As everyone becomes busier and more harried, and we all seem to communicate with electronic devices more than with people, I think it’s more important than ever to pay attention to basic politeness in business situations. It’s all-too-easy to rush through our days with little concern for niceties.
Here are some tips I’ve gleaned, meant as simple reminders of the common courtesies that can make our days more pleasant.
1. Don’t say someone “referred” you unless they really, truly did.
Agents are the recipients of far too many “suspect” referrals. Be honest in your communications.
2. Avoid discussing problems with your agent or publisher in a public forum like your blog.
It can be so tempting to vent, but the way to actually solve problems is to go directly to the parties involved.
3. Don’t let email completely replace voice contact.
While it’s important to be aware of how others prefer to communicate, try not to let business relationships be “email only.” A well-timed phone call every now and then can smooth over a multitude of rough patches.
4. In email, remember: Bottom line up front (BLUF).
Don’t ramble. Even if you need to explain something at length, you should still put the most important point or question right up top.
5. Keep email subject lines current.
If you are hitting “Reply” but the subject of the email stream has changed, update the subject line to reflect the current content. Otherwise, people won’t be able to find and identify the email if they’re looking for it later.
6. Double check your email before hitting SEND.
We’ve all had nightmares of sending an email to the wrong person… or sending a “venting” email that nobody should have seen. To avoid this, here’s my trick: Whenever you’re composing a sensitive email, FIRST delete the names in the “To” field. That way, you can’t accidentally send it. Once you’ve decided the note is suitable for sending, you can add the “To” names back in.
7. Be sensitive to people’s time on the phone.
While some conversations require a sizable chunk of time, I generally recommend either planning on a 30-minute maximum, or clarifying ahead of time what length of time has been slotted for the call.
8. Send thank you notes!
It’s easy to overlook notes in this electronic age, and I confess I have a hard time with this. But enough people have told me what a big impression thank you notes make — and what a BIGGER impression the lack of a thank you note makes — that I’m convinced it’s still the most courteous thing to do.
9. Speak positively about others.
I don’t think it’s enough to simply avoid speaking negatively about others. I think it actually makes YOU look good if you praise others, giving credit where credit is due, or simply admiring someone’s work. Whenever you have the opportunity to speak about a person who is not present, make it something good if at all possible.
10. Greet people with a handshake in professional situations.
Sometimes there is that awkward moment when you’re not sure whether to shake hands. This is especially true in our business where many of us have been friends and business acquaintances for so long that a hug feels more natural. If you are comfortable with a hug, that’s fine. But remember the handshake is still the professional greeting. When in doubt — put your hand out.
11. Pay attention to the person with whom you’re interacting.
Whether you’re meeting with someone in person or on the phone, pay attention to them, not to your electronic devices or computer. It’s tempting to multi-task, but it’s much more valuable to focus.
12. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
People will often fail to live up to your expectations. People will hold different viewpoints from you. Try to remember that most people are doing the best they can with what they have, and give them grace.
13. Carefully consider your words, both written and verbal.
Before saying something, use the old method of asking yourself: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Hopefully this will keep your interactions productive and you’ll avoid regret.
EVEN IN THIS ELECTRONIC AGE, ETIQUETTE IS IMPORTANT!
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