A recent article in the New York Times about the decline of manners in a Blackberry age prompted one executive coach to write to the Times editor to share an anecdote drawn from his own experience working with professionals. He wrote,
I was told by a client, who is a former board member of a large cosmetics company and now a venture capitalist, that she had decided to refuse to help fellow alumni from her prestigious university. When I asked why, she explained how over an 18-month period, she had gone out of her way to help six alumni network into new jobs. In response to all her efforts, not a single one took the time to thank her.
This is a glaring example of how politeness and manners seem to have gone the way of the dinosaurs.
This letter resonated with me deeply. A year ago I described my own experience with the deterioration of manners in a post that asked, “Whatever happened to thank you? Thoughts on gratitude“. What prompted me to write it was my disappointment in the failure of a former student to thank me for a favor I had performed on his behalf. His thoughtlessness produced one positive result at least: it made me think what “thank you” really means:
It is not simply expressing gratitude for the extra mile, the care, the thought. “Thank you” is also about renewing or building relationships. “Thank you” honors a past deed. “Thank you” affirms hope for the future.
Common courtesy, alas, these days seems increasingly uncommon. All too often, I note its absence. This is in fact why earlier this week I published “Please contact me…but kindly read this first if you need advice“. I remain delighted to be of help; but I also hope that those who seek my assistance may be prompted to take a moment to consider the time it takes to give it. And because I cannot ask more of readers than I would of myself, I will also take especial care to be sure to show my appreciation for the time that others give me. And so I thank you, gentle reader, for your time, now and always.