Why you should mind your manners when you write

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How polite are your emails? In a busy world, it’s easy to bash out a message to someone asking for their help or requesting that they do a job for you. But, do you remember to include ‘the magic word’ and to thank people when they do something nice? Nick’s here to remind you…

My wife runs her own giftware business. While she’s great at making lovely ceramic gifts, as the artistic type she’s perhaps not equally gifted in the logistics of dispatch and postage. So, for a few years, I’ve been happy to wrap gifts in boxes and send them out to customers.

Reading enquiries from her customers at Christmas, it was really apparent that people seem to have forgotten basic manners. Hardly any requests for priority dispatch or similar contained a ‘please’. Responses where we’d try to be helpful rarely resulted in a ‘thank you’.

It soon became quite striking, to the point where we began prioritising those people who had been polite enough to drop a ‘please’ or a ‘thank you’ in their message.

Using pleases and thank yous in your writing

Have a look back through your recent emails to colleagues, customers or suppliers. When you’ve asked for someone to do something, have you always remembered to include a ‘please’? Have you thanked people for doing something for you?

Saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ do more than just show gratitude. Saying them also creates positive social bonds with friends, family, and colleagues. It also creates a rapport with complete strangers – many of whom may be your future customers.

The Oxford dictionary definition of ‘please’ says: “Give satisfaction”. That’s what you must always remember – by saying please you’re satisfying someone else and making them feel better. It shows respect and that you understand the need to acknowledge someone else.

Of course, a lack of respect does the opposite. Think back to a time when someone asked you for something but didn’t add a ‘please’. Did you mumble it under your breath as you walked away? Feel negatively about that person? Or feel abused or think less of yourself?

And what about a ‘thank you’? Psychology professor Dr Robert Emmons’ book Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier contains research about how gratitude actually makes you a happier person. It also shows you ways that you can become a happier and more grateful person.

Colleagues and people that you do business with love to hear ‘thank you’. Imagine how chuffed you would be if someone you’d worked with sent you a simple email thanking you for your contribution?

The power of a thank you

Just before Christmas, a clear out of my daughter’s bedroom yielded a couple of boxes of books and games that she’d outgrown. Knowing I had a colleague with a younger daughter, I brought the boxes into work knowing that she’d get some great use out of them.

A couple of days later, I received a hand-written note from the six-year-old, thanking me for the donation and explaining how much she was looking forward to reading the books and playing the games.

It was a simple gesture, but having not received anything like this for years it was incredibly touching and much appreciated. I’ve even pinned it up in my office at home.

So, next time you sit down to write an email, double check it before you press ‘send’. Is there an opportunity to mind your manners? If so, take it. It could make a big difference.

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