Monday, March 7, 2016

Manners Monday

Whatever happened to fair dealing and pure ethics and nice manners?
Why is it everyone now is a pain in the ass?
Whatever happened to class?  
-- John Kander and Fred Ebb: Chicago
I did more traveling last week than I usually do in six months. Along the way, I came into contact with a lot of people. Bubbly college tour guides. Helpful hotel desk clerks. Professors passionate about the subjects they teach, and librarians excited to create new programs that excite their patrons.

I also dealt with grumpy folks who didn't seem to enjoy their jobs. Customer service representatives content to put people on hold indefinitely. A man conducting business on his cell phone in a restaurant loudly enough for everyone around him to hear.

When our kids are little, we teach them manners. Please and thank you. Excuse me. I'm sorry. 

How is it that somewhere between preschool and adulthood, these simple niceties fade away?

Even teenagers, considered by many to be the rudest beings on the planet, know when to turn their manners on. They may grunt in reply to parents, and text in code to friends, but, generally speaking, most know when it's time to haul out those pleasantries from preschool and put them to use.

So, why can't adults do the same thing? Why is it so hard to say, "I'm sorry. I made a mistake."? To thank the person who goes above and beyond? To give a little consideration to the expression on our faces or the volume of our voices?

The thing is, it isn't. Anyone who deals with the public knows this -- it's Customer Service 101 -- so much so that seemingly every establishment prints links to customer satisfaction surveys on the bottom of their receipts or e-mails customers who've visited them to see if their employees are doing these things. And, in an age where customer reviews are easily accessible online, scores below the top 10 to 15% are considered unacceptable. A difference of less than 5% can sway a customer toward one business and away from another.

And yet, in our non-business interactions, we so often forget -- or forgo -- the very pleasantries on which these businesses rise and fall. Why is that? 

Maybe today is the day to change that. To take our faces out of our phones and smile at the barista who hands us our coffee. To thank the person who goes out of her way, to apologize to a colleague or family member when we make a mistake, no matter how embarrassing and uncomfortable that might feel.
Some of you already do this, and for that, I thank you. I also suspect that people like being around you, much as I enjoyed the company of that tour guide, desk clerk, professor and librarian. These are the people who put smiles on our faces -- smiles that last long after the interaction has ended.

Sometimes, we're busy, or preoccupied, and we mean to do these things, but we don't. We forget. Or, like teenagers, we haul out the pleasantries when we're in public, and dispense with "please" and "thank you" at home.

Maybe today's the day we pause for a moment and bring back class.

Have a wonderful day.

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