Can leaders, ingrained in the digital age, acquire the appropriate social graces?
Social graces, according to (Artful Thinkers, 8/2017) current articles is a collection of skills that we use to politely interact in social situations. These graces congeal into etiquette that is universally accepted as proper protocol within our culture. In other words, it’s hearing what isn’t said. Using these intangible skills are invaluable in building long-term, profitable relationships.
So important are these social graces that they intermingle with the old idea of “it’s not only who you know but what you know.” If a successful business person in social circles wants to be regarded as someone who can build relationships, develop profitable markets and reach measurable deadlines, then that person follows a few simple rules. Most of these guidelines aren’t “plugged-in” or ‘turned-on” or “downloaded” or “updated with an app.” These skills require that a physical person be totally present so that they can communicate with another human being.
LISTENING – I’m not only talking about the anatomical ability of hearing sound. Listening refers to what a person does with the sounds that they hear. It is what we decide to do with the noise that enters into our realm of detection. As we form this information into our streams of belief, it determines the manner in which we deal with the matters that occur in our life (Lines of Listening, 2015). Be a skilled listener, make good eye contact, use appropriate body language, divert your cell phone calls during conversations, don’t interrupt others.
EYE CONTACT – Within 10 seconds of a conversation the other person decides your true commitment to the exchange. Even if you are not physically looking into the person’s eye (i.e. conference call) assume that the person can indeed see you and act accordingly. Smiling, good posture and making eye contact, even if it’s with the conference telephone, will denote your focused interest. An article in “Psychology Today” states that we as humans rely on eye contact to connect on many different levels.
CLOCKS and CALENDARS – Being on time for an appointment or opportunity could change your life. Aim to be 5 minutes early in every situation. When you leave someone waiting for you they may be devising reasons to not interact with you or your company. This also refers to conference calls, in-person meetings, television or radio shows. When you don’t arrive on time, it tells the person that you don’t respect them or their business. You may want to even arrive before they do.
WHAT’S IN A NAME? – Remembering and using a person’s name in the conversation reinforces that you not only listened during the introductions but are genuinely interested. If you don’t remember their name, ask them to repeat it; that’s better then forgetting their name or calling them “you”. You yourself know the feeling when another person addresses you by name; it’s respectful.
JUST THE FACTS – You have heard the saying – “everyone has an opinion.” A leader does not engage in gossip, or hearsay or opinions or unsolicited judgments. You gather information based on credible facts and analyze your own first impressions. If there is a documented issue in a person’s past, confront the person in a face-to-face, confidential manner to address the incident. This doesn’t mean that you ignore fair and critical input, it means that you rely on the facts to resolve the matter.
PERSONAL INTERACTION – One of the most important social graces is our ability to interact on a personal basis with another human being. This usually means that we put our electronic equipment away. Don’t panic; especially if you are in the generation raised with electronic devices. It’s okay. You can do this activity. Just review the few simple steps that I just outlined and you’ll be fine. You won’t actually have to touch anyone (unless you shake hands), you’ll just have to acknowledge another human being, make eye contact and verbally talk to them. I’m not being sarcastic or making fun of you, I’m just acknowledging the fact that human interaction may be an awkward skill for the younger generation. This may be the most VITAL SKILL SET that you develop as a business leader. Putting your cell phone on vibrate, or airplane mode or messaging mode or temporarily turning it off is not as scary as it sounds. People do it all the time. It actually is very relaxing. Many people do it when they are on vacation or want to relax. So, it could be a good opportunity for you to take a short vacation and still stay at work. Great idea!!!
THANK YOU – Respect for a persons time, energy, relationship and attention is a compliment to not only them but yourself as well. A thank you note takes many forms. It can be a hand-written note scribed immediately following your personal interaction or a quick note to express your thanks. A leader remembers to thank everyone involved in the activity. I’m not suggesting that you walk around saying “thank you” a hundred times to everyone in the room, I’m talking about your personal touch of acknowledgment. Your outreach will be remembered. Speaking to everyone in the same respectful manner should be universal for you – it is your brand and it may be the ultimate social grace.
Yes, leaders ingrained in the digital age can acquire the appropriate social graces. The intangible assets gained by interacting on a personal level is the key.