January is typically the month when most people think about making resolutions or setting goals for the New Year. With all good intentions, resolutions soon go by the wayside, and we continue in our old ways. By now yours are probably nothing more than a distant memory.
Why not take a new approach? Instead of making resolutions or setting goals, consider developing new habits. Of course, I am thinking of developing new habits that fall in the realm of civility—that which is sorely missing in today’s world.
In the seventh annual Civility in America poll conducted by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate with KRC Research, a record high number—69 percent—of Americans believe that the U.S. has a major civility problem. My guess is that you would agree. Obviously the problem is overwhelming and putting a simple band aid on the issue won’t fix it. However, if you look at your own behaviors, I bet there are more than a few habits you could change or new ones you could develop that would help at least your world become a more civilized place.
Check my list for developing new habits and see which ones might apply to you.
- Cell phone Addiction. Do you have to have your cell phone with you at all times and in all places? Do you feel naked or lost without it? Does it need to be turned on or visible wherever you are? Do you answer every call, text or email that comes in no matter where you are? If you can say “yes” to any or all of those questions, consider developing a new habit. Keep your phone off and out of sight in the company of others. When you have your phone on or carefully place it where you can keep an eye on it, you are sending a message that the people in your presence are not as important as someone who might be about to call, text or send you an email.
- Eating with no regard for manners. Do you talk with food in your mouth? Chew with your mouth open? Wave your utensils in the air to make a point? Use your napkin to blow your nose? Eat with your elbows on the table? If so, your new habit might be paying attention to your table manners and remembering what your mother taught you. If you weren’t listening or have simply forgotten, there are resources that can help you develop good habits when dining with others. May I recommend an email or hard copy of my own Lydia Ramsey’s Little Book of Table Manners – 85 Tips for Dining for Success?
- Failing to reply to invitations. When an invitation to an event arrives, get into the habit of checking your calendar immediately and sending your response. Your host needs to know how many people to plan for so failing to reply is beyond thoughtless.
- Omitting the words “please”, “thank you”, “excuse me” and “you’re welcome” from your vocabulary. Getting in the habit of using those simple words can make a big difference in your interaction with others. Their use identifies you as a considerate person. And please, please, please try to remember that “No problem” is not the proper response to “thank you”. The correct reply is “you are welcome”.
- Wearing dirty, scuffed or unpolished shoes. If you think that others don’t notice your shoes, you are wrong. There are indeed people who notice shoes first thing. I call them “the shoe people.” When these people look at your feet, they are not checking to see if you are wearing the latest fashion, they are noticing the condition of your shoes and making a judgment about you. If you don’t pay attention to your shoes, perhaps you don’t pay attention to other details. This is not the message you want to send in business. If you are not in the habit of checking the condition of your shoes, it is time to start.
If you are not in the habit of concealing your cell phone, minding your table manners, replying to invitations, using polite terms or taking care of your shoes, you just might find that people are not in the habit of doing business with you.
Forget making those annual resolutions and start think instead of developing habits that will grow your business and add to your bottom line.
Lydia Ramsey is a business etiquette expert, sought-after speaker, trainer, author and newspaper columnist who is on a mission to stamp out rudeness and enhance professional conduct in the workplace. She is the author of Manners That Sell – Adding the Polish That Builds Profits and Lydia Ramsey’s Little Book of Table Manners.
Contact her at 912-598-9812 or visit her website at LydiaRamsey.com to leave a comment, ask a question or learn more about her programs and products for businesses, corporations, associations, colleges and universities. She is always ready to talk or travel.