Sunday, May 15, 2011
Graciousness can still be achieved through technology
By Thelma Domenici
For the Journal
Dear Thelma: I love your column, as it is time we had some manners in this country. However, I certainly take exception to your answer on email invites. The writer of the question in your recent column was complaining that her friend "demands" a phone call, rather than responding to emailed invitations. Turn it around, she is demanding her friend access email when maybe she does not want to.
My cellphone is my main phone, it is with me everywhere and I return missed calls immediately. I also respond to text messages. However, I am not one to waste my time on the Internet all day long. I long ago stopped responding to email invites when I saw it was taking four to five emails to set up a luncheon date, something that can be accomplished in 60 seconds on the telephone.
We have been bullied into this Internet age and as a result have lost the art of personal communication. I consider email invites, like email birthday cards, email sympathy cards and email apologies, to be tacky and showing little care for me on the part of the person who sends it.
I am surprised you don't agree with me. I consider email invites to be ill-mannered and I refuse to partake of the robotic culture that has become America because of the Internet. If one cannot take the time to call me on the phone, one obviously doesn't want me there bad enough, and that is certainly all right with me.
A: If we ignore technology as a tool in our lives, we run the risk of missing out on making real connections with real people. In addition, it is vitally important that we as people who care about good manners bring courtesy and respect to the technology so that we all learn how to use it with care.
The column you reference did address those who simply don't have access to email, saying that every effort should be made to contact that person by another means. What it didn't address is the importance when extending an invitation of never losing sight of being on-time, kind and gracious, no matter the medium you choose to use.
All invitations call for the same basic elements: the host's name, the occasion, the date and time, the location, guest attire, reply instructions and clarity as to who is invited. The email should be structured to evoke in guests the same feelings of style and grace they get from card stock and the message molded in a way that honors the receiver.
Composed this way, email becomes a substitute for postage but not for the grace behind extending the invitation. While there will always be a place for the polish of handwritten, printed and engraved invitations, the honor abundant in them can — and in our contemporary times will — be expressed via email.
Email loses its grace when it becomes obvious that the sender has used it as a quick fix. We can't let brevity or a "hurry-up" state of mind rule our interactions with email. Any invitation for a large event should be made four to six weeks ahead of time. Invitations to a casual dinner party should go out one to two weeks ahead. Even when a spontaneous get-together arises, the host must thoughtfully consider the best way to reach all the guests with all the information in the timeliest fashion, which, as you prefer, may mean a phone call.
While the written invitation may have been seen as the only gracious invitation in the past, it's up to us to make technology come through with same graciousness.
Even electronically, good manners never go out of style.
Have a question about etiquette? Ask it at email@example.com. Thelma Domenici is CEO of Thelma Domenici & Associates, offering corporate coaching and contemporary social skills development programs to all ages.