Manners cost nothing.
‘HM 4 dis cake?’ Photo.
When I first started my business I got messages like this regularly. In case you were wondering, as I was the first time I received such a message, this means ‘How much for this cake in the photo I’m about to send you.’ I actually once received this message with cake abbreviated to ‘ck’ and that caused even more confusion on my side because, well, I don’t have one of those appendages that I understood this to be an internet abbreviation for. The fact that this message arrived in the middle of the night just added to this confusion.
I get it, to a point. We live in a fast paced, quick answer, quicker questions world. Who has time to type full sentences, or even words? Except I’ve noticed that this phenomenon only exists over Facebook messenger and Instagram DM. Interestingly people seem to take the time to express themselves in a more polite fashion over email.
When I was a kid I was taught to introduce myself to people. Hi my name is Kate, what’s your name? Or if the person's name was already known to me I would be sure to include it when addressing them. As an adjunct to this most people have their name in their bio, or on their about page, it’s not usually hard to find. And if people aren’t addressing you by name and that’s a problem for you, then you may want to take a second to check that it’s clearly visible. Also pronouns. It’s so easy to put she/her he/him or they/them in your bio. Maybe your gender seems obvious to you, but it isn’t to everyone and you’re doing a small but helpful service to gender queer and non-binary people by just taking a second to do that. It just shows people that you care and will validate their gender in return.
The wonderful Victoria Rennoldson of Perfect Cuppa supports people in English communication and British culture training, particularly professionals, but I think her advice is really useful to everyone. She asks the question in her brilliant blog post you can read here, did you ever learn to write an email?
For me, I take the same approach to introducing myself to someone digitally as I would in person. Whether that’s over messenger, DM or email.
Hi Jenny, my name is Kate, how are you today? If I was hoping to procure a service for someone I might even compliment what it is they do. ‘Hi Jenny, my name is Kate, I’m a huge fan of your duck related pottery. I am a great lover of ducks myself.’ This basic greeting sets you up for a pleasant interaction. The person on the receiving end is already feeling well disposed towards you at this point. You’re building a connection.
Please and thank you. Would you mind? And could you possibly? These are phrases designed to get us what we want. You might think they are unnecessary and a waste of time. You may think that I’m just a business and I should be grateful that someone wants to buy something regardless of how they speak to me, but it just doesn’t work like that.
Victoria kindly gave me these tips for communicating with people online.
- 'Please' & 'Thank you' go a long way in the UK to build connections & a relationship. Statistically the British use these words far more than other nationalities!
- In emails don't forget the 'small talk'. It's usually brief, but we still expect at the start of the email 'How are you? Hope you are well/ having a good week/ had a good weekend' as an opener, before launching into a request or reply.
- Likewise at the end of the email, don't forget to include some small talk, such as 'Look forward to hearing from you/ seeing you soon & hope you have a good afternoon.'
I’m just going to pause here for a second and check my privilege. Do I think this because English is my first language and I had the opportunity to attend a private school, grammar school and university? I really don’t think so. I’m willing to be wrong. But I think manners are for everyone.
They cost nothing, but they will get you everything. It may take an extra three seconds to type out a slightly longer message and I appreciate that we are all scarce on time, but I promise you it will be worth it. Just remember it’s an actual human person on the receiving end of your message and take those extra seconds to make them feel valued.
My final point on this is to say that it’s also nice manners to reply to people. Even if they have quoted way beyond your budget. Even if your event is now postponed and you don’t need a cake anymore. Even if you messaged 25 cake designers and you think getting back to them all seems like a huge pain. Just do it! They’ve taken the time out of their life to communicate with you and prepare a quote for you. Just copy and paste ‘thanks for your time but I’ve decided not to go ahead. Take care.’ Took me a second to write that. Just save it in your keep folder for the rest of your life and copy and paste as needed. You’re golden. Then if you ever do want to use that person in the future you haven’t burned your bridges.
Luckily as my business has evolved I rarely receive short and quite frankly rude DM’s anymore. But if you do in your business have a think about encouraging people to communicate with you over email. It really does seem to make a difference. My customer’s now are all wonderful, like Victoria, and yours can be as well!