When I was a child I looked forward to Christmas and birthdays with much anticipation because I knew that I would be showered with gifts from family and friends. However, one of the small inconveniences that my mother insisted on was that we neatly noted down who had sent the gift so that we could then spend a day following up with thank you letters. At first those thank you letters were written by my mother with a drawing (actually, more a scribble) from my siblings and I, later we progressed to writing our name, in large red crayon normally and finally we were tasked with the responsibility of managing our thank-you notes ourselves, choosing the day we wrote and then posted them.
Although it seemed onerous as a child to have this ‘duty’ imposed upon me, I look back with fondness to the days we all sat together and wrote at the kitchen table; each small note that would give someone else pleasure at it’s receipt. Even today whenever I receive such a missive, and some of my friends still insist that their children follow the same process, I feel a little skip, a lightness of heart and have a smile because I am glad that my gift, no matter how small, has been acknowledged.
My mother taught me well. Today, after Christmas and birthdays and if I haven’t been able to thank someone personally for their gift, I will send a card with a note inside expressing pleasure and telling them how much I appreciated their thoughtfulness. The card is not an email it is real, genuine piece of paper in an envelope with a stamp that is sent by the Royal Mail and delivered to the door by a postman.
On the social web, on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn I observe the same formalities. I am always grateful that someone has paid enough attention to what I write to want to comment on it or share it with their friends, followers and connections. I always feel that little skip and lightness of heart that someone else has given me a recommendation, written a review or said something nice about me.
These are compliments and small ‘gifts’ that people are giving to me and I take them in the spirit they were given. I don’t shrug them off as irrelevant or not worth noticing as once again my mother taught me well – she taught me that not acknowledging a compliment by saying ‘thank-you’ was to do the person giving the compliment a disservice and to be disrespectful, they had put effort into reading my words, thinking of a response and then saying (or writing) this nice thing and the very least I can do is to say ‘thanks’. So I do.
But, I’ve noticed that I seem to be in a minority. Over the last few months I’ve had a dawning realisation that few people say thank you when you retweet something they’ve written because you think your followers might find it interesting too, few people say please when they invite you (with the canned requests usually) to be a friend or a connection and others don’t even bother to acknowledge that you’ve written a recommendation or taken the time to follow up a connection request with a note or email. And some don’t acknowledge the fact that you have commented on their status update with a note or a ‘like’.
Why are these simple social skills missing? Are they a casualty of the ‘me, me, me” focused society? Is this evidence of people not taking responsibility for themselves and their actions – instead feeling that such ‘gifts’ and compliments are their right, so much so that they don’t need to acknowledge them? Or are some of these people so full of their own importance and ‘authority’ that they prefer not to even admit that there are lesser mortals (their possible perception – not mine) within their online social circle. As a result of this awareness I decided to undertake a minor experiment on Twitter – just to see what would happen.
There is an event coming up at which I, and a bunch of others will be presenting and I would like to get as many people along as possible because I think many people will find something and someone they can learn from there. So I created a set of tweets which referenced each of the presenters (and their twitter handle if I could find it) and started sending out one each day.
Bearing in mind that those who are on Twitter will know that I had sent a message because it included their Twitter handle within it, even I was shocked to find that of the 44 messages I created only 5 have been acknowledged publicly. What makes this worse is that these tweets are for people I know, not just people I have met on Twitter. I meet them regularly at face to face networking meetings.
Despite this lack though, I shall continue to carry on with my own way of building relationships online (and offline). I will continue to say ‘thank-you’ and I will continue to say ‘please’ if I would like someone to do something for me. I will continue to respond to all emails that are sent personally to me and I will even continue to follow up the canned connection requests with an email asking for more information about the person making the request. But I will also make a note of those that don’t seem to be able to say ‘thank-you’ and may just decide that they aren’t worth helping because they don’t seem to understand that building businesses online is all about the quality of the relationship and not the numbers!