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Five things your mother should have taught you

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I moved recently, and I’ve been hitting up Craigslist, Freecycle, and other groups both to download stuff at my old place and to upload new stuff at the new.  From all these interactions, which have ranged from good to bad to downright ugly, I’ve learned a few things.  Things that are totally applicable to the business world, and, well, to Real Life.  Things your mother should have taught you.  Things you are likely already passing on to your own kids:

1.  Return emails promptly.

Sometimes I was receiving up to 20 responses from a Freecycle ad, but I ALWAYS took time for at least a minimal response.  Having been on the other end of this, making countless fruitless inquiries that dropped off into oblivion, I know how important it is to at least receive something in the way of acknowledgment.  And in a relatively timely fashion as well.  When people order services from me on my website I make it a point to personally respond within 24 hours no matter what else is going on for me.  I’m surprised how many businesses FAIL at this basic element of customer service.

2.  Call people by their name.

I admit, I stole this one from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, which I read at 14. I still use its elements in every day life (I also learned how to perform a proper handshake, another essential life skill).  Call people by their name.  Can’t remember names?  Me neither.  I’m horrible with names.  When you meet someone, repeat their name out loud to them immediately and then find at least one more way to use their name before you move on.  Works every time.  And everyone loves the sound of their own name.

3.  Give appreciation when it counts.

Everyone wants to hear they did a good job, but being around someone who says it constantly makes the appreciation lose its meaning.  Be judicious but generous with praise, and people will lap it up and fall over themselves to continue pleasing.  Show your gratitude and your own world will fall into place also.

4.  Keep your promises.

This belongs with its corollary:  Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

Everyone understands that sometimes things happen, but who wants to do business/make playdates/be friends with someone who consistently breaks idealistic promises?  Don’t be that person.  Be realistic about what you can make good on, and then follow through.  Same goes for parenting.

5.  Be kind, rewind.

In other words, leave things as you found them.  Observe the Golden Rule.  Be the person you want others to be.

What other important life rules are you passing down to your kids?



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6 comments so far...

  • Great post! Sometimes I think I’m the only one who notices these things! :-)

    A pet peeve of mine is when you speak to someone, you know they hear you (they’re 2 feet away!) but they don’t respond. Is it just me, or is it too much to expect someone to respond back with “Hi”, “Ok”, or some other appropriate response?

    I probably sound old, but manners are important to me.

    BlapherMJ  |  August 20th, 2008 at 10:37 am

  • fantastic! i have to admit these are also my pet peeves! i try very hard to do all of those things and feel terrible when i dont, for whatever reason.

    basic manners are important and they help setup the environment around you. Just look a chashier in the eye next time you leave as you are saying ‘thank you!’ and really mean it - they are usually floored since most people grunt or just ignore them.
    And we wonder why service folks are grumpy?

    I try to tell my husband all the time - it is up to use as individuals to show those we interact with how we want to be treated by treating them the same way. So if i am at, say, a fast food resturant and the person is rude, i try to assume they are having a terrible day and am sure to be nice and thankful for their service. It’s kind of a personal goal to shed a little light onto the grumps of the world. they might be annoyed, but even if they are laughing AT me at least they are laughing ;)

    (wow, i promise i am not really as obnoxious as that sounds LOL)

    Kate  |  August 20th, 2008 at 11:00 am

  • great post. I agree with you BlapherMJ-my husband wonders why I am constantly asking if he heard me :)

    maureen  |  August 21st, 2008 at 12:39 pm

  • BlapherMJ: I hear you! I totally agree about the acknowledgment issue. Do you think some people are just so self-focused they don’t notice? At any rate, it’s a problem for me when there’s no acknowledgment whatsoever, ESPECIALLY in any customer service situation. How hard is it to make eye contact and say “I’ll be right with you”?

    Kate: Awesome point, thank you! I’ll bet you have a lovely little circle of light around you all the time, spreading good cheer everywhere you go…

    Maureen: I’m afraid husbands are another matter entirely. Good luck training yours!

    Karen Murphy  |  August 21st, 2008 at 3:29 pm

  • So glad to see I’m not the only uptight Miss Manners fan around. :) I so agree on everything said. I especially agree kids should be encouraged to greet cashiers and look them in the eye because they are, in fact, actual people with feelings. Also, maybe it’s just me, but I’ll be teaching my daughter that when you walk in front of a fellow shopper’s line of vision (say, the supermarket) you say “excuse me” as you pass by, with a small apologetic smile. Dunno… it’s just a peeve of mine!

    Diane  |  August 25th, 2008 at 8:13 pm

  • I love all of these–so true!

    Something my very first (female) boss told me continues to work to this day: Under-promise, over-deliver.

    It sounds ridiculously simple, but it works. If you can get the product there definitely by Thursday, tell the client, “It could be Friday, but the most likely arrival will be Monday.” Then work on it with Wednesday in mind, and they will be blown away.

    Works for home, PTA, you name it!

    Zelda  |  September 19th, 2008 at 7:41 pm

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