reason 49

Reason is a monthly missive from the partners of Essex Two, a vertically integrated communication consultancy. This issue of reason marks the beginning of its fifth year and our 17th as an agency. We invite our readers to think in new ways about their business, their customers and the opportunities for meaningful communication between them. Joseph and Nancy Essex

Manners: Penicillin or Placebo? defines manners as the socially correct way of acting; etiquette and acceptable social conduct.

The definition of manners, like most descriptions, addresses the circumstances, not the reasons, behind the actions. If we were to accept this definition alone, the act of manners could be interpreted as some kind of dance, a specific series of steps executed in a mirrored pattern that addresses neither the physical activity nor the underlying motivation behind manners as an element of culture.

Stay with us for a moment more.  Dance and manners are all about relationships between individuals. They are personal, immediate and direct. They speak without language. Manners acknowledge respect and consideration with their application, as well as disrespect and disregard by their absence. What is sometimes worse, the absence of consideration demonstrated without manners can be construed as an insult, when it is actually more ignorance than arrogance.

Institutions are not exempt from the common courtesies expected between individuals. Successful business would never think of ignoring the concerns or questions of shareholders and customers. Anticipating and interpreting the needs and responses of key constituencies is critical to avoiding bigger problems. However, many larger or more complex organizations rarely demonstrate to their own employees and suppliers how much they value the individual commitment and loyalty of those closest to the institution. In most cases this neglect isn’t really a lack of respect but an assumption of shared information and strategy that may not exist.

Toes get stepped on, feelings get hurt and unintended insults are splashed about from over-filled glasses. Recognize that acts of consideration for every relationship not only bring those individuals and groups closer together, they promote a better understanding and application of the contributions each makes to the overall success of the enterprise.

This attitude will do nothing for the people who don’t use their turn signals, who have more than ten items in the express check-out lane at the grocery store or who take cell phone calls at the movies. However, using good manners by addressing the informational needs of others will create an environment of collaboration and shared responsibility that can’t fail to be reciprocated.

Developing strategies and tactics that engage employees and create opportunities for them to translate goodwill into positive customer service is more about communication than motivation. Essex Two has helped many organizations stimulate and focus the enthusiasm and energy of its most underutilized resource, its employees and suppliers, toward impactful, productive and meaningful results. Visit the Essex Two website for case studies that demonstrate our ability to stimulate the success of our clients.

Worth your time:  Marc Tyler Nobleman’s book, What’s the Difference? How to Tell Things Apart That Are Confusingly Close is not our normal recommendation. As Mark Twain wrote, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.” After we address the differences between frogs and toads or a publication’s flag and its masthead, we can better appreciate the subtleties of morality and ethics, or between justice and revenge.

Special Note:  The last four years of Reason are now available on our website.

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