When I read Nick Bilton’s piece Disruptions: Digital Era Redefining Etiquette, from my smart phone, in between replying to texts, I felt sad. A little sad for Nick’s friends who are now probably terrified to ever call him to catch up (gasp, such precious time wasted) but also a bit sad for someone who read it and thought, “this makes sense to me. I shouldn’t clog someone’s inbox with a thank you email. I will stop sending them.” Not so fast. Really, slow down.
Send those thank you emails. Send them liberally and sincerely.
Bilton suggests a continuum that suggests the more interaction required, the more taxing (and rude) that interaction must be. Therefore, efficiency and minimal interaction surely must be the apex of good etiquette. But etiquette has never been about efficiency. That’s why there are so many forks and fussy rules on how to use them. That is also why the art of penning a well-thought thank you note has never been more important. It’s not time wasted. It’s time invested.
And while efficiency is key, particularly in a business capacity (I too like doing business with smart people who are respectful of my time), I also appreciate doing business with nice people. Kindness and thoughtfulness go a long way in building and maintaining relationships, a distance that efficiency alone cannot.
Not every medium is conducive to the same degree of communications. Texting, email, phone calls, face-to-faces meetings and Twitter (as Bilton’s mom can attest to, he explains this is how they keep in touch) all have a role but they are not fungible. You can’t take out a phone conversation and plug in a Tweet as a replacement and not expect to loss some substance.
There are no “time wasting forms of communication,” just poorly chosen forms for certain occasions.
(First published on The Huffington Post Canada, March 2013)