Technology seems to be changing by the nano second. There is always some new device or application that finds its way into our hands and integrated into our lives. It doesn’t take long for us to wonder how we ever got along without some new gadget and when the upgrade will be available. While these tools, make our lives easier (or so we think), they don’t always improve our interactions with others.
With new technology, comes new rules. Which means that to get the most from our new applications, it’s important that we reboot our manners and upgrade our etiquette. I reached out to Ruth Fisher of Complete Definition Image Consulting to discuss the protocol for using some of the most common technologies.
RDD: Why is etiquette so important? Aren’t basic manners good enough? Is there a difference?
Ruth: Manners involve behavior. Manners are a part of character. Whereas, etiquette involves the rules of what you should do. Your conduct. You could have good manners, and still use improper etiquette. For example, using the wrong fork would be an example of improper etiquette. Above all you should focus on good manners first and then learn etiquette. Etiquette changes with the times.
RDD: I’d like to talk to you about etiquette and technology. What is the protocol in this age of technology?
Ruth: When using information resources, again it’s important to use good manners. Knowing the appropriate etiquette puts you at ease when using technology. There are some general rules you should follow, especially with e-mail.
- Be respectful. You should always be respectful whether the exchange is professional or personal.
- Remember that e-mails are forever. This is especially important to keep in mind when using e-mail in the workplace. That message is part of who you are. Always be polite. All caps are always a no-no. If you need to get a point across, pick up the phone. If you need 2 or more exchanges, pick up the phone.
- Always be mindful of grammar.
- When at work, do not use emoticons. Your messages can be forwarded and you never know who might end up reading them.
- Be respectful about sending messages after hours. A Blackberry can signal a message has been received, so be clear that a response is not expected before normal hours.
- Do not vent in e-mail.
- Use salutations. Use “Hello” or “Hi”, never “Hey”.
- Take the high road. Do not respond in kind to negative or disrespectful messages. Change the tone.
- Always use Out-Of-Office when away from the office and acknowledge e-mails after an absence.
RDD: Today a lot of people are using text messages. Is there any particular etiquette that we should use?
Ruth: Yes. The new etiquette in this area is, spell your words out unless you are a child. Spell out your words, but be brief. The use of symbols is OK. One thing I’d like people to be mindful of, is not transferring text message lingo into e-mails.
RDD: What about in our more personal interactions?
Ruth: When it comes to dating, text messages are not to be used as a substitute for face-to-face conversations. You will not get to know a person through text messages. It’s not a good use of technology.
RDD: What about use of technology when we are in a social setting or involved in a conversation?
Ruth: There’s a song, “Love The One You’re With”. That is the mindset to have. If you’re in a meeting do not address an e-mail. The person you are with takes precedence. This includes text messages. You also don’t want to put your phone on a table so you can check your messages. Ask to be excused if you need to take a call. To do otherwise is rude professionally or personally.
Liken it to a person standing in front of you. If another person were to walk up to the two of you, the person would wait until you invite him/her into the conversation because otherwise it is an interruption. PDA’s, Instant messages, pin messages, etc. are all interruptions when used at the wrong time. When you check these devices in a social setting, you’re saying to the person you’re with that there’s something more important than the conversation I’m having with you.
RDD: So, it’s best to put our phones away.
Ruth: For women, it is not an accessory. Do not wear it on your hip unless it is part of your uniform.
Also, you want to be respectful of people’s privacy. Ask for permission to take pictures of someone. Ask before you post people’s pictures on social networking sites such as Face Book and Twitter. Good manners say don’t do it. The etiquette is that you should get a signed agreement before posting. Don’t take privacy for granted.