I’m all for being productive and getting things done, but recently I’ve been wondering whether it’s possible to be productive to a fault. I pride myself on knowing proper etiquette, but I think I may be becoming rude as I strive to become more efficient and productive.
In my day job as a TV producer things are fast paced and you need to move along and get everything finished on deadline. I remember once after a taping I literally said to a guest, “OK, we’re done with you.” It was more of a housekeeping-type statement because we needed to move on to the next guest for the following segment, but it came off very rude. Eeek!
I heard a rumor that subject lines might be going away in emails and I thought, “How much time does writing a short and simple greeting, like hello, hi or hey, really take?!” Then I remembered that sometimes I forget to use pleasantries when I’m busy or in a rush.
But do we really need to? I mean — how much time is spent writing “how was your weekend?” when you really don’t care to know the answer and the person you’re sending the email to might very well just skip right over that part of the message? It’s a technicality.
More recently, I read an interview with Sheryl Lindsell-Roberts, an award winning business writer and marketing communications expert who said, “When you can, deliver your message as the subject line and don’t bother writing in the text box.” However, she added that this method of abridging emails is meant for people with whom you communicate frequently and consistently. She also advocates starting an email with a greeting, ending with a closing and having a clear and organized body.
Professional organizer and author of “Unstuff Your Life,” Andrew Mellen told me at BlogHer13 in Chicago that he uses the letters “EOM” for “end of message” when he’s written everything he needs to in the subject of an email. That way the recipient knows they don’t need to open the email for more information.
So which one is it? In today’s world, virtually everyone is tied to technology and personal devices. It’s common practice to have your phone out during dinner or drinks and I think many people find it very difficult to unplug for even an hour. If this is the case, how do you avoid being rude?
I asked etiquette expert Lizzie Post, co-author of Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th edition, Manners for a New World, for her opinion. She believes that constant communication through “me-centric” technology and personal devices impedes on how we communicate with others in the physical world — as if the etiquette for communicating in the digital world has become the norm, causing people to forget common courtesy and basic awareness to those around them.
Lizzie also had some great tips for infusing a little kindness into your daily activities, while still getting things done:
- Keep “Please” and “Thank You” present in your vocabulary: Acknowledge the person who held the door for you or chased you down the street because you dropped your wallet. Little things!
- It’s considerate to respond quickly to written communication: If you have time to respond to the email that just arrived in your inbox, then respond! If you receive an invitation, don’t take a week to accept or decline.
- Rudeness is not motivating: Respect is a two way street, so if one person isn’t keeping up their end, communication falls apart. It’s impossible to maintain a positive dynamic and cultivate a productive work environment if someone feels disrespected or under appreciated.
- Practice makes perfect: Like most behavior, being polite requires a conscious effort. Look for little ways to be gracious and appreciative; go out of your way. You don’t have to be over-the-top cheery, but genuinely inquiring about your co-worker’s weekend will go a long way in building a positive relationship.