Courteous and Respectful Communication…

On one of my LinkedIn groups, I commented on this question posed by another member:

As a people-skills coach, I often hear that technology has ruined interpersonal skills and contact. Let’s hear it, what do you think?  How has technology helped and/or hurt?

My response:

Technology sometimes provides us an excuse for careless habits.

I remember, in the 90’s, discussions on “Will email ruin our interpersonal skills and contact skills?”  This was well before “texts” and “tweets”.

And I still encounter people composing emails with:

  • no capitals at all
  • Dismissive responses (one-word or short responses) that do not address the elements of the email to which the response is being sent.
  • Poor grammar
  • Reactive responses or new emails that appear to have no thought applied beforehand.

I think these are examples of lazy, expedient, or shortcut habits sometimes driven by “I have a ton of emails and must get rid of them” or similar attitude. But the bottom line is, these are communications which need to be clear, concise and delivered with appropriate courtesy and respect. When that is the goal, email, tweets, text messages, IM’s, blogs, etc. take on a different look and feel, and achieve a better result.

A couple of years ago,  I built a habit to — right before hitting the “Send” button for emails, to change the recipient’s name at the start of the email to bold type and to increase it one font size.   It doesn’t take much additional effort.  Mentally, I try to “say” — Courtesy and Respect, as a reminder that the foundation of all my communications should begin with “Courtesy and Respect”.  It has helped change my communication style.

What do you think?


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10 Responses to “Courteous and Respectful Communication…”

  1. Mike Finley Says:

    Gary I linked to your blog on my Facebook page.

    My most recent breakthrough in writing was to study hypnosis. Hypnotic suggestions require that you stay on topic … that you speak in measured breaths … and that you be sincere, and avoid being funny or ironic in a way that distracts the receptive mind.

    This makes communication so easy for me.

    I simply say what needs to be said …. in a rhythmic and predictable way.

    I can still be funny, but the funny has to be relevant to the topic, and not for its own sake.

    And the message now penetrates into the reader’s mind, and makes the deepest possible connection.

    It involves some repetition …

    but that’s OK, because people are listening now at a better, deeper level.

    Now … Gary … When you awaken, I want to stand up, put your hands in your armpits, and go bawk-bawk-bawk like a chicken!

    Your friend,


  2. beth g sanders Says:

    Though I’m often guilty of the all-lowercase habit, I never use all caps, so I’ll consider that one a bit of a wash for my purposes. =)

    It does bother me to put a lot of thought and energy into composing an email, only to have a one- or two-word response. Depending on the purpose of the communication, that can feel like a brush-off. It’s probably not so much true to introverts, but is something to keep in mind when communicating with an extrovert.

    I have, on one or two occasions, sent an email that was ill-advised and reactive, and have accidentally forwarded one to the wrong person with embarrassing consequences. For that reason I have taught myself to delete the “to” address until I’ve been over and over a difficult email and let it rest for a day or two before my level-headed husband reads it. Edit, edit … and then edit some more.

    As for grammar, it’s a personal hot button of mine no matter what the medium.

    All in all, I think we are still figuring out how to be courteous and respectful with today’s technology – and I think it’s less a function of the media themselves than our own desire to find an excuse not to try as hard.

    Just .02 –

  3. Connie Ragen Green Says:

    I certainly agree with you that we must remember to be courteous in our communications, but let me provide you with another point of view.
    When you asked me on LinkedIn to respond to this post, I was more than happy to oblige. When I arrive, your name is nowhere to be found on this blog, and it shows that the post was written by jgduke. People respond to us the way we present ourselves to them; if you want capital letters and extended communication, be sure to present yourself in the same way.
    I know who you are, but if anyone finds this blog they will not. I recommend switching to hosted WordPress and using your full name so that people can address you in the way you would like.
    Connie Green

    • gjduke Says:


      I apologize for the “reception” you received at my blog. I am somewhat still new to blogging, so I will look at this, and consider the hosted version.

      Thank you.


      • Bob Says:

        Gary, let me know if I can help you with WordPress. I’m no expert and I don’t know a lick of programming, but I think I can get you rolling.

  4. Kristy Seaton Says:

    My lesson learned:

    Get to the point, state what you need them to do, and give them a deadline.

    I find people are usually happy to help when I have given them all the information they need in the first few sentences of one email. It is also courteous to the reader not to write long and elaborate sentences just to get to the point.

    It was a hard lesson for me to learn because I assumed people always needed full details. Learning to quickly and clearly state what I needed from others has vastly improved my communication and productivity.

  5. Bob Says:

    Overall, I would agree that it’s still important to be human. And Yes, we’re all short on time and energy. Being respectful and courteous of your audience is important, but that doesn’t mean it has to be long and drawn out. And just because its short doesn’t mean the person didn’t put a lot of thought or heart in their message. .

  6. Chris Przybyszewski Says:

    It’s tough, but people have to see email, etc., as communication, which sounds simplistic, but still holds true that if you can’t get your message across, you’re not achieving your goal of communicating in the first place!

    Gary, nice points, and my thanks for making them.

    Chris Przybyszewski

  7. Sandy Edwards Says:

    I agree with Kristy’s comment above. My current pet peeve with email is that those familiar with instant messaging will often use email that way. If I send an email with a request to someone, they may send me 3 separate emails, asking short clarifying questions. Often the information they need is contained in the original email – they just didn’t bother to read more than the first line!

  8. LeAnn Willard Says:

    Gary. Thank you for this article and making me feel more normal. I do not like emails that are written like a text message. I took a business marketing and writing class this spring just so that I could update my skills in the writing arena. This class also emphasized that email is communication and should be treated as such with respect for the written word. With my job I spend a lot of time in email and social media sites building and making new relationships. Yes, to some extent they are more casual than many face to face meetings but they should not be so relaxed that you can not communicate when you do get face to face. All of these social media outlets has actually got me out from behind my desk and in front of actual people more than usual. I have found myself to be a much more social person in more aspects of my life than work. I am guessing that this is why people of taken to the social media way of life with such vigor. Courtesy and respect is such a key in being successful not only in writing but in life. It is my opinion that everything we write must be given some scrutiny before we hit the send button to make sure that what we have written is what we truly want to convey. In turn I also take time to read what others send. Giving time to what someone else took time to write is a great form of showing respect. Life is moving faster than it has ever moved yet there are more blogs and people taking the time to share their opinions and writing articles and sharing information than ever before. Writing must be important or so many people would not be doing it. If it is such a big part of our lives, we should embrace it and treat it with respect.

    Gary, I hope my ramblings will be of some help to you. With this article you have hit a big pet peeve of mine. Thank you for sharing and I look forward to seeing you at the next social media event.

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