Sunday, July 25, 2010

Is Your Politeness "Automatic?"

Anyone can be polite and nice when things are all going great. They real trick is being polite no matter what, and the only way to do that is to make politeness an "automatic response."

This past weekend I was visiting a friend who lives in an apartment building. I get on the elevator and push the button for my floor. Just as the doors begin to close, I hear a rather sharp, semi-high pitched voice call out, "hold the elevator!"

Note: What did I not hear? "Hold the elevator, please." Or, "Could you please hold the elevator." Heck, I would have taken, "Hold the please elevator." Sure, it makes no grammatical sense, but at least it would have been an attempt at politeness.

I of course reach down and push the "open" button which, unsurprisingly, makes the doors open. A young woman walks on the elevator, avoids any and all eye contact, turns to face front, and pushes the button for her floor.

Note: What did she not do? Offer even the hint of a "thank you." She didn't say it.

She didn't mumble it. She didn't even give me that half-hearted semi-nod and smile we all know to mean, "thanks." Nope. Nothing.




No "please." No "thank you." What is this world coming to?

Perhaps she was preoccupied. Perhaps she was having a bad day. Perhaps she avoids talking to all men on elevators because she is afraid they will all start hitting on her (though the story in my head goes that she was so overwhelmed with my awesome attractiveness that she was too flustered to talk. Yeah, that's what it was). Or perhaps she just is not a person who says "thank you" automatically when someone does something nice for her.

Sadly, I think a lot of people fall into this final category.

They just don't have basic polite responses wired into them so they often forget the little things.

In this example there was no real consequence to her not having basic politeness. But how about in business? How about in your business or company?

Do you and your people automatically maintain great levels of politeness and courtesy? Before you answer with a super quick, "of course!" take a second and think about it. Then pay attention for a day or two to the people you interact with at various places of business. While there are plenty of people who are courteous, polite, and helpful, you are sure to see examples of people being rude, impolite, and thoughtless.

Maybe those people were having a bad day or were preoccupied. But can your organization afford to deal with the consequences of your people having an "off day?"

The Lesson:
Make the polite response "automatic" (i.e. not something people think about doing and not something they remember from a script). Then even when a person has a bad day they will still deliver a great experience.

And the next time you ask someone to hold the elevator for you, say "thank, you." 'Cause the next time someone asks me to hold the elevator for them and doesn't, I'm shovin' them off before the doors close!