Do your digital devices have manners?

Elevator Cell PhoneThe other day I was trying to get information on my iPhone by asking Siri, the personal assistant, to help me. As too often happens, Siri was not giving me what I needed. It seems I speak English and she speaks Russian. In frustration, I said, “Siri, you’re not giving me the information I need!” Her response was, “If you say so, Arden.” Argh! That only made me more frustrated. Whoever programmed Siri did not program her with courteous responses. If Siri had said, “I’m sorry I’m not being more helpful Arden” I would have been more forgiving.

Interestingly, I was hired by a high-tech company to teach a group of designers and engineers common business etiquette and manners that they could apply to the technology they are programming. Before they approached me I hadn’t really thought about the importance of our digital tools having manners. But after my Siri incident I see the importance.

I pondered; what are some common manners and courtesy rules both our digital tools and we should follow? I’ve come up with a few tips that I feel are most important.

Say “Please,” “Thank you” and “You’re welcome”

Some might think this tip is obvious, while others may think these terms are old fashioned. Trust me, they are neither. I’m surprised by how many people don’t use these gracious phrases, yet they are so powerful. People always respond more favorably when I use these phrases, and I am happier when my technology tools use them as well.

Address others by their name

While I don’t always like how Siri responds to me, I do appreciate that she knows and uses my name. I feel so special. You can make others feel special too by using their names.

Use “I” language rather than “you” language

Saying, “Your voice hurts my ears” to your coworker will probably cause him to be defensive and resentful. Instead take responsibility for your feelings by saying, “When you yell at your computer I have a hard time concentrating on my work. Will you please keep your voice down when reprimanding your laptop?” Your colleague will not feel attacked and will more likely react in a positive way.

Put people first

Imagine if you were in the middle of composing a letter on Microsoft Word and a message popped up that read, “Word functions will return once the program has been updated” and then your letter disappeared. Would you be annoyed? I would expect so. It’s not acceptable for our tech tools to digitally turn their back on us, nor is it okay for us to do the same with other people. Refrain from texting, talking, typing or tasking on your devices when interacting with others. Make the people in front of you your priority, not your digital tools.

Refrain from complaining

Complaining doesn’t help anyone. Well, you might feel better for a few seconds when you get your feelings out, but then you’ll probably go back to feeling miserable because you’ll be focusing on what’s bothering you. It’s also not fun spending time with a complainer. What if your navigation system whined that it really didn’t want to navigate you through downtown Seattle because the traffic is always backed up and it dislikes having to continually update your destination arrival time? You’d probably want to chuck that GPS.

When tempted to complain, keep it to yourself and find something positive to focus on.

If you practice all of these tips I bet that you will feel happier, your mother-in-law will love you, you’ll get a promotion, and the barista will put extra chocolate sprinkles on your double tall pumpkin mocha with whip. Okay, maybe I can’t promise you’ll reap those benefits, but you have a far better chance if you are courteous. And, I expect you’ll enjoy using your tech tools more if they are also programmed to be mannerly.

Have you ever had a negative experience with technology because it wasn’t helpful or courteous?

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>

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