Whenever I conduct
a workshop in business writing, I remind people to add the words of
courtesy to their letters and memos, words such as please, thank you,
I would appreciate, etc. And then I wait for it. Someone will invariably
say, "I thought we were supposed to be clear and concise in our
writing nowadays. Isn't saying thank you adding unnecessary words?"
No. No. No.
The 90s may be the
lean and mean /do more with less society, but things still run a more
smoothly - and we project a better personal image-when we let our warm,
friendly side show.
A good example of
this-the son of the friend of mine was walking back to work after lunch
and happened to see a zippered briefcase lying in a snow bank. Being
a bright, curious fellow, he opened the case and found inside a large
number of credit cards, car and house keys, notes on staff and projects,
computer disks-one marked curriculum vitae-and, of course, a planning
diary. (There was no money.) Back in his office, he tried for the remainder
of the day to locate the owner, whom he identified as the senior manager
of a large, international accounting firm. However, the man was unavailable.
It being Friday,
my friend's son took the case home with him-he lives with his parents-and
after some detective work tracked the owner down over the week-end.
On Monday morning at 7:30 a.m. the man appeared at my friend's door
demanding his case. (The son had already left for work.) She handed
it over to the man and that was the end of it.
The owner never
bothered to say thank you to anyone. The son was not expecting a reward-he
hadn't been brought up that way-but a thank you would have been nice.
Perhaps the man thought my friend's son had stolen the briefcase. But
then why would he go to all the trouble to return it?
part about this story is that the man has given himself and his company
an advertising plug-and probably not the one he wishes. My friend knows
a lot of people and this is a great story. It comes up often. Although
she doesn't mention the man's name, she does mention his company and
there is always a gasp of surprise. Who would think that such a well-known
accounting firm as this would have in its employ a senior level manager
so egotistical and so lacking in common sense and courtesy that he couldn't
even offer a good Samaritan a thank you. In fact, now whenever I-and
I am sure a growing number of others-see an ad or a reference to this
organization, the first thing that pops into my mind is this story.
On a more personal
tone, I find people on the internet lacking in courtesy. Perhaps they
are too busy.
Because of my books,
web page and workshops, I am often contacted by people seeking assistance
in business communications. One woman-I had never heard of-sent this
I have to write
a letter of recommendation. Send me all your samples. Send them immediately.
(When you are e-mailing
someone for the first time, it is always best to start with how you
got their name and then follow with the request politely phrased. People
forget that when using the written word, voice inflections are missing
and often times the statement is interpreted harsher than intended.
It may turn your reader off.)
I can't count the
number of times, I have spent time answering a stranger's request and
then never heard whether the information was useful or appreciated.
Many of my colleagues have complained about the same thing, and some
are now saying they will ignore all requests for assistance.
But sloppiness in
the courtesy field is not limited to the internet. Another friend was
asked by an organization to donate twenty copies of her latest book
to be distributed at their conference. She shipped the books off at
her own expense and never heard anything. No one called to thank her
or to even say they arrived. Will she donate books again? Maybe, but
certainly not to that group.
Remember, when people
go to the trouble of helping you-whether you are meeting face-to-face,
by letter, phone or e-mail-it is important to let them know you appreciate
it. It takes such a little effort to create goodwill and build a more
co-operative, friendly world.