With the technological boom of the recent years, including social media, there is almost no reason to actually interact with humans face to face anymore. That is, no reason other than to keep that wonderful thing known as human interaction from disappearing the way of the rotary phone. Can you imagine a world where seeing another human and actually speaking to them is as novel as those phones, a horse and carriage, or a television that you have to walk to and turn a knob to flip the channels? While it seems we are still pretty far away from this as a civilization, in the business world it may be closer than you think. With more efficient and effective electronic ways to manage projects, communicate with customers and team members, and keep up with inventory and finances available every day, we must be proactive and purposeful in keeping some basic business etiquette alive and well.
When to Be Unavailable
One of the best things about mobile devices is that we are available all of the time. We can put out fires, answer questions, manage projects, manage finances, and more anytime and anywhere. Most realize there has to be some unplugged time in personal life, but truly this needs to happen in the business world as well. If you are meeting a colleague for lunch or attending a meeting, do your best to be unavailable to anyone not associated with the meeting. Give it your full focus as much as possible and it will be much more productive.
It is easy in this world of technology to simply ignore some communications. That text, phone call, or email from an employee or colleague that you really do not care about is easy to delete, forget, or ignore. This is especially tempting if you are simply not interested or avoiding someone. Don’t do it. If someone was speaking directly to you, you would not simply ignore them. While technology is great for screening and prioritizing, be certain you set aside regular time to respond even if it is simply to say you are not interested or do not have time.
Be Interested, or at Least Polite about Not Being Interested
When someone hands you a business card, proposal, or some other document that you can choose whether or not to accept, handle the situation with grace and poise. If you do not want it, politely explain it is simply not for your business or for you at this time. If you do take it, take it with interest and be certain to follow up, again, even if it only to say you haven’t had or will not have time. When it comes to business cards, just take it and add it to your collection, and put it in a place where it appears it will not be washed such as a wallet or a shirt pocket. The back pocket of your slacks is not where it should go. It gives the impression that you are not interested, even if you are, and it is easily forgotten.
Know Something Personal
Try to find out something personal about those you interact with regularly. Not boxers or briefs, but something that you can use to relate to them on a personal level. For example, know whether or not they have kids, care for an aging parent, or love to golf. Then you can make small talk that means something by asking about their kids, their parent, or how their golf game is going. You wouldn’t want to ask about any of these things if their parents were gone, they had no kids, and they bowled but had never golfed a day in their life.
It isn’t hard, but sometime we forget that the same way we treat others in our personal lives is the way we should treat them in our business lives. Everyone deserves basic respect and appropriate attention when it is called for. It would be a shame to see business reduced to humans behind screens and phones any more than it already is.