I recently had to give a speech to a group of high school seniors who were interested in leadership. Here is what I said to them:
“I am honored to be asked to talk with you today. The title of my presentation is ‘It’s Not Rocket Science.’ Today I want to talk with you about business etiquette and business ethics. You are probably sitting there thinking this is going to be so boring. But this subject is not about ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you.’ It is not as easy as it seems.”
About now I am wondering why I said ‘Yes’ to this request. Boy, there was a room full of zombie faces – no smiles, no nods, no interaction at all. So I continued……
“As adults, you will spend more than half of your life at the office. Etiquette is all about making those hours as pleasant and productive as possible. Ethics is about the process of learning what is right or wrong then doing the right thing.
“I know, you know that all business is people business – no matter where you work, you will be involved with people. In the people business, everyone is your customer. Sometimes you are selling something to your customer, and sometimes you are selling yourself to a boss or co-worker.
“Good salesmanship is empathetic. Empathy means you can identify the feelings, thoughts and attitudes of others. If I am watching television or reading a book, and really getting into, the character throws a punch and I stand up and throw a punch too, that’s empathy.
“This is not to be confused with sympathy. Sympathy is agreeing with the feelings of others. When someone gets hurt and we feel sorry about it – that is sympathy.
“And, empathy is not to be confused with action. If someone has a rotten attitude, it is not an excuse to have a rotten attitude too. Empathy is a feeling.”
I did get a little laugh here but I am still not sure they know what I am talking about. So I continued…..
“Let’s start with the basics – ‘Please’ and “Thank you’ are important. Remember to use them in your everyday meetings and encounters. A smile, a sincere handshake, and a kind word all provide important introductions and reminders of encounters. Schmoozing a little is the first step to building rapport. And listening is the secret to successful schmoozing. These basics tell others you are interested in them and value them. A little small talk can give you increased visibility in the workplace. And this is how it starts.”
The hardest part of this speech was not knowing whether or not anything I said got through. Blank stares followed me through the whole presentation, and I wonder what I should have said differently. But, you never know how much you influence someone, especially teenagers.
By: Wanda Campbell
Center for Lifelong Learning – 121 South Marion Street, Athens, AL 35611 – 256-233-8262