Courtesy in Business Communication

by Michelle McGriff; Updated September 26, 2017
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Trust is hard to earn and maintain in business relationships. Sometimes something as seemingly small as a misunderstanding or perceived rudeness in business communication can wreck a working relationship. In business communication, good manners can mean the difference between a profit and a loss. Learning to be courteous and polite at all times can save wasted energy at work worrying about when you may have fumbled in business etiquette and courtesy (see References 4).

Telephone

Make sure that when you cannot answer your phone that your recorded message is sincere and polite. Often it is in the tone of the voice that can display courtesy. Apologizing for not being available when your caller needed to speak to you is a show of courtesy. Stating when you will be back is another courtesy. Most important, returning a message promptly is not only courteous but professional. When answering the phone, smile. It will show in your voice. Listen completely to what your caller has to say before starting to speak. Make sure you ask for permission before putting your caller on hold and wait for the caller to say it’s okay. Never hang up without saying good-bye or giving notice that you are ending the call, even if the caller is rude.

Email

Emails go a long way in business communications. They also last a long time. They can become permanent records of your words. With that knowledge, make sure when you are preparing an email that you read it aloud or otherwise review it to make sure that you not only get your meaning across but that you get it across in a courteous way. Start your emails with a professional salutation that greets your receiver or group of receivers by name (see References 3). Keep in mind this email is not a casual note between friends. Use complete sentences and good grammar. Never write an email when angry or in the mood to vent, as chances are an email sent under these conditions will be missing the courtesies that could make your communication more effective (see References 2).

Letters

Often, it is acceptable to send a letter to convey a business communication. As with an email, be sure to have your letter proofread for spelling and format and your grammar checked for correctness. Say thank-you when and where needed. Make sure to close your letter with an appreciation for anticipated time spent by the receiver reading your communication.

Face-to-Face

Often the most difficult form of business communication is delivered face-to-face. It is good practice to review in front of a mirror what you plan to say. This will give you a good idea of how your facial expressions change with your message. When visiting another country for business, it is not polite to force your culture on those with whom you are there to do business (see References 1). Understanding cultural differences can help you be courteous when communicating with those from countries where face-to-face courtesies are displayed differently than how you may be accustomed.

Bulletin Boards

Announcements posted on bulletin boards are common in many workplaces. This practice can sometimes result in rude or crude displays of communication. When in charge of delivering a message to everyone at once, you should strive be courteous to all. Use of slang or uncommon phrases may offend and detract from your intent. Make sure your bulletin board announcement or newsletter is written with all the consideration given to other professional business communications.

References

  • Ua.edu: Deliver Your Message Effectively
  • “The Journal of Lending & Credit Risk Management”; E-Mail Communication: Some Rules of the Road for the Information Superhighway; Dev Strischek; July/Aug. 1999
  • “International Journal of Organizational Analysis”; Politeness as a Universal Variable in Cross-Cultural Managerial Communication; David A. Morand; Jan. 1996

About the Author

Graduating from Capella University with a Ph.D. in organizational management, Michelle McGriff has been writing professionally for over 15 years. A fiction novelist and part-time content editor, she contributed to the nonfiction writer's guide, "You're Published, Now What?" McGriff is also working to complete a series of nonfiction e-books.

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