My Mom and Dad liked to entertain. Mom was a great cook and Dad was her right-hand lieutenant in the kitchen. When I was little, I used to hate their dinner parties because I was very shy — so shy, in fact, that when their company arrived, I would hide under my Mom's skirt.
This was the fifties, so there was plenty of skirt to provide camouflage. To her credit Mom didn't shoo me away but gracefully maneuvered with that "extra pair of legs" peeking out from under her shirtwaist dress, skittering along with her while she waltzed about the kitchen, cooking and chatting with friends. Under her skirt, I felt protected. I could hear the company but I didn't have to interact. I was safe in my own world.
In an effort to get me out of my “safe land," my parents gave me a book called Manners Can Be Funby Munro Leaf. The book explained that since we don't live on desert islands, we meet people, and when we meet someone we smile and shake their hand. Dad improvised the experience and actually took my hand and shook it. That's when I learned the Guthrie Handshake.
Here's the secret: Don't squeeze too hard, but don't be a softy, either. Look this stranger in the eyes, smile, grasp their hand firmly, and say, "How do you do?" For me, having this plan of action in mind when I met someone new made the process so much easier. Like following the directions on a box of Jell-O, as Dad would say.
I realized recently that those basic manners that I was taught are good guidelines to use in my online interactions. In fact, the backbone for social behavior and promoting your brand (or yourself) effectively online is all about showing respect for the other person, whether they’re a potential friend or customer. Social media has given consumers a voice, and the tremendous power of their opinions disseminated online means that companies and brands have to compete on a whole different level than they used to. They have to be nice, or consumers will tell on them.
The moral of this story: Show respect, say thank you in your interactions, and remember that if you’re unsure how to begin, try the Guthrie Handshake on the next person you meet. Then you can get to know them on Facebook, stay in touch with emails, text plans for meet-ups, and connect your LinkedIn networks. Voila! You’re on the path to creating a loyal following of friends or friendly customers.
To remind you of the value of good manners in today’s world, I’ll leave you with this from Sting. It always takes me back to being an alien under Mom’s skirt. and besides, as the lyrics go: “If manners maketh man as someone said, then he's the hero of the day.” You be the hero.