Common Courtesy

2010 August 31
by Grace Boyle

Recently, a friend and I were discussing common courtesy and etiquette in terms of meetings, coffee dates, lunches, etc. She is was avidly on the hunt for a job. She lamented that through the stressful process of job hunting she has been stood up, emails not returned and sometimes, silence, just crickets.

It’s up and down and no doubt, frustrating. She’s smart. She knows that people get busy, but isn’t there a common courtesy to let someone know you’re going to miss your meeting, you’re busy but promise to get back to them within a few weeks when things settle down or rather, be upfront and say you simply can’t meet with them. I would rather the truth than silence and wonderment.

I’ve been stood up before when someone e-mailed me to meet and ask for my advice (more than once), so I lamented with my friend.

This one story however, is a positive one that I want to share:

I frequently meet with friends, professional contacts and friends of friends – you know, the network. This summer, as I’ve really settled into my life here and feel I have a community and a network, I have found myself being e-mailed and put in contact more than ever to “meet.”

These meetings are a mixture of, “help me,” “I need some advice,” “I would love to meet you,” or “How do you blog?” I usually opt for an early coffee meeting, before I start my full-time job and occasionally a more intimate with lunch and/or drinks.

As I was thinking about the common courtesy in meeting with people a friend of a friend asked to meet for coffee. I obliged happily. We’ve interacted before and she is close friends with many of my close friends (yet, we hadn’t spent time together one-on-one). We met for coffee and collaborated on learning more about her recent online startup -ideas flowed to me, I had fun and the hour flew by.

After I felt energized from our interesting conversation and excited to put her in touch with some people in my network that should be able to help her, I was sitting at my desk working when a beautiful vase of flowers were delivered to me.

I gaped, wide-eyed.

I opened the card and it just said, “Thank you for the ideas!” They were from her.

Such a simple gesture, but it meant so much to me and literally brightened my day. Although she didn’t need to do anything to make our chat/meeting worth my while, she definitely went above and beyond as a gracious person who also said, if she can ever help me, (her network, her ideas) she would. Just say the word. I know she’s telling the truth.

It’s mutually beneficial. Sometimes we help each other, sometimes you’re helped and I feel like both should happen. I have to be careful of how much time and energy I’m devoting away from my projects, my sleep, my time (without detracting from what I’m focusing on and doing full-time) so I can’t even always say “yes” although I strive to. BUT – I do know that creative interactions, gracious thanking, a new friend made and a beautiful bouquet of flowers for me to look at while I work, are worth it.

What about you? Do you find a positive interaction from people willing to help you? Or are they rude? How do you balance – as the e-mailer or the one doing the helping and meeting?

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  • http://ryanstephensmarketing.com/blog/ ryanstephens

    I know people are busy and I know people are inherently selfish, but it baffles me when VPs are supposed to be on a call at “X” time, and you're on the Meeting Bridge (or whatever) for like 15 minutes and they never click in. Then you e-mail them and they e-mail back immediately from their mobile saying they were catching a cab. If you have your phone is it THAT hard to call and say, “Hey, I can't make it at “X,” can we touch base later?”

    Truly baffling. And people that should know better, seasoned professionals.

    As for the other most people don't realize how far a small gesture goes. Thanks for sharing one of the positive stories!

  • http://www.solitarypanda.com Janet

    warm fuzzies! as i'm bumbling around Asia and still feel like I've trashed my career and haven't quite gotten to the point where I'm bootstrapping (yet), my network is pretty shallow right now. I'm still ruminating whether or not this whole individualist 'personal brand' thing is a good thing, or just walking egos that make it hard to make genuine connections. But your story is beautiful and makes me think networking is awesome! I'm sure some people are self-centered and just think about what they can get from others, professionally or otherwise.. but it doesn't have to be like that! Thanks for showing that :)

  • initiative180

    AWWWW !!! Such pretty flowers ! It's kind of silly/ peculiar but because I've been scarred so many times by people whom I've helped who've backstabbed me or forgotten the kindness ( oh the dramatic high school days…), I'm actually really cautious about whom I show kindness to.

    I personally think the act of sending flowers is very brave AND thoughtful. And I read this quote somewhere that I'm using as part of my initiative challenge – ” Who are you if you only love those who love you? ”

    This person must be really awesome !!!! And you totally deserve the ideas Grace, you're so generous!!!

  • Fiona

    Thanks for sharing this experience. You certainly deserve such thoughtfulness :)

  • Fiona

    Whoops, meant to say this:

    Thanks for sharing this experience. You certainly deserve such a courtesy. :)

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    I know, isn't it nice?

    Sending flowers is brave and what a beautiful quote, thanks for sharing it!!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    Ah, isn't it warm fuzzies?

    Maybe your network is larger than you think (worldwide) not just in Asia while you're traveling. I dig deep and even think of college professors, friends from middle school, family, family friends, etc. Sometimes it's just looking a little deeper.

    I'm happy you enjoyed it. I definitely wanted to share how touched I was :)

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    Ah, isn't it warm fuzzies?

    Maybe your network is larger than you think (worldwide) not just in Asia while you're traveling. I dig deep and even think of college professors, friends from middle school, family, family friends, etc. Sometimes it's just looking a little deeper.

    I'm happy you enjoyed it. I definitely wanted to share how touched I was :)

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    Dude, I totally feel you.

    No matter what, respect can exist … no matter who you are. Thanks for sharing :)

  • LostInCheeseland

    Great post, I've been thinking a lot about this because I'm in a similar situation. I'm getting contacted more and more to meet up with newly arrived expats to Paris who want help finding a job (as if it were easy for me!), knowing the rules, learning how to meet people, where the best places to do x y and z are… basically picking my brain. Which is fine and so far people have been very gracious. But I don't think anyone I've ever connected with would have dreamed of sending me flowers however I think it's a brilliant idea and I think that the next time someone I admire or want to meet with for advice takes the time to speak with me, I'll do that.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    Ah, that makes complete sense. I can imagine it happens a lot to you.

    I know, even though I was on the receiving end if I were to be in the same situation and someone graciously helped me out I most definitely would like to return the favor and keep the karma going.

  • Libby

    Saw you on Twitter through LostInCheeseland….
    A friend who is a seasoned p.r. guru said that the HANDWRITTEN note is the way to go….the old fashioned, snail mail, nice paper and envelope kind of thing. The recipient is always delighted to receive it and not likely to forget!
    But flowers will do too!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    Libby, thanks for stopping by :)

    You're so right, I'm big on the handwritten note. It goes very far and unfortunately, is pretty rare these days so it's special to receive one.

    I wrote a post on the difference between eras and the art of a handwritten letter: http://smallhandsbigideas.com/blogging/the-lost

    Thanks for sharing :)

  • clearlycomposed

    Taking the step from being courteous to being gracious is a gift for all involved. Courtesy is saying thank you, gracious is showing it. People are pretty cool for the most part. *smiles* Lovely flowers.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    You're right. Graciousness is beautiful. Thanks for sharing :)

    I just tweeted a quote by Danielle LaPorte the other day: “When you become the conduit for graciousness you get stronger, truer, freer and more fiercely alive.” -Danielle LaPorte