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What Happened to Public Etiquette?

Posted on July 20, 2006

By Colleen Rickenbacher

What has happened to our day-to-day manners, civility and consideration for others?  They are gone.  Of course this does not apply to everyone but a large majority have either forgotten deeds of kindness that their mothers have taught them, or possibly they were never taught.  We need to pick our heads up from our electronic devices and go back to face-to-face communication and to remember the simple "thank you" and "you're welcome."  Our society has made a huge shift in the past decade to make us all work longer hours, concentrate on the bottom line, and to push the ROI.  This focus is good but with it comes less time for our personal life and family.  I have gone to a million time management courses and I am still trying to balance and figure out how I can put more hours in a day.  What we do need to manage to include in our day are those little acts of kindness to our co-workers, family and even total strangers that we pass on the street, sit next to in airports or pass on the highway.  Etiquette is a part of everything we do from the way we look and dress, our handshake the way we exchange a business card, through our e-mails, cell phones and electronic etiquette to how we eat.  We can turn off a person instantly by talking to them after you just took a bite of food and showing them everything in your mouth.  You get approximately 3-5 seconds to make a first impression and months and even years to take it back.  I compare your first impression to your television remote control.  Many of you even take less that 3-5 seconds before you swith the channel.  Out of 86,400 seconds that you have everyday, you surely can stop for 3-5 seconds for eye contact with someone or 3-5 seconds to allow a car trying to get into traffic without honking to them, or even just to hold a door for the person coming behind you.  Let's talk public etiquette.

1.  Hold the door:  Before you let the door shut behind you just take a quick glance to see if anyone is walking toward you.  If so just take a few seconds and hold the door for them.  It doesn't matter what the age or gender just get into the habit and hold the door.  Hopefully that person will return a smile to you and a kind thank you. 

2.  Cell phones:  Just remember who is more important --The person sitting next to you or the person on the phone?  This speaks volumes about your etiqette skills.  I promise it won't be the end of the world if you get back to that person 15-20 minutes later. 

3.  Dining etiqette:  Talking and eating are two totally separate acts and never to be combined.

4.  Elevators:  Let the people get off before you even think of getting into an elevator.   When the door opens you could hold it to let them exit and then allow elderly and parents with small children get on first. 

5.  The highway:  Use your turn signals, allow people to pull on from the entrance ramp and be kind as a driver.  Road rage is way out of control so these little acts of kindness will totally confuse people and might even create a small smile and a wave as a thank you.

6.  Invited to someone's home:  Bring a gift and arrive on time.  Don't go empty handed to a dinner or a party.  If it with friends then help with the food with a dessert or appetizer. Either bring a small gift as a bottle of wine or a candle or something that would enjoy after the party.  Don't bring flowers or any gift that would cause them to stop and have to be away from their guests.  Flowers the next day would be great. 

7.  Thank you notes:  People still love to receive a thank you note and should be sent to thank a person for a job well done, a meal, a gift or something they did for you or your company.  An e-mail thank you can be sent initially and then follow-up wth a handwritten note. 

8.  R.s.v.p.:  You need to respond yes or no for all invitations.  You can have a change of plans but let people know if you are attending.  As we know all events, meetings and meal functions cost money especially if extra plans need to be handled for no-shows or 20 people that just showed up.

9.  E-mails:  Remember it is a business communication.  Before you hit that send button just ask yourself the question "Would you send this e-mail out it a letter format?"  If not, you might want to check your spelling, grammar and subject line.

10. Buffets:  A buffet is not your last meal. 

Colleen A. Rickenbacher, CMP, CSEP



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