Politeness counts in and out of cyberspace

When a reader asked me to write about e-mail and cell phone etiquette, I at first thought, “Isn’t that just a matter of common sense?” Then I thought about my own experiences and realized what people should “simply do” has actually become a serious problem.

As I began to develop a “Begin With Yes” approach to e-mail and cell phone etiquette, I turned to several friends for their insight as well.

Barbara Potvin, owner of the New England Sampler, collaborated with me to provide some recommendations that if followed, will help us all to not only continue to be productive, but also polite.

Perhaps another friend, blogger and humorist Steve Boucher, puts it simplest: “If you want me to take you seriously as a businessperson, don’t let your Viva Las Vegas ringtone interrupt my board meeting.”


Here are a few suggestions for sending and receiving e-mails to consider:
Include all necessary details and contact information in any e-mail to which you expect the recipient(s) to respond, such as business name, contact name, contact’s job title, phone/fax number, street address, website address. E-mails should be friendly, respectful, clear and succinct, and include a meaningful subject in the subject line. When in doubt, address the person you are writing to by Mr., Mrs. or Dr. Use proper and positive language. Proofreading and spell checking prevent mistakes and misunderstandings. Use capital letters only when appropriate. Reading hundreds of e-mails a day can be overwhelming. Limiting your e-mails to necessary ones can prevent others from being overwhelmed and will help them to respond in a timely manner. Request delivery or read receipts only when necessary to ensure the recipient has received and read e-mail. E-mail is not the most secure method of delivery. To protect yourself and others, confidential information should not be e-mailed. Keeping personal e-mail and professional e-mail separate means sending and replying to personal e-mail on your time, not your employer’s. Send personal e-mails, games and pictures from home. Forwarding chain letters should be avoided.Cell phones and texting

Here are a few additional points to consider when answering cell phone calls or text messages. Cell phones by necessity have caller ID and voice mail. Make your guest feel comfortable, appreciated and welcome, and let the calls and texts wait or go to voice mail. When you have a guest or are in a public place and a call or text is important, excuse yourself to another room or go outside. When the lights are out, keep the phone off. Turn your phone off in churches, theaters, playhouses or other public places that set a tranquil, lights-out mood. Drive now, talk and text later. Waiting your turn to speak is the same as waiting to respond via a cell phone call or text. Treat your incoming calls and texts as you would someone waiting their turn to speak. Finish with the person you are with first, then make the call or send a responding text. Standing in line while talking with someone on the phone makes others wait. Be courteous and considerate of others and hold your phone call until you are out of line.In closing, in the words of my friend Steve, “Reading e-mail or answering texts or calls during a business meeting is like opening up the sports section in the middle of church.” Just don’t do it.

Paul Boynton, president and chief executive of Moore Center Services, Manchester, is also a personal coach, corporate consultant, motivational speaker, host of the television show, “Begin With Yes” and author of the book by the same name. He can be reached atbeginwithyes@comcast.net.