Charm School

I’ve always believed that the more successful we are the more humble we should be. Entrepreneurs have an opportunity to be fabulously successful in many different ways. And sometimes we may be viewed in a negative light by others who envy our success. That’s why it’s important that we not project the least bit of arrogance or haughtiness. One of the best ways to combat this perception is to go out of our way to practice the little courtesies in life.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to realize what a positive difference such courtesies can make in the lives of others. It’s one thing to be interacting personally with someone else and say please and thank you. But how well do we use these words in our e-mail conversations? Here’s a suggestion. Look through the recent “Sent Items” in your e-mail account and intentionally look for instances where you could have said “please and thank you.” Did you? Courteously asking someone to provide information or assistance in some way feels better to others than being “commanded” to do so.

My dad taught me to always hold doors open for others. As a kid, I became quite a doorman. This has certainly carried over into my adult life and it feels good to be polite in this manner. This practice doesn’t need to be limited to building doors but also elevator doors. Rather than be the first person on or off the elevator, I prefer to hold the door to make sure others get on or off ahead of me. In this day and age does this really matter? Perhaps it doesn’t make a difference to most people, but for me it’s the right thing to do. My father always had a good sense about the things he taught me and I think his teachings are ageless.

Sometimes we can be so busy and single-minded that we may not even notice others around us and fail to offer them a friendly greeting. Trust me when I say that while we may not notice them, others certainly notice us when we don’t acknowledge them. In my office or wherever I go, I strive to look others in the eye and say hello. A firm handshake also provides a sense of connection and can help to put the recipient at ease.

In the old days there was a saying about Southern charm. And there is something charming about offering compliments to others. I have found that service providers in all walks of life are often overlooked in this regard. We tend to take their service for granted. I’ve made a concerted effort over the past several years of speaking to service providers and when warranted, complimenting them on their service. If a waitperson in a restaurant has served me well, I’ll say something like, “very nice work this evening.” This statement is made at the same time that I look them in the eye, smile and shake their hand. If the service was really great, I find their supervisor and reiterate the compliment to that person. Recently I was in a restaurant where the food was exquisite. I asked my server to send out the chef if he was not too busy. I then proceeded to tell him what a fabulous meal he had prepared – I thought he was going to cry!

Here are a few other little tidbits. Drop a short handwritten thank-you note to someone with whom you’ve met or with whom you’ve dined – especially if you did so in their home or they paid the bill in a restaurant. An e-mail conveying the same message only gets us halfway there. When invited to someone’s home for dinner, don’t forget to take flowers, a bottle of wine, fine hand soap, or some other token of appreciation. I wish every high school senior had to take a Miss Manners class. The world would certainly be a much more polite and courteous place to live.

The last thing in the world we want is to step on someone’s feelings and have them think we’re an arrogant “high and mighty” so-and-so. By putting the needs of others first and being gracious we will have nothing to fear in this regard.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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