#53 – Etiquette in a world of instant communications.

All ye who enter here, there are no cell phones allowed, give your thumbs a rest from texting, hold the jokes, sayings and inspirational messages for another time. We are going to talk about some simple ideas that have been forgotten in this age of instant communications: courtesy, consideration, cooperation and conscience.

First, we must never forget courtesy. It comes from the golden rule: do onto others as you would have them do onto you. If you insist in shouting over your cell phone to be heard over the din of the crowd at the ballpark, you might get punched out by the irritated gentleman sitting in front of you. That can be one of the harsher lessons in communications etiquette.

Nobody is going to think you are politely praying because you keep your eyes downcast, looking at your crotch during a meeting. They know you are busy texting and ignoring the needs of others. To excuse yourself to take a call or return a text is bad manners, no matter how urgent it might seem at the time.

Nobody is that good at multi-tasking. Whether you are in a meeting or enjoying a dinner with friends, turn the communications off. It can wait.

And that is what we mean by consideration. Is any caller or texter more important than the person or people you are with? Get your priorities right. Be interested enough to pay attention to others. Hermits can be self important. For them, nobody else matters.

But that would leave you with nobody to send to or receive communications from. For that, you need cooperation. The weather report can only hold your attention for so long.

Cooperation also includes the sending of stupid jokes, funny pictures, chain letters, spam warnings that are spam, devotional diatribes and the tons of other crap that clutter up in-boxes the world over. If someone fails to return to you such stuff, you should eventually get the idea that the person is not interested in it. They might just happen to like you and would not want to hurt your feelings by asking if you could not find something more productive to do with your time.

It is a feeble effort at communications to resend junk to people. It takes thought and caring to send people something of interest to them. It is far too easy to send something of interest to you. There is a secret to good communications that has existed from long before computers and cell phones and texting were invented: know your audience. Any really good communicator has probably studied Shakespeare’s version of Marc Anthony’s funeral oration for Julius Caesar. It was only because Anthony knew his audience so well that he convinced them to turn against those who murdered Caesar.

And that brings us to conscience. It is all of the above and more. It is abstaining from smiley faces and abbreviations for words. It is using proper language and civility without vulgarities and rudeness. It is avoiding the carelessness of replying to all when you need to reply only to the sender, it is taking the trouble to start a new e-mail when you send a longer reply, it is in not insisting on the last word to send unnecessary communications.

Just think, if this idea catches on, we will have easily doubled the world wide web’s capacity for e-mails.

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