Headed into Starbucks this morning, I was a few yards ahead of the woman behind me when I reached the door. So I did what my parents taught me to do: I held the door open for her.
Her reaction? Surprise. I’m still a little puzzled by that. Have we really degraded as a society to the point where holding a door open for someone is a surprising act?
Her next reaction? Embarrassment. She actually caught herself being surprised, then felt completely self-conscious and a little silly for the “you’re kidding me, right?” look on her face just a moment before.
She honestly didn’t know how to handle my act of politeness and great manners. That is SUCH good news for you and me. It reflects a common expectation/standard that we can easily and consistently exceed without much effort at all.
Great manners = great service. Wow, now that I’ve written that statement, I don’t really have to write that book on customer service I was planning on writing. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell, isn’t it?
Great manners = great teamwork. Oops, there goes that book on teamwork.
Great manners = great business. Darn, I’m ruining my best-selling book writing career in a hurry.
The real key to surprising people with polite? Keeping your radar tuned a little broader than normal so you notice those extra opportunities to exhibit great manners. Here’s a simple example:
Typical: Opening the door for someone arriving a millisecond after you.
Surprising: Opening and holding the door for someone five steps behind you.
Creepy: Holding the door for someone who is halfway across the parking lot. Don’t do that.
Practicing the art of great manners is really the act of shifting your focus completely off of yourself for a moment and putting someone else’s need ahead of your own. Good companies and good teams have good manners. Great companies and great teams have great manners. Those are the companies that surprise you with polite.
Yeah, this is warm and fuzzy stuff. Don’t let anyone try to tell you the warm and fuzzy stuff doesn’t matter. It does. And now more than ever, it will set you apart.
P.S. Thanks, mom, for teaching me great manners.