Monday, July 14, 2014

Good Manners Make You Likable

Kate Reardon edits a British lifestyle and fashion magazine called Tatler. This means, among other things, that her words are likely to be taken very seriously by young women and girls in Great Britain.

Happily, her advice, offered in lectures to schoolgirls and contained in her book Top Tips for Girls is excellent.

Reardon tells girls and young women to build character. She does not aim them toward popularity or coolness. She does not even tell them to be committed to a political cause.

She, as many others, tells girls that they need to put more distance between themselves and their hand-held gadgets, the better to learn how to talk to people.

Often, Reardon says, girls know a lot about computing, but have poor manners and do not know how to sustain a conversation. 

Good manners, she adds, will help you to achieve success, both in business and in your personal relationships.

Good manners, Reardon declares, will make you likeable. If people like you they will want to work with you. They will seek out your company. And when you have a problem they will be more likely to try to help you.

Reardon says that she is not talking about table manners, though surely if you lack good table manners people will be less likely to be willing to endure lunch with you.

Good manners involve decorum and propriety. But, they especially require the practice of modesty. A culture that encourages girls to expose themselves in public or through social media is undermining their good character and making them less likable.

If you cannot be counted on to cover up your intimacy how can anyone count on you to keep a secret? If people do not believe that you can keep a secret they will be less likely to confide in you, less likely to want to be close to you.

Reardon has also been encouraging girls to be polite and respectful, and especially to make others feel valued. This means not condescending to other people or talking down to them. It also means respecting different opinions.

For example, everyone who counsels job applicants tells them to write a thank you note after an interview. One would assume that all young applicants today do so.

In Reardon’s experience this is not the case. She says:

I can count on one hand the number of people who wrote me a thank you letter after having an interview and I gave almost all of them a job.

Another piece of advice resonates well with a point I have often made. When applying for a job, don’t sell yourself, buy them.

In Reardon’s words:

Really research the company you are applying for and – specifically – the person you are being interviewed by. Don’t be a creep but never underestimate the power of flattery. If you walk in, shake someone by the hand and say, ‘it’s such a pleasure to meet you, I particularly loved that piece you wrote a year ago’, it will go a long way.

Of course, there’s more to it than flattery. If you have researched the company and the interviewer, you are showing interest. And you are showing that you walk into meetings prepared.

The time and effort, the work you put in shows a company that you care about it. It’s much more persuasive than exclaiming about how much you love the company or how badly you want the job.

Reardon’s last point might not fall within the category of good manners, but it is certainly part of a good work ethic.

Whether you are doing a summer internship or are just starting out on a job, a strong work ethic counts more than a sterling CV.

Reardon says:

If you are already known to the employer because you did two weeks over the summer – and you were always the first person in and the last person out, you made really good tea and were super helpful and enthusiastic – you are leagues ahead in the fight for that job no matter what’s on your CV.

You impress people by being helpful, focused, enthusiastic and willing to do whatever you are asked to do: including making tea.

Surely, Reardon makes this point because she wants to emphasize that you are being judged by the way you do trivial tasks as well as important jobs.

If you cannot get the coffee run right, why would anyone trust you with larger responsibilities?

She also mentions that you impress your manager with your presence. First in/ last out… shows your dedication and devotion to your company. 


Webutante said...

This is a wonderful, wise piece for all of us....sent it on to my British/American daughter-in-law who has lovely manners. In a world over-run by a loss of civility, this could not be more important.

BTW, one of the things I get on my high horse about is kids and people who think carrying on online and email relationships has much to do with reality. I will teach my little Girly-G that if a boy is interested in her, he will call her up on the phone or come around in person---with good manners---to get to know her.

The same with all good relationships. Again, great post. Thanks, Stuart.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I agree with you... though I can't count the time I have spent trying to persuade young men that a telephone call is more respectful than a text message!!

Webutante said...

Evidently when I sent this link to both my daughter and d-i-l, then commented on the latter's good manners, my darling daughter took offense that she wasn't included in my comment.

So, to set the record straight, I want to say my daughter has lovely manners also and I'm glad she mentioned her dismay that I neglected to say that.

Webutante said...
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