Monday, January 25, 2010

Getting back to basics: Let's talk about manners.

One of the positives to come out of this recession is that I think it's made us look at what we need vs. what we want and scale back a bit. It's shaken us out of our self-absorbed, over-indulgent ways and gotten us look at what's important.

There's a movement to get back to the basics. I think that this is why folks like Chris Brogan and Seth Godin are experiencing such success right now. Their messages aren't profound new insights. They don't talk about the latest widget or application. Instead, their message is (and I paraphrase with great liberty) "It doesn't matter how much cool crap you have to sell. If you aren't a nice person who treats people well, no one will buy it!"

Remember how your Mother stressed the importance of saying "Please" and "Thank you" to people? How she made you hold open a door for a lady? How she instructed you to address your elders as "Mr. or Mrs."? How she whacked you upside the back of your head if a grown-up asked you how you were doing and you didn't look them in the eye to respond? Now that I am a parent, and am passing along these nuggets of wisdom to my 9-year old son, I have a whole new appreciation for the hours my Mother spent beating the importance of good manners into me and my siblings. It a tiresome and thankless job we Mothers do, but it must be done!

Being in media, I've met a lot of celebrities and book authors. I've been disappointed many times when the public persona didn't match the real-life asshole I met. I was reminded what an impact good manners can have when I spent a few hours with Mr. Chris Brogan last week. He was in town to speak to the Social Media Club of Dallas. Here's a guy who is at the top of his game. He is revered in the industry circles of social media and marketing. His book, Trust Agents, is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best seller. Heck, he's even been on Dr. Phil! This is exactly the kind of guy who could have easily turned from nice guy into a real conceited jerk in the past year. Yet, Chris was the most down-to-earth and polite man I have met in a long time.

If I heard him say "please" and "thank you" once, I heard him say it a hundred times over the course of our two days together. He looked people in the eye and answered every question with present earnest. When he left town, he sent me a DM within hours on twitter to saying "thank you for taking care of me while I was in town". I posted a short video last Friday with some funny highlights from his talk to our group and sent him a tweet to let him know it was there if he wanted to view it. Within 5 minutes, he responded back (see tweet above).

The saying goes, you don't get a second chance to make a first impression. Sometimes it's good to remember the basics. Let' start with good manners.