As an engineer I am probably the last person that you should listen to on the subject of manners or emotional intelligence.
If you do want to read a really great post on politeness and manners, go here. It’ll really stop and make you think.
That all said, I am still going to write on this subject, albeit briefly, because a few things have irritated me for some time now and I just need to get them off my chest.
If someone asks “How Are You?”
It is not an excuse to launch into a 20 minute breakdown of how your cat is and how your bunions hurt.
If someone asks How Are You?
It’s OK to be honest, but keep it short. It’s a mechanism for starting a conversation; don’t take it literally.
A conversation is two-way; it’s not all about you.
Quite quickly I would suggest that you turn the conversation to the other person. People like to talk about themselves – you know that because bunions, right? – so try: What about you. How are things?
OK, this is really important.
Listen to the answer.
Be actually interested. Don’t be thinking how you can turn the conversation back to you. Maintain eye contact, don’t start looking around and definitely don’t look at your watch.
Even better, ask follow-up questions. Show you’re listening.
In all walks of life, with all types of people it never ceases to amaze me how often an encounter with a new person can leave a bad taste in the mouth because of how disinterested they seemed within seconds of me starting a conversation. I’m the geek here, I should be doing it all wrong, but you’re the one going on and on about you and when the conversation finally turns to me you’re Uh-huhing and looking over my shoulder. What gives?
Bonus level: try not only to be interested but also to remember something. The next time you meet this person if you refer to the thing that you remembered they are going to think you’re amazing and such an interesting person.
I’ll admit that this is really hard. I’m trying to be better at this (as I am about remembering names).
Don’t immediately turn the conversation back to you.
During the conversation don’t use any excuse, any point of common ground to immediately start talking about yourself again.
Or, ignore all the above and just listen to Dale Carnegie:
If you want to know how to make people shun you and laugh at you behind your back and even despise you, here is the recipe: Never listen to anyone for long. Talk incessantly about yourself. If you have an idea while the other person is talking, don’t wait for him or her to finish: bust right in and interrupt in the middle of a sentence.
Whilst we’re at it, a few other things.
Resist the urge to prove your knowledge
You don’t have to correct people if they get something slightly wrong. Most of the time just let it go unless it’s really pertinent to what you’re talking about.
Or, say “Yeah, I know” and then go on to prove that you know more about the thing than the other person said.
No, stop. Just don’t do it.
It’s a conversation, not a p***ing content.
Don’t streamline your emails by removing pleasantries
This isn’t code you’re optimising.
Compare these two messages:
Subject: Need that thing doing
We need that thing doing pretty quickly, when can you get it done?
Subject: Need that thing doing
Hey Fred, I hope you’re well?
We need that thing doing pretty quickly, when can you get it done please?
I know which one I’d rather receive.
Time taken: 45 mins. It really just flowed this one. It is a subject that has been on my mind for quite some time, though. It could probably be a bit more streamlined and I wonder whether it needed more references.
This post is one of 30 I wrote daily during April 2016 as part of the 30 Day Writing Challenge.