Sue Scheff: How to Keep Good Manners in the Digital World

Soure: Guideposts Magazine

Pls B Consider8!

How to keep good manners alive in the digital age

By Patricia Rossi, Safety Harbor, Florida
August, 2009

I get questions all the time about rules of etiquette in this tech-crazy world. Lord knows, things have changed. But not everything.

I always go back to what my grandma taught me (and she thought Blackberries grew on bushes!): Good manners never go out of style. Common courtesy most often is just common sense.

Here are some tips to help you navigate the digital world with style, grace and, most important, consideration for others.

Don't Cell Yell
What is it about cell phones that make us think the person on the other end is stone deaf?

Be aware of others’ personal space when you’re talking. Phone conversations are meant to be private, regardless of where you’re taking the call.

Everyone has a cell-phone horror story. Once I was in a quiet Japanese garden only to have the peace shattered by someone’s techno funk ring tone. I wanted to toss it right into the pond of tranquility.

Try to keep your phone on vibrate or off. That’s the best way to avoid having it go off at the most embarrassing time. Never use a cell phone in meetings, church, theaters or when someone is talking to you, unless it’s an emergency—and I mean a real emergency. If your phone does ring, you don’t have to answer it. Honey, phones have voice mail for a reason.

If you must talk on the phone in a public place, excuse yourself, speak quietly and briefly. If possible, stand at least 10 feet away from others.

Don’t share intimate details of your life where everyone can hear them. Even if you don’t mind, I can almost guarantee you it’s too much information for those around you—or should be.

Look before you text
In London so many people were getting injured while walking and texting that the city started padding the lamp posts. I kid you not.

And recently the coach of a professional sports team called me in a fit because his team—even the assistant coaches—were constantly texting while he was talking.

It’s fun to text. But people’s addiction to texting isn’t funny. Last September in a California train accident that killed 25 people, the engineer was found to have been texting seconds before his train went through a red light.

As the Bible says, there’s a time and a place for everything. In short, nix the multitasking. The same rules for cell-phone usage apply to texting.

Plus, you’ll perform better when you’re concentrating on the job at hand and you’ll be less stressed, to boot. It is flat-out rude to text when you’re supposed to be paying attention to the person or persons you’re with. (There should be a law against it at the dinner table.)

Texting is for casual conversation, so no sending formal invitations, “I’m breaking up with you,” or thank-you notes via text messaging.

Don’t be a text heckler—sending so many texts that you become annoying or with so many abbreviations that they can’t be deciphered.

Think before you send
Recently I was called in to advise a company because so many of its managers were forever hitting “reply all” on e-mails and sending backhanded compliments directed at one person, angering the recipient, spreading ill will and wasting everyone’s time.

Few things waste more time and cause more hurt feelings than e-mail.

When a group e-mail is sent out and you need to reply to one person, don’t hit “reply all.” Make subject lines to the point. Put your reply at the top of
e-mails. And if your e-mail is super short, you can put it in the subject line only with the abbreviation “eom,” for end of message.

Remember, considera­tion for others is key. Hunkering down behind a computer screen gives some people a false sense of anonymity and causes them to behave in a way they might not be proud of.

Remember, once you hit send, you can’t get those words back. Don’t dash off an e-mail when you’re upset or overstressed. Back when letters were handwritten, the best advice was to get your angry thoughts down on paper then throw them away. It’s still good advice in a digital world. Don’t be afraid to hit “delete.”

E-mail is best for short messages, like setting an appointment or following up on a conversation. Otherwise, face-to-face meetings are preferable. There’s much less chance for misunderstanding and a far better opportunity for real dialogue.

I’ve been in plenty of offices where everyone worked within several feet of each other but never talked one on one. Get out of your chair. You’ll think better if you get your blood moving.

Sometimes, of course, e-mail is your only option for introducing yourself. The same formalities of how to write a letter apply. Address the person politely by their surname, until they respond with their first name. Use spell check, but don’t rely on it alone. Write in complete sentences with organized thoughts. And please don’t pepper your more formal e-mails with abbreviations, emoticons or dancing graphics.

Thanks for (not) sharing
Growing up in the South I was taught there are some things you just don’t share with others. Boy, how things have changed!

With millions upon millions of people using sites like Twitter and Facebook to chronicle everything from what they ate for breakfast to…oh, my!!!, privacy seems so old-fashioned.

Before you post that crazy party photo from the weekend or go off on a rant about your boss, think about whether it’s really something you want the whole world to know. Is it something you’d be proud to have published on the front page of your newspaper? Because once you post something on the internet, that’s essentially what you’ve done—only to a worldwide audience, permanently.

Most employers now routinely check a job applicant’s internet footprint as part of the hiring process. Risqué photos, off-color jokes and tirades about work are a sure path to a rejection letter.

Many social-networking sites—like Facebook and MySpace—offer privacy controls that shield your posts from the public. For some reason, most people don’t use them, but you should. Even with your friends, think about what you want to post for everyone to read versus something that is better shared through a private message.

Before sending something out into cyberspace, I always ask myself, What would Grandma have thought about this?

One last thing—social networking, while great for staying in touch, is not a substitute for real intimacy. You can’t actually hold a dear one’s hand on the web. Make sure you don’t become isolated in a digital world. Technology can make it both easier and harder to really communicate.

When Grandma needed advice she would turn to the Bible, which offers the best lesson on good manners ever published: “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.”

Re­member that verse and you’ll never go wrong, even on the internet.

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