This article is part of our Don’t do that. Do this instead series.*
Relax, it’s 2016
Yes, yes it is, and life is generally less formal than it used to be – which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, there are times when a lack of formality can lead you down a path that impacts your professionalism.
Be fooled into foregoing formalities: DON’T DO THAT
Recently, a short video was doing the social media rounds. It showed a group of young reporters receiving a briefing in the White House press gallery. During their briefing, President Obama made a guest appearance: he sauntered in, relaxed, smiling and carrying his cup of coffee.
When the group was invited to ask questions, one young women started hers with, ‘Hey’. If you’ve seen the clip, you’ll know that President Obama, ever the diplomat, responded with a smile and a ‘Hey’ in return. HOWEVER, look closely, that smile is one tight smile. In this situation, some (teeny tiny) leeway would have been granted because of this person’s age and inexperience, and nerves, but it still impacted how he responded.
How you address someone – be they the President of the United States or the President of your company – matters, particularly in the first instance.
The President of the United States, is still the President, no matter how relaxed he is (or nervous you are). Address him as Mr. President, or Mr. Obama, until he (or she) invites you to do otherwise.
Formalities, they’re not just for world leaders
Keep in mind that there are many people in this newly-relaxed-world who place value on their title and/or position. There are often years, sometimes decades, of hard work spent earning professional qualifications, title, and position.
Although you may not agree with it, or perhaps see it as old-fashioned, formality can be your friend. So, if you want to come across as a truly polished professional…
DO THIS INSTEAD: Err on the side of caution and formality
In a professional setting always start with the the more formal, until you’re invited to move to the informal.
In this way you show respect to the office held (be it President, Prime Minister, Mayor, or CEO, etc) even if you don’t necessarily agree with the person holding that office.
This is particularly important in writing emails or letters to those you don’t know – stick with the formal first: Dear Mr Smith / Dear Ms. Jones (not Hey there!).
This one small act of formality will make you stand out, in a good way.
We’ve all fallen foul of rude or thoughtless behaviour…sometimes it’s even us who have been guilty of it.
If you have a story you’d like to share, please feel free to send me a note and I’ll include it here.
*What is this series about?
Have you ever had your relationship with a colleague, client or boss change suddenly – and not for the better? Yet you’ve not been able to put your finger on why.
Small actions. Big Impact.
I’ve always maintained that some of the smallest things we do often have the biggest impact on how our professionalism is viewed. In this series, “Don’t do that. Do this instead.”, I help you avoid the tiny (and not so tiny) things that can trip you up and place barriers between you and your success.
Small bites for easy digestion.
Each entry is intended to cover one small piece of a larger topic. However, even though seemingly small, each and every action has a big impact.