Your mother was right. Manners are still important, even if everyone else is letting them go.
Remember what she told you about all the pigs jumping off a cliff?
Last week I posted a poll on Linkedin asking readers the top three things that annoyed people about communication breakdowns.
The one that caused the most annoyance was emails left unanswered.
Somehow, since technology invaded our lives, we find ourselves bombarded by communications and so are willing to let go of ways of operating that made life more hospitable.
Without giving it much thought at all, we breeze by invitations from friends and colleagues who are not part of our inner circle. We ignore messages from those we do not know well or who may not be deemed to be on the same social or business level because we tell ourselves we are too busy. We are easily led- by our own mind, excusing ourselves without much thought of how our lack of response lands or considering what opportunities we might be missing.
We experience the same thing when we or our companies are trying to plan an event and the caterer asks for a number of attendees. We can only estimate a number since there have been so few replies. Then, just when we think that few are coming – the day before we get an avalanche of replies, skewing prices and numbers for food, rentals, etc.
No one stops to consider that a caterer will get the best prices when he/she is able to order at least a week ahead.
The rental company may or may not be able to help you depending on the time of year.
It has become common not to respond to party invitations, event invitations, emails because we are very busy or because we might think that those invitations are not important to us, etc.
When others see the people they interact with regularly adopting these behaviors, over time, they accept this new way – probably without much thought.
So you might ask why this is important because there are many assumptions that may arise around an unanswered email – most of them negative.
The ancient traditions of hospitality trace back to ancient Greece.
Manners are a sign of respect, of give and take, and they imply mutual benefit.
Choosing to be a hospitable person requires the belief that good relationships hinge on the concepts of respect, give and take, the significant but random appearance of unseen opportunity, and the wealth gained from expanding one’s circle of friends and acquaintances.
And, it still is hard to return the important ones.
You probably already have a system, but here are a few ideas:
Column I: Crucial to your life or business
Make a list with three columns in a notebook that you use daily. The first column is the email you MUST respond to, the second is emails that require an answer, but are not urgent in a 24 hour period, third is emails from friends.
Create a time on your calendar to respond that day to the first column. It probably won’t take an enormous amount of time, but you will keep things moving and gain respect from those who need your answer.
Column II: Somewhat urgent but not as
These are things like invitations to events, semi-urgent messages from business associates or friends, or relationship-building possibilities that will help you build your circle.
Again, mark time in your calendar for a quick email that you can copy and customize, again and again, telling them that you are tied up but will get back to them within __ days.
Column III: Friends, relationship building, etc.
Find some funny memes that describe several fairly absurd reasons for you to respond later than usual. Have fun creating a file with these – many are lol.
And then there are all the others. Your time is valuable. You can let these go…..unless someone is clever enough to write a great subject line that sounds interesting. Otherwise, I don’t have to tell you to save your valuable time.
Let the people you know and work with know they are important to you but that you need a little time to get back to them. Most will understand.
It’s important to realize that when others let go of a tradition that has worked for centuries, it doesn’t mean they are doing something better. In this case, it’s certainly not.
Hospitality was designed to make others feel welcome, connected, and to acknowledge the value of a relationship that needs to work for both.
That seems to be a practice worth keeping.