The Lost Art of Good Manners

Why Manners Matter

I recently met with the owner of an injection molded plastics company. I’ll call him “Bob.” I was scheduled to meet with Bob at 3:00 on a Tuesday afternoon. Bob’s car pulled up and parked outside my office at 2:30 sharp. Bob made his way from the parking lot into the building using a walker. He looked to be in his late 70’s. His dog “Coconut” followed closely behind. Bob and Coconut waited patiently in our lobby area until I emerged from my office to greet him at our appointed time of 3:00.

I started our meeting by asking Bob about his background. He told me he spent the early part of his career in sales for the plastics division of General Electric. I’ve always respected GE alumni since they tend to be well trained in management practices, and Bob was no exception. I found Bob to be polite, cordial, direct, and transparent. He asked good questions to ensure he had a thorough understanding of our needs and quickly put his finger on our pain points. He described his company’s capabilities and took me through his pricing methodology, including the assumptions he would use in providing me with a pricing proposal. He looked me in the eye and took careful notes on a yellow-line pad of paper. He told me he respected my time, ended the meeting promptly, and promised to send me a sample plastic color chip and a pricing proposal. Bob sent me a follow-up email thanking me for my time. The color chip and pricing proposal arrived in a timely fashion as promised.

After concluding our meeting, I walked Bob and Coconut out to Bob’s car and held his door open while he stowed his walker and coaxed Coconut into the front seat. As I waved good-bye to Bob, I thought to myself that I had just had the privilege of meeting with a good old fashion sales guy- an endangered species in today’s business environment.

Bob’s overall approach, his respectfulness, and his manners enabled him to quickly earn my trust and earn my business. In short, Bob’s good manners mattered. My meeting with Bob gave me occasion to reflect on what I would call the lost art of good manners in business.

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In stark contrast to Bob, I find that the majority of people I encounter in business don’t seem to value good manners in the same way Bob does. It seems that good manners have gone the way of face-to-face communications. Texting and emailing have helped to enable bad manners (not to mention poor spelling and bad grammar). It’s easier to get away with bad manners when you don’t have to deal with people face-to-face.

 I understand that business is tougher these days, that many people feel overworked and that it is easy to become desensitized as a result of the barrage of unsolicited emails and various forms of communication we all experience, but acknowledging a vendor’s hard work on a proposal, returning phone calls after someone requests your help, or thanking a business partner for their contribution on an important project are all ways to build positive, enduring relationships. Treating others in business as you would like to be treated is still a timeless maxim by which all of us in business should live.

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Good manners matter. In today’s business climate, good manners, respect for others, and simple expressions of gratitude can make you stand out from the majority of people who no longer give them the attention they deserve.

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