Having good manners today is less about using the right fork, and more about showing consideration toward others. Why? Most people won’t notice if you use the wrong fork. But they will notice if you show disrespect toward their time or talent.
For example, Alexandra Levit, who writes for The Wall Street Journal and the blog “Water Cooler Wisdom,” recently shared a story on her blog about spending an afternoon at a conference, waiting for three appointments to show up.
All three people stood her up.
“If I’d known these meetings were not going to take place,” she writes, “I could have gotten on a plane home to my husband and 2-year-old son a full half-day earlier. But instead, I was stranded in an overcrowded press room, waiting for hours.”
The message in being a no-show or late for an appointment, she says, is that your time is more important than someone else’s. So, good-manners lesson No. 1: If you make an appointment, arrive on time.
Additional ways to show respect for others:
1. Keep your word, says Marty Nemko, a contributing editor for U.S. News & World Report.
He’s tired of getting an e-mail that says, “I’ll get back to you by tomorrow,” with no follow-through. “Especially with younger people, the probability, on average, of their keeping that promise is no better than 50/50,” he says.
2. Be considerate of others in a meeting. Does everyone need to be in the room for the entire agenda, or can people leave as the discussion moves away from their area of expertise?
One office worker recalls an incident many years ago, when he was “stuck in a software status meeting with 40 people (some of us were standing), where a 30-minute discussion occurred between the project manager and two other people about choosing the colors of a menu.”
Talk about inconsiderate!
Never cut short a prearranged commitment with one person in order to make time for another person. If you’ve scheduled time with someone, then later wished you could cut that meeting time in half in order to meet with someone more important—think before you renege.
Anita Bruzzesse, who writes the syndicated “On the Job” column, has been on the receiving end of that discourtesy, and says, “I truly felt that the lack of respect and professionalism diminished my regard for them. That’s something that can be hard to regain.”
When you err, make amends. Should you need to cancel or shorten a meeting—no matter how busy you are—don’t do it abruptly, says Levit. “Be humble and sincere in your apology and do whatever it takes to make it up to them,” she says. “They’ll remember it, trust me.”