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Personal Presence:  Do Manners Still Matter?

“Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot,” according to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.  In a culture where many seemingly have no time for courtesy, minding your manners when others have forgotten theirs can get you a job, a promotion, or a date.

Manners make the man—or the woman—different, distinctive, memorable.  Yet, I encounter and hear complaints about these faux pas weekly:

  • Failure to respond on RSVPs
  • Improper introductions
  • Late arrivals to conference calls and meetings
  • Late thank-you calls or notes
  • Unreturned calls or emails
  • Inattention when people speak to you


So here are a few reminders:

Accept or decline all invitations promptly: When you wait longer than a week to reply when RSVPs are requested, the host may wonder whether you’re waiting for a better offer to come along. Hosts must plan the menu, pay for the food for each attendee, and in some cases rent serving dishes and furniture for a specific number of guests. If the host has to contact you to ask whether you’re attending, you have committed a major faux pas.

Be prompt to meetings or conference callsArriving late communicates to others either of two messages: “My time is more valuable than yours” or “I’m a poor time manager.”  Neither is a positive message.  The longer I’ve dealt with senior executives, the more apparent the importance they place on punctuality.

Be present when you show up:  When you attend an event, turn off all the gadgets and get in the spirit of the thing. What host wants to have guests who stand in the corner and hang on their cell phone all evening? Or who wants guests who pop in for 15 minutes, only to announce that they were late and are leaving early because they have more important places to be and people to see? If you’re going to show up, join in. Don’t make your attendance sound like an obligatory duty.

Introduce and include peopleIf you’re involved in a conversation and someone joins you, introduce the newcomer to the group and toss out a line to rope them into the conversation. If you’re the person about to join the group, read the body language to make sure the other two people aren’t involved in a private discussion.

Be prompt with a thank-you note or call.  A note that arrives 3 weeks after the event or situation looks like “my mom made me write this.”

Turn off your background noise makers: Callers do not want to hear your music makers in the background (radio, iPod, or your iTunes selection) coming through while they’re trying to carry on a conversation with you.

Please feel free to add others in the “Comments” box below.

8 thoughts on “Personal Presence: Do Manners Still Matter?”

  1. I agree with all of these, Dianna. Manners do seem to becoming so distressingly passe. I’m especially bothered when someone pays more attention to their “device” than the person sitting across from them.

  2. Manners and etiquette are so important! It’s wonderful that you are offering this information. It seems like the art of etiquette has been lost nowadays.

    1. Not only have the rules of business etiquette been forgotten, Deanna. Unfortunately, either some people never learned them–or didn’t realize how important these issues were to their career. Their careers have stalled at some point, and they don’t understand what is holding them back.

  3. Manners matter. Manners convey intent although there is huge perception element of others which is beyond us. However better to focus on what we have control over, which is our own manners.

    1. You’re right, Jagan. Many people try to blame “circumstances beyond their control” for poor manners. But that’s generally not the cause. Good manners is typically about communication–something we alone control.

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