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--------------- Print Magazine --------------
  May 2016
  April 2016


Shilpa Bhasin Mehra

Do the others a favour and répondez s'il vous plaît. R.S.V.P. stands for a French phrase, "répondez, s'il vous plaît," which means "please reply". The person sending the invitation would like you to tell him or her whether you accept or decline the invitation. Etiquette rules followed in most Western cultures require that if you receive a formal, written invitation, you should reply promptly, perhaps the same day. For hosts who are planning a dinner party, a wedding or a reception, this is important from a practical point of view, because they need to know how many people will be attending the function. More importantly, it is the simple courtesy of responding to someone who was nice enough to invite you, even if it is to say that you regret that you will not be able to attend.

In a way, you could say that the French "invented" etiquette, although there have always been rules of courtesy to follow in civilization. Many of the practices of Western etiquette, came from the French court of King Louis XIV in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. At Versailles, his palace, Louis XIV had the rules for court behaviour written on what the French referred to as "tickets", or "étiquette". The tickets either were signs posted at Versailles or were the invitations issued to court events with the rules of behaviour printed on the back. In that sense, "R.S.V.P." came about as a polite way of reminding people of something that they should already know: If you receive an invitation, you should reply.

Although the term is used widely for invitations and responses, I would like to extend the courtesy of it in our daily communications. If someone writes to you or asks you a question, you should have the courtesy to respond. It could be a brief Yes, No or OK. I have noticed that when people don't respond, the common excuse is "I was so busy". But strangely, even on the busiest days, the same people manage to respond to the people who are important enough to deserve a response.

That boils down to discrimination when responding and not exactly paucity of time. It is not uniform like the out-of-office response setting, that goes out to everybody who sends you an email. It doesn't do selective responses. It goes to all and sundry, be it your boss or the tea boy. Don't forget that the person expecting a response comes to know exactly how important he or she is by the manner, speed and fashion of your response.

What is required is an element of etiquette and grace. Personally, I have a lot of respect for persons who have the courtesy to respond. And when I get responses, many times immediate, from very busy persons, it brings a smile to my face. It shows they care. Conversely, my threshold for people with poor communication skills seems to be diminishing. Being busy is really no excuse, because we find the time for those people and for things that are important for us. The so-called busy bees have all the time for the social life and all the fuss that goes with the territory. Be a little honest, come up with better excuses or improve your communications.

Ultimately, you are the loser. People will lose interest in you and probably delete you from their list. I remember in school, when we would pass by our Principal or teachers, we would say 'Good Morning' and we always got a response. Those are manners we are taught in school, but as we grow older, we tend to leave them behind somewhere. Suddenly, with our bosses and big shots we get a flash back of the good manners and are on impeccable behaviour. Our behaviour and response system seems to swing from good to bad depending upon who we are interacting with, how important they are in our life.

In our professional life, effective communication is most important for getting the work done. If we don't respond to people, we should not expect a response either. Remember, what goes around, comes around - be it deeds, words or actions. It is human to discriminate between family, friends and society in general. What I am urging you to do is respond, because everyone deserves a response, it may be the briefest hello or OK. Your manners and etiquettes reveal a lot about you - your family background, upbringing, education and the company you keep. Don't bring a bad name to all of these, because of your apathy and laziness.

In biology, we were taught, one major difference, between living things and non-living things is that living things respond to external stimuli. That puts the onus on us, being living beings, that we should respond.We often hear of the comment - "Put your best foot forward". I would say, "Put your best response forward".


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