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Etiquette is about building relationships

Posted by Peter Post  July 22, 2010 07:00 AM

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Q. Within the past year, I made the transition from an academic to a corporate appointment. I recently sent an email request to procure either products, which would be shared in academia, or information/contacts on how to acquire the products. I received an email response from the initial recipient that was also forwarded to others, with the stated intention that they would be more appropriate to address my requests. I have responded with gratitude to the initial recipient. Would good business (email) etiquette dictate that I now contact these secondary recipients and restate my intent, or should I allow them to read the initial forwarded email and respond if they are willing and able to assist? I do not want to be pushy, but I would like to be as proactive as is politely acceptable. Thank you in advance for your assistance, and I look forward to your advice.KC, Philadelphia, PA

The short answer is, yes, go ahead and contact the secondary recipients: “Dear [Secondary Recipient], Recently, [Initial Recipient] kindly forwarded you an email I sent him, and I really appreciate his effort on my behalf. He has let me know that he believes you would be in a good position to address my requests, and I wanted to follow up directly with you. Briefly, I am interested in…”

What is so pleasing about this question is that it’s not a negative problem but rather an example of good etiquette. Everything has been done in a positive manner with the goal of helping you move forward. The initial recipient simply could have ignored your request, or written back only to you saying that he was not in a position to help. Instead, he did the considerate thing and made the extra effort of forwarding your request to people he believes are best positioned to help you. That kind of proactive effort is at the heart of both good etiquette and good business because it fosters the growth of relationships. Not only is he helping you, he is helping his contacts build a new relationship with you. Because he recommended them, he enhances himself in their eyes In addition, he has strengthened his relationship with you. Who knows how you might be able to help him in the future? At its most fundamental, etiquette is about building relationships by thinking not only of yourself but also of others, and making choices that aren’t just good for you but are good for everyone involved. By making a small effort on your behalf, the initial recipient has demonstrated how consideration is a hallmark of etiquette and how it helps us be successful in business.

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