It is often (and dishearteningly ) the case, in these modern times, that etiquette is considered unnecessary: an anachronism, a relic. We seem to have agreed to dispense with courtesies, with gentleness, and with grammar. These dismaying developments appear to arise from a belief structure that, at its core, is flawed -- a structure that interprets kindness as weakness and assumes thoughtfulness is only required of subordinates.
There are many people who, like me, believe that etiquette and good graces have an intrinsic value, that they do not need to be justified in terms of return on investment or value for time spent. But I am aware that “just because it’s good manners” is not an argument likely to win over those who don’t already agree.
So I offer some additional ammunition, food for thought on why an investment in consideration is not a worthless waste of time.
Etiquette, at its heart, is about ease. It is about relieving friction in human relationships and minimizing awkwardness. It is about making people feel good in their interactions with you.
These are all highly valuable things to know how to do.
Consider, for example, any effort you’ve ever put into user interface design. This effort is etiquette translated to site layout, and it is entirely to the benefit of both parties to the transaction: the customer benefits by not getting frustrated and by being able to complete a desired task quickly and in a gratifying manner; the vendor benefits by being able to sell a greater number of lace kerchiefs (or whatever may be on offer via the site in question).
Also consider any effort you’ve ever put into customer service. The idea that your staff should be able to respond to queries and complaints promptly and courteously is a more effective way to engage in commerce, resulting in decreased expenditure for you and increased likelihood of repeat business from happy clients.
Etiquette, in short, makes everything run more smoothly. And when things run more smoothly, everyone derives greater joy from the encounter.
Recently, I read the Email Charter: 10 Rules to Reverse the Email Spiral. This straightforward list of guidelines includes such sadly non-self-evident etiquette gems as, “Celebrate Clarity,” and “Respect Recipients’ Time.” While these suggestions should be obvious (and perhaps, in fact, are to you, dear reader), they have benefits beyond serving as an expression of generosity to the recipient of your electronic missives. Specifically, they are more likely to produce results. If you send an email with a short, plainly worded, non-open-ended question, directed only to the relevant person, having considered very carefully what information that person already has and what information will be necessary in order to facilitate a response, you are far more likely to achieve a successful outcome.
Proper etiquette in emails includes stating clearly and directly what it is you are after, right up front, possibly in bold: Please respond to this email with the contact phone number and email you would like on your business card by 3 p.m. today. It includes structuring the message similarly to a newspaper article -- most important piece of information first, followed by second most important -- with the main difference being that if you have a third most important, you should probably rethink the email altogether as it has gotten way too long.
On that note, proper etiquette also includes knowing when to stop. I realize your time is valuable; I thank you for your attention.