“Always say please and thank you.”Look people in the eye when you are speaking and listening to them.” “Don’t interrupt when another is speaking.”
For most of us, these basic rules of etiquette have been ingrained in our brains from very early in our lives. And while the legal profession is rife with professionals that don’t exercise these basic rules on a daily basis, I would venture to guess that, for the most part, lawyers know the difference between good and bad manners.
As technology and the Internet continue to invade the real-world, the courtesies and etiquette generally accepted as polite by users of technology are not quite so clear. And this should come as no surprise.
While many basic rules of business etiquette are common sense, and easily translate in the realm of “techiquette,” there are many new forms of communication to which these basic rules either don’t hold, or in the very least, need modification:
- How much (or should I at all) use my smartphone in public?
- How, and how fast should I respond to an email?
- What are the considerations for unfriending someone?
- What should I include in my email signature block?
In Missing Manners for the Digital Age, Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell discuss the evolving notion of “digital etiquette,” where people are most likely to make missteps in digital manners, and their take on guiding principles for good and polite behavior in our digital world. I encourage you to check out the podcast and see whether or not you are familiar with, agree, or disagree some of their basic rules of techiquette.
Robert Half shares some common sticky etiquette questions and tips to help tackle them:
- Should I personalize my LinkedIn requests to connect with others?
- How do I keep my manager from getting wind of my job search using LinkedIn?
- Should I friend my boss or coworkers?
- Can Facebook postings hurt my job search?
- Should I use Facebook at work?
- What’s the right way to decline a request to connect with someone?
- If someone follows me on Twitter, should I automatically follow him or her back?
- Uh oh. I sent a confidential e-mail to the wrong person. What do I do now?
- How responsive should I be to e-mail when I’m on vacation?
- I forgot to attach a file before sending an e-mail…again. How can I avoid this in the future?
- How can I prevent my colleagues from scheduling conference calls over lunch?
In my experience, there is a very strong correlation between those that exhibit poor basic etiquette and poor techiquette. Coincidence? I think not. However, there are also plenty of very polite people with whom I deal that appear to make basic techiquette mistakes without knowing the rule.
As with all forms of communication technology, the rules of what is generally accepted as polite take time to develop. For example, the rules for appropriate cell phone usage, which have really only become ubiquitous in the last ten to fifteen years, are still the subject of much debate. While I venture to guess that most of us would agree that using your cell phone during dinner is just plain rude, I suspect there would be much disagreement about usage on public buses, trains, and planes.
The rapid adoption of social media has turned hundreds of millions of people into online publishers in a matter of very few years. And with this mass adoption has come, in my humble opinion, an exponential amplification of rude and unprofessional communication and conduct.
Is this due to a lack of understanding of what’s appropriate? Or is it merely a showcase for unprofessional conduct that has existed for decades? What are some of your biggest techiqutte pet peeves?