Valuing other people is one of the greatest resources we can possess as human beings. It is a resource that is also free to possess and is based mainly on our ‘choice’ to own or not to own. When you ‘choose’ to place a value on other peoples’ lives and time, you in turn place yourself in a position of respect.
A key reflection of the value we place on people is the ‘ability’ to respect and value their time. This is a moral issue that is often played out when we get invited to functions, meetings or arrange an appointment.
For functions, many people often choose to be guided by the time that others are expected to arrive. This means they arrive late not because they wanted to, but because they believe other people are going to be late. Their argument is ‘why should I be kept waiting for doing the right thing?’ So they choose to be late. We romantically and nonchalantly refer to this arrangement as ‘African Peoples Time’ or ‘African Time’. This is a social problem which haunts our society and is a bane to our national development.
In business, a meeting may be arranged with plenty of notice only for the person who called the meeting arriving late or not turning up at all on the day of the metting. Everyone else has made the effort to get there early for this meeting but somehow the person who is facilitating has an excuse for coming 20 minutes late. Admittedly, there are uncontrollable circumstances; however, some people simply choose to hide behind the numerous excuses they can give for their poor time keeping and what can frankly be described as a very rude attitude to others. It makes you wonder if everyone is not facing the same challenge of traffic when people casually say they were delayed by traffic.
Valuing people is simply putting other people into consideration when a meeting or appointment is set so that you do what is necessary to ensure you arrive in good time. This is for no other reason than not to keep people waiting for no good reason. It speaks of good breeding and respect for others when you value them by valuing their time.
A friend once told me that most of the books he read in the last year were done whilst being kept waiting for appointments. In order to change our attitudes in this regard, we must put ourselves in the picture. How would I feel if someone has wasted my time? The truth is that we all detest being kept waiting by people or even processes. When we think of how we feel, we must also try to consider how other people feel when we do the same to them.
In our society, it seems to be an acceptable norm that anyone bigger than you can keep you waiting. It is an unholy emblem of importance to do so; for example artisans asked to assess a job and provide a service often find that they arrive at the site and are told to ‘wait’. ‘The wait’ for the ‘big’ man could run into hours, obviously because the ‘big’ man’s time, in his estimation is much more important than that of the ‘small’ man.
Also professionals who have booked an appointment find they need to call a few times to confirm and re-confirm the appointment, otherwise they run the risk of arriving and being told that ‘the manager is in another meeting’, ‘has just gone out’ ‘is not in the office today’ or the really funny one ‘not on seat’.
I was once told of someone who was asked to ‘take a seat and wait’; the host in this case was only a corridor away and her voice could be heard clearly on the phone as she made and received several calls, just casual friendly calls. This case of ‘take a seat and wait’ turned out to be a six-hour wait! It turned out that the high powered host was teaching the guest a lesson in remembering that despite their recent familiarity, they simply were not on the same level. Unfortunately, no one ‘taught’ this type of lesson forgets in a hurry.
Valuing another person is as simple as respecting their time, knowing that no matter how big and how busy you are, no one should be disregarded and left waiting for no justifiable reason.
The following are a few guiding points to assist in valuing others and their time:
1. Life is lost in waiting; make it your principle never to keep anyone waiting unnecessarily.
2. Get a diary and log your appointment as you make them or as soon as possible after you made them.
3. Use your phone or PDA to set a reminder a week or a few days before the meeting.
4. If you are unable to make a meeting for any reason, ensure you give enough notice to the other people attending the meeting.
5. Set out early on the day of a meeting factoring in any eventualities like traffic.
6. It is to your advantage not to have a bad reputation for time keeping.
We all benefit when we do things right. Etiquettebank