When I conduct corporate training, I start with a pet peeves exercise. I give examples of personal pet peeves, such as people who put cell phones on a dining table or people who wear inappropriate (risqué) clothing to church. It normally gets people thinking about how pet peeves affect our opinion of one another. We all have pet peeves. Regardless of whether you know the person across from you or not, things they do and say affect us.
After we are done laughing at all the things that bother us, I ask, “How often do you think you do things that offend others?” “How often do our actions and behaviors offend, to the point that people won’t do business with you?”
We may think we are fine and what we are doing doesn’t matter, but does it? When I conduct this exercise, I know there are people who don’t think it’s a big deal to put a cell phone on a table, but to me, it is unbelievably rude. A cell phone on a table means that chances are I am going to get interrupted and be expected to remember where I was in the story and continue. To me, it means that anyone who calls is more important than I am. Pet peeves are unique and personal. I know that our older generations prefer to be addressed appropriately. You do not call them by their first name unless they tell you it is OK.
Every day our actions and behaviors affect others’ perceptions of us. How we dress, the language that we use within ear shot of others, and how considerate we are, contributes to our own image.
Often, I think we go through life thinking that no one is watching and no one cares, but they do. Think about how your pet peeves influence your perception of others? When a person does something that offends you without knowing, you still notice it. It still makes you think twice about what kind of person they are. If it is personal, you may think, “If they don’t care about themselves, they definitely don’t care about my business or me.”
Think about how your actions, tone of voice, dress code, and personal agenda may be affecting those around you. Are your actions limiting your opportunities and holding you back?
Colleen Harding is a certified etiquette and protocol instructor and the founder of the Cleveland School of Etiquette and Corporate Protocol. Programs and packages available for children and businesses.