The habits of communication and human interaction are ever changing as technology interjects itself into our hyper-speed world. Many believe this is driving the demise of civility, manners, and thoughtful consideration of others. In many cases, I admit I agree with this belief.
I also believe that just because others are developing bad interpersonal habits, it does not mean important social skills are ignored by everyone. In fact, as fewer people show good manners, those that continue to treat others well can stand out in a crowd. This is a huge advantage in marketing, sales, business, and life.
A great example of this came as I was having lunch at a restaurant near my office. It is an upscale fast-food place with great hamburgers and friendly staff. As I stood in the short line to order, I realized that NFL legend and two-time Super Bowl MVP Bart Starr and his wife were in line in front of me. I thought that was kind of cool but decided that it would be impolite to interrupt him just for the selfish reason of saying I had spoken to Bart Starr.
As they received their food and sat in a booth, I noticed a quiet buzz about the place. It was clear others had noticed Mr. Starr as well. After a few minutes, one man approached the Starrs and said, “Mr. Starr, I am so very sorry to interrupt your lunch but I’ve always been an admirer and I didn’t want to miss a chance to meet you.”
Without a word or a change in expression, Mr. Starr paused and put down his burger. I wondered what would happen next. Would he be upset that lunch with his wife was interrupted? Would be say a few nice words and continue with his meal? Would he say he didn’t have time right now as he was eating with his wife? All these flashed through my mind.
What happened next I have tried to remember and repeat when I’m meeting people. Mr. Starr, still without speaking, wiped his hands on a napkin and stood up next to the booth squarely facing the man. Then he put out his hand and said in a pleasant and genuine tone, “I’m Bart Starr. It is a pleasure to meet you.” They shook hands as the man then introduced himself and they spoke very briefly with some pleasantries. Then the man apologized again for interrupting and they wished each other well as conversation concluded and lunch resumed.
Based on the expression on this man’s face, I bet he will often tell friends about the day he met Bart Starr. I bet he also tells them all he is a classy, respectful gentleman. In this day of ill-behaving professional athletes, which would you want to have on your team in life or business? The self-centered divas or those like Mr. Starr? What about the professionals in your line of work, which type of person are you and your colleagues?
I’ve still not ever met Bart Starr. I know he lives near me and I’ve seen him once more in a restaurant. I didn’t speak to him then either. But I think of Mr. Starr and the man in the restaurant almost every time I’m sitting somewhere and someone is introduced or comes to speak to me.
Want to easily standout? Remember that manners and consideration of others is still a powerful way to communicate your value and values.
Glenn S. Phillips is the author of the book Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself. You can email Glenn directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Glenn is also the president of Forte’ Incorporated, a consulting firm that works with business leaders to understand and address the often hidden technology and business risks lurking within their organizations.
© Copyright 2012. Glenn S. Phillips, Forte’ Incorporated. (205) 985-1111