The Blog

| July 10, 2015

Number 123

Courtesy. Common or Otherwise.

Never underestimate the value of a well-placed please or thank you.

A few years ago, I was in a meeting, a long-standing-client meeting, where I was brought in to make a presentation to a new VP Director of This and That. The meeting had been scheduled for an hour. Two hours before I was to leave my office, the meeting was cut back to a half an hour. When I arrived, the VPD was still busy. Ten minutes later, he finally arrived and said,”Make it fast. Go.”

Obviously, this was a Very Important Person.

No “I’m sorry” deemed necessary.  No “Thank you for your patience” considered appropriate to the occasion.  No “I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m so and so” – we’d not met, you see –  offered as a polite buffering of the situation.

Just “Make it fast. Go.” I’m thinking he was raised in a barn.

So, I did the Evelyn Wood version of the presentation, talked over by my host. I was asked to sum up at bullet speed, then had my summations recited back incorrectly. This was quickly followed by some talk about being Too Busy, followed by a brusk shaking of hands and 20 minutes later, meeting over. Wait, was that a “Thank you “ I heard? No, just the closing of an elevator door. I don’t like rude and I don’t like ignorant, but when they’re combined, well, I’m not happy at all.

A lot of people are Too Busy in business. A lot of people are Very Important. Get over it. There’s always someone busier and always someone more important. And often it’s the five-year-old child of your vendor or assistant or self. The Center of the Universe just called and they didn’t ask to speak with you.

Around that same time, I had a meeting with a new VP Director of Some-such from a different large client. She was sharp and concise… and kind and appreciative and very gracious. Also Very Busy. Our meeting was also quick and she thanked me for understanding. She also sent an e mail the next day, thanking me again and apologizing for her schedule. Clearly not raised in a barn.

I’ve dealt with some very powerful people over the course of my career. I tend to remember some of the rude ones and mock them later – by now, I pretty much have a full lounge act of imitations… it’s like the Hollywood Squares of bad clients – but my favorites have always been the ones who have manners, common decency and emotional maturity. I think these characteristics come with confidence – genuine, deep seated confidence that they’re good at what they do, do the best they can, and are appreciative and respectful when they see those characteristics in others.

Here’s a newsflash for ya – no matter which side of the relationship equation you’re on, the quality of the end result is directly related to the level of mutual respect that’s created pretty much from the get go. That goes for personal as well as business. No one has to do anything for someone else. But, if they want to make you happy because they know you’ll be genuinely appreciative of the effort and thoughtfulness, they will. And they’ll be happy and you’ll be happy and you’ll do more together and enjoy the process more together and benefit more – together. Happy. Happy. Happy. Say please, say thank you, say I’m sorry… and mean it. There are worse things than living your life in a constant state of appreciation.

As Fate would have it, I heard from both of the VPDs during the last two weeks – surprising, and obviously what prompted this rant. Both were their usual selves and Very Busy, to which I say Bite Me, you wouldn’t know Very Busy if it… but I digress. Both were also in need of a favor. When Barnboy asked for his, the answer was a slow, drawn out, painful “no”… I don’t say, “no,” easily but this was a pleasure. You see, I was, um, Too Busy, which trumps Very Busy, in case you wondered.

VPD number 2 was an entirely different experience. She was asking a favor, pure and simple, and wanted to know if it was at all possible and she would surely understand if it wasn’t… and… How’s the family? What’s going on? Loved the last painting I saw. Can we have lunch? I’ve made a reservation. It’s yours to cancel… And my response was, Great. Lots. Thanks.  I’m your guy. Reservation confirmed. See you Saturday!

Very Important People, just like everyone else, come in many shapes and sizes and behavioral patterns. And if they’re everything they think they are, they understand the importance and power of common courtesy. If they don’t, they have daddy issues and are trying desperately to prove their worth. Let it go… it’s not their fault.

But it’s a damned nuisance and they should get over it.

When restraint and courtesy are added to strength, the latter becomes irresistible.

– Mahatma Gandhi


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