The Importance of Common Courtesy

I always remember the day I got a proper telling off from my own coach!  I was working in a management role in a large financial organisation and my coach had arrived for our session.  I had gone up to the top floor of the building where our meeting rooms were, asked the lady at reception which room we were in, and had proceeded to the allocated room.  I was then informed by my coach that I had just been extremely rude to the lady at reception and it had left a very bad impression on her regarding my character.  I felt like the school girl in pigtails.  Blushing scarlet at such a telling off, I was baffled - how rude could I have been when all I did was give my name and wait to be told what room I was in?  But the answer is in fact, extremely!  

Retracing my steps - I was chatting away with my coach, I had approached the reception desk, and mid flow I told the lady my name and waited to hear where we were to go. I had resumed the conversation with my coach and proceeded down the corridor.  But how different that conversation could have looked.  

A polite indication to my guest that I needed to pause our chat, and then a "Hello.  How are you?  Please could you help me with the following" and certainly a "Thank you so much" and even a "Have a nice afternoon".   

So what?  

It matters not only to the individual concerned that I was rude to, but also the impression I gave to my guest.  What she saw was that I treated people junior to me in an uncaring fashion.  It said, "I am much more important than you, so I am not even going to stop my conversation with my guest to give you the respect you deserve considering you are helping me find a meeting room.”  I sent an arrogant subliminal message of – “well she doesn't matter, just support staff.”  This applies to many of the people we work with.  Like the person on security, the person at main reception, the person who cleans the loos, the person serving you coffee, giving you your lunch, emptying the bin beside your desk, fixing your IT.....  The list is long, and it would be easily possible to go through your day without entering a conversation with a single one of them.  For most, merely a line of dialogue instructing what you need, "Cafe latte please" and for many, not even that.  

But let me tell you... what if you do take a few seconds to show some appreciation.  What if you say, "Good morning" to the man on the security gate.  Go one further and ask him his name.  Mine was called Lee.  Every day I said, "Good Morning Lee" and he would reciprocate and smile.  On the days when I forgot my pass, do you think he made me go around to the visitor entrance and fill in all the paper work.  Of course not.  They were always the days I was in a rush, and my simple good morning was repaid in spades.   

The same goes for IT.  I was shocked one day when Martin, our IT support person, said that most people just shout at him.  What a very short-sighted view.   For one thing, it's not Martin's fault that the computer doesn't work.  Complain about your IT developers, and purchasers, but not the support guy.  Secondly, he is one person in your life you need as your friend.  Martin went above and beyond to help me with things over the years, and I am sure he responded to my callouts faster than the folk that screamed at him.  It really doesn't cost us to say "Good Morning.  How are you?  Are you having a good day?"   Offer him a biscuit from the packet that's lying on your desk in front of him.  He is a human and he will feel hungry and if he says no, he will appreciate the gesture.  And please don't forget to say, "Thank you."  Sounds so simple, yet most of the world don't bother. 

So, here's one simple thing you can do today, to make a very small difference to someone else's life, that may even pay back to you one day or it may not - doesn't matter either way.  Try asking someone's name, greeting someone with a good morning, or making a special effort to show your appreciation for somebody's usually unthanked labours.  It's only going to cost you a few seconds of your day.  Imagine if the whole world tried to do that... what a difference world it would be?  


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