Archive for the ‘Etiquette’ Category
When it comes to communications, I can’t think of any habit that serves us better than trying to picture ourselves in the shoes of the person we’re trying to reach. Usually, we talk about communications aimed at masses or at least groups of stakeholders, but we also need to pay more attention to our day-to-day personal communications. Either way, thinking about the other person’s own “ecosystem” can make a big difference in how you communicate. So let’s focus on how telecommunications technology has changed the rules for something as simple as making a phone call.
A lot of us — especially whose who are over 45 — formed our telephone habits in another day and age. One that didn’t include cell phones, Caller ID, texting and call forwarding. When we called somebody who was on the phone, we got a busy signal. If they were away, chances are we just heard it ringing, as answering devices were still primitive and less than ubiquitous.
So we tried again later. Somebody was in the shower. Or in a meeting. Or gone fishing.
That was a perfectly functional and necessary thing to do in 1975. Now? Not so much. Yet, some of us revert to those old habits, to the great annoyance of our younger friends and associates.
Let’s assume you started with the person’s landline. That’s usually the best place to start, and the one I prefer when somebody’s calling me. But if there’s no answer, no worries. I’ll try his cell. But here’s the problem: When I’m out of the office for more than a few minutes, I always forward my calls to my cell. So let’s say I’m in a meeting, or maybe driving. You call my office and my phone rings. You dial it a second time and it rings again. You’ve now disturbed my meeting twice. Even if my phone is on silent, the vibrating is a distraction. So you leave a voice mail.
Know what happens when I get a voice message? I have to dial a phone number. OK, on most phones you can just press and hold the “1″ button, but it’s still a pain. Then I listen to the mechanical voice telling me how many new messages I have, how many archived messages there are, and what I need to push to get your message. Finally, I listen to a rambling message that’s barely decipherable, especially if I’m in a noisy environment. A few more keystrokes to delete the message, then a quick search for the back of an envelope for me to write it down.
Can you blame me — or your friends, co-workers or clients — for preferring a text or email? I can read that in a second or two, and like everybody else, I get it all on my phone anyway. Often, even that isn’t necessary. My phone tells me you called, and it seems safe to assume you wouldn’t do that if you didn’t want to talk to me. Here’s a good way to be sure: For people you talk with regularly, just ask. Most will tell you that no voice mail means “Give me a call.” I have a service that turns your message into a text anyway, but it doesn’t work so well if you mumble.
A side point: I notice a lot more “This mailbox is full” messages at the end of somebody’s outgoing message. The younger somebody is, the more likely it is to encounter this. Lots of folks have simply bailed and no longer even pretend to listen to it! (I’ve never seen any stats on this, but I’d sure like to.)
Sometimes voicemail is unavoidable. If I need to convey something simple and important and I’m driving, I’ll leave one. But if I’m at a computer, or if it’s safe for me to text, I’ll shoot you a text or email.
Yes, I revert to old habits like other folks my age. I’ll call back later. Or hang up and try the cell. But I’m getting better. And in today’s world, you should too.
Note: Since I originally posted this a few months ago, the stupid things people do to get social media attention have evolved. So I’ve added a couple of new “sins” and demoted some of those that are showing up less frequently these days. I feel sure they’ll be back. — Carl
Admittedly, the social media rules have always been fuzzy and fluid. Great new ideas turned into annoying misdeeds in short order, and there were a lot of people that didn’t get the memo.
But we’ve all grown, and the picture has become more settled. We’re out of excuses on some of the earlier sins because, well, they’ve been sins for quite a while now. So if you’re still committing them, it’s time to mend your ways and turn to the straight and narrow path of responsible social communication.
- Irrelevant invites. Thanks all the same, but I’m probably NOT going to fly across country to attend your event. Come to think of it, I don’t even know you. Did you think the least bit before sending that out to everybody on your friend list?
- Shameless attention ploys. This is my hottest annoyance button at the moment. Somebody on my Facebook page — in the last 24 hours — posted a picture that said something to the effect of “If you loved your father and he’s living, or if he’s died, share this picture.” Another one — literally — begged me to hit the “like” or “share” button if I’d ever had a puppy I loved, or if I wanted to. (I can’t make this stuff up, folks.) Just stop. Please. You’re embarrassing yourself.
- Out-of-control tagging. On Twitter, spammers now have systems that create new Twitter accounts and send out thousands of messages with links, each tagged to three or four different people. (These often get spam reported and deleted by Twitter in a matter of hours or even minutes.) If you want to be identified with this scum, then by all means tag everybody you know, whether they’re in the conversation (or photo) or not.
- Gratuitous gamesmanship. What on earth ever gave you the idea that we want to know every time your angry bird kills a green pig? And what were you thinking when you told that game it could post to your Twitter and Facebook accounts. And while we’re speaking of games, how about thinking before you let the latest Zynga creation challenge everybody on your Facebook page to a friendly game? I keep a Word with Friends game going with a couple of friends, and even that’s a stretch. If I started up a game with every challenge, I’d be doing it 24/7. Don’t you have any real friends to play with?
- Desperate friend/follower collection. Please tell me you wouldn’t walk up to strangers at the mall and say, “Look, we both shop at Macy’s. Can we be friends?” The social networks are just a subset of life. They’re places we go. They don’t have their own set of rules. Following somebody on Twitter is the equivalent of people-watching on the street. If they’re out in public, it’s ok to look. But sending friend invitations to people you don’t know is just needy and intrusive. Stop embarrassing yourself.
- Check-in fever. Seriously, we don’t care what time you got to work, or if you’ve had nothing to do but hang out at Lizzie’s Speakeasy enough times to be named mayor. (Now, if you happen to be at Lizzie’s and a naked terrorist shows up with an Uzi to take everybody hostage, by all means, tweet it. Just tell us why, please, so we’ll know to call the cops.)
- All me, all the time. Pretty much everything Dale Carnegie told us in How to Win Friends and Influence People applies on the realm of social media. (It’s real life, remember?) Show an interest in other people. Hang around and socialize a bit. If you never do anything but talk about yourself, you’re like the guy who barges into a cocktail party, passes about a bunch of brochures or business cards, and leaves without a word.
- Automated posting. If you’re sending out stuff you haven’t even read, consider this: If you didn’t care enough to read it, why should we? For the love of all that is holy, delete your Twitterfeed account. Dress in sackcloth and ashes for a week and live on bread and water until you get the message. If you can find a Twelve-Step Group for recovering RSS abusers, join it and work every step except the one about making amends. You don’t have to come ask for forgiveness. Just quit and it’ll all be OK.
- One-trick ponyism. This is one of the most common and annoying heresies, especially on Facebook. One-Trick Ponyists are those folks who always post exactly the same kind of stuff. Some do nothing but dig up old quotes, humorous or otherwise. Some post nothing but Bible verses. Can you imagine how boring this is to the rest of us? By all means, it’s fine to establish your “brand” in terms of a particular area of emphasis or expertise. But most of us like to hang out with folks who are well rounded and who can talk about a wide range of subjects.
- Public displays of annoyance. If you’re having issues with your spouse, your co-workers or your boss, that’s none of our business. Take it outside, or inside. Anywhere but here. Don’t pull us into your squabbles.