Common courtesy and your word
Growing up, I was taught to say “please” and “thank you,” to put my napkin on my lap and to keep my elbows off the table. Sometimes dinnertime wasn’t a lot of fun since I kept forgetting the elbow rule. But those lessons became ingrained in my head and I follow them today.
At the same time, I was also taught to take responsibility for my actions and to be considerate of others. If I was going to be late for anything (although that was a big no-no in my home!) I had to call the person who was waiting for me and tell them I was running behind. If I wasn’t going to show up for something, then I had to do the same. If I said I was going to do something, I did it, and if I said I wasn’t, I didn’t. If someone called me, I called back. If they wrote, I wrote back. My parents just expected certain behavior from me, and again, those lessons became a part of who I am.
So what’s the problem? Well, I expect the same from other people, both in my personal and professional life and I just don’t “get it” when others don’t show common courtesy or aren’t true to their word.
Years ago, I was working with a fun, enthusiastic couple who wanted to purchase a home in my area. We must have looked at forty homes, and we put offers in on a few of them, but the deals didn’t get past the offer stage. Needless to say we were spending a lot of time together and they were a pleasure to work with. I received a text message one day that they were taking a “break for the holiday” and they would be ready after that. This was before Thanksgiving. After Thanksgiving, I called. No response. I emailed. No response. So I waited till the next holiday, and tried to contact them again. No response. Now there have been dozens of holidays in between; and I never received any response at all.
It would have taken them all of a minute to just send me a note back indicating they were looking in another area, or didn’t want to continue our professional relationship, or were too depressed to continue but would be back, or whatever! It would also only have taken them a few minutes to make a phone call. In my book, responding is just common courtesy. Instead they kept me hanging, wondering for years what happened.
And then there is the lady who just “had to” get a property asap, so I made arrangements to meet her at the property. We confirmed a day ahead of time, and I arrived early to get the place ready, and I waited. Ten minutes after she was supposed to arrive, I called and the call went to voice mail. I indicated in the voice mail that I was there for our confirmed appointment and would wait another 5 minutes. No response. This happened with several people several times. No response ever. I never heard from them again. No courtesy shown there either.
And then there is the subject of our words. Do we do what we say we are going to do? Do we not? It only takes one time of acting against our words for trust to be broken, in our personal friendships, families, and in our business life.
I was working with someone years ago who was going to be purchasing investment property. After spending quite a bit of time showing him possible properties, we found one he wanted to pursue. We put in an offer which was accepted and then we met for the inspection. The inspection was conducted and then we met at the home again for a mold test. He told me while at the property for the mold test that he would contact me in a day or two so we could put together some requests for the seller. I never heard from him again. He refused to respond to me. He just disappeared. It was so odd that I even looked in the newspaper to see if he passed away! Anyway, needless to say, he made me look like an idiot (“gee, I’m sorry listing agent, I have no idea where my client who made an offer and did an inspection is”). He made the listing agent look like an idiot (“gee, I’m sorry Mr. Seller that I didn’t vet this buyer better”) and he made the seller lose weeks in the sale process. Any trust any of us had in him was gone.
Interestingly enough, many years later the same person contacted me to see if I’d join a referral company where we could refer business to each other. I told him I’d never refer anyone to him and I told him why. At first he justified his actions by saying he changed his mind about buying the house. I told him that was fine, but he had disrespected me, the listing agent and the seller by not letting us know. He actually seemed seriously apologetic. A sincere apology is the first step to regaining trust, if that were indeed an option on the table.
While most of the people I meet do still know how to practice courtesy and they do what they say they’ll do, which I tremendously appreciate, the percentage that don’t practice those skills seems to be increasing. Letting someone know you’re going to be late or aren’t going to show or aren’t going to ever come back is just common courtesy. So is doing what you say you’ll do. If you break your word, you break trust. If you can’t use common courtesy to respond to people, you’re also breaking their trust in you. It’s all the same as saying “please” or “thank you.” In my opinion, it’s just the right thing to do.
Thank you for reading “Courtesy and Your Word.” This was originally posted in 2013 and while I still agree with my first post, this has been updated to add more oomph.