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A Little Etiquette Can Still Take You A Long Way

We live in a society driven by technology, that allows individuals to interact through keyboards and some kind of screen. Unfortunately, this means that some people either lose their politeness or don’t develop it in the first place. The anonymity of how we interact these days means we are losing some of the skills that are truly fundamental to relationships.


Unfortunately, high school students and college students will actually suffer from this. First impressions are built upon initial emails and interactions. Interviews are impeded by an inability to understand one’s physical and social cues. Internships and jobs may not be offered. Relationships with peers and colleagues may not forge naturally. So below are a few skills that I hope you will work hard to inculcate in your lives:


Please and thank you: In a time of 280-character updates, text messaging and a million emails a day, we often don’t think that we have the time to be polite. But remember to say please and thank you when it matters — which is always. When you write an email with a request, be polite in how you go about doing so. Your rushed off message can come across as rude to the recipient, reducing that person’s desire to assist you.


Be courteous in all messages: Unless you are sending a text or message to BFF or mom, start off messages with at least a hello, if not something more formal. Sign off by writing your name or initials. Take the extra three seconds to show that you care about this message and how the other person perceives you. For example, a student sent me a sample email he was going to send his teacher about a missing assignment. It went like this: “Can you put in the missing assignment from Tuesday? I should actually have an A in the class.” There was no “Dear Ms. Teacher.” The email was demanding and selfish in nature, even though that is certainly not how the student meant it. A better email would have been, “Dear Ms. Teacher, I noticed that I am missing an assignment from Tuesday, but I handed that in. Would you mind checking on it, please? If there is a problem, please let me know what I should do to get it sorted out. Thanks so much, Student.” It is especially important to be courteous and use proper and polite language when you are engaging with any type of superior. You can get away with a little more with your casual friends and family.


Be on time: A student showed up 20 minutes late this weekend for a scheduled exam. He was told he would have to wait or come back at another time since he was not on time. His father then proceeded to tell me he did not know that his son had to be on time for appointments. Yes, things happen and we cannot always be on time, but we should at least make a concerted effort. Showing up late demonstrates a lack of respect for the person waiting for you. And more importantly, it is wasting their time as well as yours. Plan events that you can be on time for. If you know that you are not a morning person, do not schedule classes, interviews, and appointments for earlier than 9 or 10 a.m. If you will have to travel a distance to get to your destination, account for rush hours, accidents or just traffic. Being late also causes you to be stressed out, which is never a good thing.


Learn to make proper phone messages: Do not assume that the person you are calling has Caller ID. When you leave a message, start with “Hello my name is …” Be concise in why you are calling and repeat your name and phone number so that someone can call you back. If you leave an email address on the message, make sure that it is a simple email to understand and spell it out. And say thank you or bye before you end the call.


Give people time to get back to you: Often, a student will send me an email and then immediately call me asking the same question in the email. I know we live in a time when people are accessible nearly around the clock but do not assume that you will receive a response instantaneously. Just as you are probably working on many things, so is that other person. A little patience will go a long way in preserving a relationship.


More than anything, think about how you would like to be treated when interacting with other people. Human interaction is core to our lives, but it is up to us to make that interaction meaningful and considerate.


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