Another e-mail.  His assistant finally writes back that he’ll check with Barry and get back to him.  Three days, nothing. 

I hear and experience bad manners too often.  When are we going to get back to common courtesy?  When are the simple, “please” and “thank you’s” so unusual that they deem a comment from a store clerk, a co-worker, a stranger, a friend, or for that matter, you?  What is your time worth?  What would happen if all your questions were answered either on e-mail or the phone within two days?  What a great place this business community would be.

Impeccable manners take “this long” to implement into your daily lives.  Give the world a pleasant surprise and use them not only daily, but also hourly.  It makes the world a happier and healthier place for all of us.

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