Basic Courtesy, Part I

By Chuck Violand

May 8, 2017

Doing business doesn’t have to be complicated, but too often, we do overcomplicate it. Doing business doesn’t have to be a struggle either, but we often do, because in the transactional, hurry-up world of commerce we pass over the basic courtesies that make business much more enjoyable. Being courteous can be compared to putting grease on the wheels of business: things just run smoother when it’s spread liberally over surfaces that come into contact.

Being courteous doesn’t have anything to do with how smart we are, our net worth, or what generation we were born into. After all, some of these things we can’t control. But we can control our courtesy, and showing courtesy toward others can make doing business less of a struggle. These courtesies apply to people across the entire spectrum of business: owners, partners, employees, customers, prospects, vendors, and contractors.

While I have no data to support this claim, I’ve got to believe that people who are courteous are more likely to win customers, advance in their careers, and get along better in life than people who aren’t. To help achieve these things, here are a few easy steps all of us can take to be more courteous.

Say “Please.” This one’s pretty basic, but sometimes the most basic things are also the most important. Saying “please” is one of them.
Too often, we lose this fundamental skill as we advance in our careers. Titles, prestige, and elevated incomes can deceive us into thinking we’ve risen above the need to say “please” anymore. That’s a mistake. We never outgrow the need.

Say “Thank you.” This is another of those basic courtesies we may think we outgrow as we acquire titles in our careers. But failing to thank others actually telegraphs how self-important we think we are and that’s never good for business.

Saying “thank you” to a peer is a sign of respect. It lets the person know we place value on the comment they made or the effort they put forth. Saying “thank you” to someone who reports to us sends a special message of appreciation and importance to them.
If you want to elevate the appreciation to new heights, send an email, or better yet, a written note.

Apologize. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just a basic “I’m sorry,” or “my apologies,” is sufficient, as long as it’s sincere. You don’t even have to offer a reason for your apology. Sometimes that’s better, because explanations can sound like excuses.

Apologies are appropriate when you miss a deadline, or when you drop the ball, show up late, misunderstand, show impatience or anger, or when you just screw up.

It can be tough to be courteous when you’re overly busy, tired, successful, or when you own a title. But none of these justifies being discourteous; it just makes being courteous that much more appreciated.

Admittedly, these examples are basic. But being courteous is basic. In Part II, I’ll cover a few more-sophisticated forms of courtesy.