Digital manners. An oxymoron?

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” —Emily Post

Some of us recognize the name Emily Post. If you don’t, just think of her as the Steve Jobs of etiquette – a creator, evangelist and brand-builder. For decades she’s given life advice which just happens to apply nicely to our digital world. Just replace “fork” with “channel.”

We’re all guilty of bad manners from time to time. Let this post give us something to think about.

1. Talking to strangers. It’s OK to do it. Sometimes.
Good manners: Sending an email or LinkedIn request referencing the person who referred us.
Bad manners:  Sending a LinkedIn request without a mutual connection. We’re asking someone to give us access to their connections without knowing anything about us. By doing that, they’re risking their reputation to help us forward our agenda. Not nice to put people in that position. We’re better to request a face-to-face meeting before asking to connect on LinkedIn.

2. Pay attention.
Good manners: Reply to messages (voicemail, email, DMs, etc.) in a reasonable amount of time. Within a business day is great, wherever possible.
Bad manners: Returning messages during a conversation with someone else, answering our cell phone or focusing on our mobile device when at someone’s house, walking down the street (or in a grocery store or at the gym) talking loudly on the phone. Have we forgotten how to be present? Not too long ago we didn’t have technology attached to our hips at all times. Oddly enough, the world functioned.

3. Take the high road.
Good manners: Someone posts something ridiculous online. These people are trolls and exist for no other reason than to stir things up. If their comments are directed at us or our organization and are not factual, we need to simply reply with fact. One time. If they continue, we need to stop. We’ll never win by trying to fight emotion with factual information. Facebook and Twitter each do a nice job of letting us block trolls and report them for spam. Do it if needed, but not just because of a differing opinion. That’s censure.
Bad manners: Engaging with a troll and responding with anger and emotion. Remember what we heard from our mother or someone else’s: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” It’s better for our brands (personal and professional) and better for our blood pressure.

None of us should be different people online than we are offline. Remember that there’s a person on the other side of the keyboard and we should never use the convenience of technology to let ourselves do things we wouldn’t do in person. Of course, some of us don’t have the best manners offline so it’s no wonder we behave poorly when there’s a keyboard at our fingertips.

Savor this food for thought as you practice using the correct fork.
(If you’re interested in receiving etiquette advice from the experts, visit


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