By Julee Bean
Etiquette In Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home, by Emily Post, was the original reference book for good behavior. A lot has changed since the first printing in 1922, and I thought it might be interesting to take a look at how technology might have an effect on these “rules.” Combing through a well-worn copy of the book from 1940 (an updated version, Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage), it is interesting to ponder how we might insert technology into 2010 and try to determine what the appropriate behavior might be. In other words, What Would Emily Do (WWED)?
Etiquette in Business
Let’s begin with the “Etiquette in Business” section. The first paragraph begins, “If you had a commission to give and you entered a man’s office and he remained lolling back in a tipped swivel chair, his feet above his head, the ubiquitous cigar in his mouth and his drowsy attention fixed on the sporting page of the newspaper, you would be impressed not so much by his lack of good manners as by his bad business policy, because of the incompetence that his attitude suggests.” As I was reading this section I wondered how is this different than people who bring cell phones and laptops into meetings and text or email during the discussion? People have taken time out of their busy schedules to engage in a discussion to achieve an outcome. How is texting or emailing participating in the meeting? How is this different than “lolling back in a tipped swivel chair…cigar in…mouth…”. When one is focused on a device in a meeting, is this not disrespectful to the others in the room?
Today multi-tasking is revered and rewarded. Droid’s latest ad shows us how their device allows a businessman, who is in a meeting, is able to use the device to complete multiple different tasks like texting and emailing while he is in the meeting. This allows him not to “miss anything” – except maybe the content of the meeting.
Manners for Motorists
“We are all made nervous by the driver who keeps looking out all the time, expatiating on the view and paying no apparent attention to what is happening on the road. Or the one who turns around to talk to those on the back seat. Or the one who carelessly lets go of the wheel while he lights a cigarette or screws the windshield up or down, meanwhile letting his car meander toward the ditch or else cut over toward the wrong side of the road.” Today, Ms. Post might ponder the driver who makes cell phone calls while driving. Or texts. Or checks messages. Or fiddles with the GPS system as the car careens down the freeway at 70 mph.
Traveling at Home and Abroad
“To do nothing that can either annoy or offend the sensibilities of others, sums up the principal rules for conduct under all circumstances – whether staying at home or traveling,” this is a rather poignant line from the section on “Traveling at Home or Abroad.” I guess it depends on the definition of “annoy,” but how many cell phone calls do we overhear every day – loud details of business deals, sales statistics, dinner plans and meeting recaps do we overhear at the grocery store, at the mall and at restaurants each day? This certainly annoys my sensibilities.
Much has changed in 70 years and we have evolved (Ms. Post might argue – devolved) — our society is much less formal and gadgets have changed our lives — arguably for the better. But there are definitely things we need to think about as we further dive into a world saturated with technology, multi-tasking and access to instant information. Are we being respectful to those around us? Are we being mindful of how loud our cell phone conversations are? Are we being safe while we are driving? At restaurants, are we on the phone while we are sitting with, or next to, other people? Are we texting at the movies? Are we using devices to take us “outside” of meetings, or are we focused on the task at hand? Each of these activities implies to those we are with that they are less important than the conversation we are having with someone else, and I’m sure Emily would agree, that is not polite.
***Part two of Brooke Preston’s series on Twitter and Customer Service will be posted next week