The other day I had an appointment to meet someone late in the afternoon. In order to meet them, I would have to cut short an outing with some friends. Traffic was heavy and, worried that I would be late, I alerted the other person to let them know that I was on the way. I needn’t have worried, as it turned out. She didn’t show up until well over an hour after the intended time (leaving me to cool my heels the entire time) and then professed ignorance over the fact that we were meeting at that time, even though she had responded to my message about being on my way. It was very irritating. I could have spent more time with my friends rather than rushing off. Also, I didn’t appreciate her lack of apology and felt she was trying to make me seem like the wrong one because I had stupidly turned up on time. It was very unprofessional.
Perhaps that’s why respecting other people’s time is such an important part of civility. You can pay someone back their money but you can never repay time, which is why nobody likes to have it wasted. It shows carelessness, selfishness, and a lack of respect… not exactly a great image boost, is it? Follow these tips to help you practice good time etiquette:
-Conduct transactions as efficiently as possible. Whether you’re at the bank, grocery store, gym, or post office, you should make an effort to get in and out in a reasonable amount of time. It drives me nuts when I’m waiting in an endless line at the grocery store and the person in front of me is chatting away distractedly on the cell phone while the cashier fights to get his attention, or decides to rifle through her purse because she doesn’t even have her money ready. Be friendly, be prepared, be focused, and be ready to move on.
-Stick to your meeting times. Was that conference call at noon, or one? You had better make sure. Also consider whether differing time zones might be a factor. I once set up a phone interview and the guy was an hour late—because he lived in a different time zone. Always give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination, ensuring that you have gasoline and clear directions beforehand. It’s better to get there a little early and have to sit in your car for a few minutes than show, realize there’s nowhere to park, and wind up 10 minutes late because you didn’t budget enough time.
-Inform people as soon as possible if you are running late. Oftentimes things happen that are beyond our control. Babysitters cancel, we get held up at work, traffic backs up… what can you do? Well, the least thing you should do is alert the person you are meeting as soon as you can. Give them the option to reschedule if that’s more convenient for them. And apologize sincerely. Even if it’s not your fault that it’s bumper-to-bumper, you should at least sound remorseful for the delay. After all, couldn’t you have left a bit earlier to avoid rush hour?
-Don’t waste people’s time. If you know you’re absolutely not interested in say, a job candidate or a salesperson pitching a service you don’t want, why schedule the meeting? If you’re on the fence, go ahead—you might change your mind. But I’ve heard enough tales of people showing up for interviews (having spent days preparing) only to be told the position has already been filled, or that they didn’t have the suitable skills—which a quick glance at their resume would have told HR. It’s so demoralizing, and a huge waste of time.