There is a very interesting article on Inc. magazine online about business etiquette and five suggestions that matter. It starts out by talking about how some consider the mere discussion about etiquette as being stodgy or even old fashion. It is anything but.

Here are the 5 tips:

  1. Write Thank You notes. They are still effective and memorable, because too few people send them anymore. Recently one person I was coaching expressed hesitancy in sending handwritten Thank You notes. He just didn’t think that, with email, that it was necessary. Of course it isn’t “necessary” but I know how I feel when I receive one, and remember for a long time just because they are so rare;
  2. Know peoples’ names. Not just clients and referral sources. But everyone in your own organization – not just your bosses and peers, but the “little” people who make your law firm work. Everyone is integral in some way for making the organization run. If they feel important, they will be proud to speak favorably about the firm to everyone they encounter, and that’s good marketing too;
  3. Observe the "elevator rule." The suggestion is to not “rehash” the meeting you just left until to get to garage level, even if the elevator is empty of strangers. I can’t say that I clearly understand what the author meant here, except possibly to avoid trashing a meeting until you’ve reflected on it longer. I guess I’d understand the rule better if others (or even strangers) were in the elevator;
  4. Focus on the face, not the screen. I remember when Blackberry phones first came out. The few partners who had them were so proud to be able to get messages during department head meetings. Thoughts that popped into my mind at the time included: rude, inconsiderate, inattentive to the discussion, my emails are more important than those present or the conversation, among other things. It is no different today. Turn off the “smart” phone (yeah, don’t try to hide it out of view in your lap as you’re not fooling anyone) and look at the person speaking. Totally agree with this one; and
  5. Don’t judge others. This isn’t just a good etiquette rule, but one that can prevent your getting bit in the arse yourself. I like the old saying from the Bible, “don’t judge others, lest you be judged.” I’ve always admired the phase, but not always adhered to it myself, I must admit. In a more secular sense attributed to Cherokee lore “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.” Good advice.

And, pretty simple and straightforward. Stodgy isn’t the right word at all for basic etiquette, common sense is much more descriptive.

As the article points out etiquette is “not about rules or telling people what to do,” but rather, it’s about making people feel good. Now that’s common sense, and good, considerate behavior. And that my friends is good marketing.