Common Courtesies

Today I answered the phone in our office. We always say our company name and then our own name. The person on the other line hesitated for a long time, then said “Mike Slemmer.” I couldn’t quite understand what he meant. I have a business partner named Mike Slemmer but did this person mean he was Mike, or that he wanted to speak to Mike, or just that he liked Mike’s name and so wanted to say it?

This seems to me to be a common occurrence in our busy world. Instead of taking the time to pleasantly say, “May I please speak with Mike Slemmer?” we shortcut and assume the other person will understand. In a fast-paced world where information is rushing at us and we can get out a text with nothing more than “BRB” to tell someone we’ll return soon, it’s easy to avoid spending time on pleasantries.

Do we realize how often we are in a rush, and we don’t extend the common courtesies to others that they deserve? When someone takes the time to be polite to me, and focus on me – I notice it. I want to respond to them. When they slide by me, or give me short-shrift – I want to ignore them, too. We can’t help it; like attracts like, most times!

It can be helpful to slow down a bit to simply observe in our own day-to-day interactions with others how often we lose sight of using the courtesies. Simple things like “Please” and “Thank you” have been slowly leaving our lexicon altogether. It’s a sign of respect to another person to speak to them using full sentences, and it actually means an acknowledgement of their importance by being polite.

For many of us, we feel we just don’t have time to be nice. We need to get somewhere, or get something done. Where is everybody rushing to, anyway? We get one thing done and isn’t there another thing that pops up to take its place? It’s not like with all of the rushing we actually ever get anywhere important. If taking the time to engage with others, to speak politely and to notice they are there, isn’t something important, then what is?

I know, as a mother of teenage kids, the value in texting and in shorthand communication. We use it often, and it works just fine when both parties know what’s happening and want to just exchange information about something with one another. Texting, short emails, and clipped postings to a Facebook page have their place and their value.

But in human-to-human interaction, when we are talking to someone, we need to remember that the other person counts. They have stressors and a busy life most likely, too. Why can’t we make their day by being the person who comes along and speaks kindly, calmly, and with pleasantries? No matter how busy you are, it always feels good when someone takes the time and seems to really care about you.

This week, try and slow down in your dealings with others. Don’t give short shrift to people you interact with. Count how many times you can genuinely use “Please” and “Thank you” when dealing with others. Time is valuable but people are, too. Spend a little more of your time showing others how valuable they are. You might find you will feel a little more valuable in the process, too.