Manners for the Millennium

By Anne McCory, Computer World – 03/15/2000 – 12:00am


Online and off, America is going through an etiquette renaissance as business and technical people realize that to get ahead, manners count.

So says Sue Fox, a 10-year Apple Computer alumna who’s now president of Etiquette Survival, a Los Gatos, Calif.-based etiquette service. The company teaches table manners, business and international protocol and media training. Fox also is writing Etiquette for Dummies, to be published this fall by IDG Books Worldwide Inc., which is majority-owned by the same parent company as Computerworld.

Fox and consultant Joie Gregory, president of New York dining etiquette firm The Right Fork, note that in our fast-paced, technical gadget laden world, technologists and others forget the manners we learned as children. It’s not that we’re oafs, they insist, it’s just that we forget to pay attention to the little things like the following:

The importance of a firm handshake, first impressions and remembering people’s names. Working in front of a computer screen all day can inure you to usual social graces, Fox says. Agrees Gregory: “People in advertising or PR are used to dealing with people all the time. In technology, we’re used to dealing through computers talking to people.”

Keeping the conversation accessible to all at social gatherings by not using jargon and insider terms that may stymie new acquaintances.

Not appearing rushed or impatient: Clients complain that haste-based rudeness is predominant in modern life, Fox says. “What I’ve noticed is people not being good listeners, looking at their watch in a conversation or during a meeting,” she says. “If people don’t have the time or interest in meeting with someone they just shouldn’t do it.”
And with the millennium comes the need for new types of manners to govern the usage of technology. Fox offers these tips:

E-mail: Respond within a day or so or at least acknowledge its receipt. Also, close with a salutation (Regards, Joe”) and remember to put a topic in the subject field.

Cellular phone: Turn it off during dinner unless you’re a doctor (or, OK, systems administrator) who has to be available to handle a crisis. If it rings, excuse yourself from the table to talk. If you’re expecting numerous critical calls because your company is being acquired or undergoing a major systems upgrade, put off social plans. Fox says a business associate once took five calls in one hour during a meal. “If things are that critical, they probably shouldn’t have gone to dinner,” she says.

Coastal differences: Easterners are more formal in dress and manners than Westerners, who are more laid back. And if you’re traveling to the South, dust off your copy of Emily Post first-they’re mighty proper down there. Even in an increasingly global society, certain traditions prevail.

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