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How to Be Respectful

Being unaware of social faux pas is no excuse for inadvertent rudeness
BY Bill Lindsey TIMEFebruary 18, 2022 PRINT

There are several basic rules of common courtesies that need to be followed when interacting with others for social or business purposes. To ensure they’re not forgotten, here’s a brief refresher course.

Make Eye Contact

In addition to it being rude, it’s very disconcerting to talk with someone when they avoid making eye contact. Eye contact and appropriate facial expressions make it clear you’re interested in what the other person has to say. Wait for your turn to talk, and when you do, speak clearly. They may not be able to hear you due to background noise or if they have impaired hearing. If you notice them frowning or asking you to repeat yourself, apologize and speak up—without shouting.

Give a Heads-Up

While the use of turn signals while driving may seem to be optional, it’s not. Using them alerts nearby drivers of your intentions, thereby hopefully avoiding an accident. The same can be said in the office. If you need the conference room for a meeting, make sure it’s not already in use or scheduled for a meeting when you need it. Be on time for in-person and virtual meetings as well as scheduled calls, and take care to meet due dates for projects. If you cannot avoid being late or missing a meeting, let your co-workers know as soon as possible.

Be Thoughtful

If you share a refrigerator at the office, you certainly know what’s yours and what’s not. Don’t help yourself to someone else’s food or beverages. If you have assigned parking spaces, don’t use someone else’s even if someone is in your space. Leave a polite note on the windshield of the offending vehicle and alert the property manager. In multi-level buildings, don’t delay elevators by holding the doors open if there are others already aboard.

Excuse Yourself to Use the Phone

Abruptly interrupting a meeting to take a call or respond to a text message is bad behavior, whether in a meeting with one person or 37 others. If you’re expecting an important call, let the others in the room or on the call know at the start of the meeting that you may need to take a moment to reply. Checking your phone for messages during a meeting is also disrespectful. Responding to a text or call during a meeting is even worse outside of extremely unique situations such as a dire emergency.

Be Mindful of Communication Etiquette

Don’t send a reply to all or send a new business-related email to all, unless it is truly relevant to all on the list. Doing so may cause those not involved to waste time reading it, or it may come across as tattletale behavior or attempting to curry favor with a supervisor. Reply to email, text messages, and phone calls as soon as practical. If you’ll be out of the office for a few days, post an auto-reply message to this effect with an alternative contact suggestion.

Bill Lindsey
Bill Lindsey is an award-winning writer based in South Florida. He covers real estate, automobiles, timepieces, boats, and travel topics.
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