3 Things I’m Grateful for and 3 Things I’m Grumbling About
It’s that time of the year when many of us are making lists. Sometimes, we’re enumerating things to do, while other lists may include loftier goals for the coming year or names of people or events we appreciate.
I’m big on writing lists of things to do, but I am not generally a fan of expressing explicit thanks for people in my life.
However, it has been a particularly stressful year – between natural disasters, terrorism around the world, gun violence and sexual harassment revelations that few people could have anticipated.
Given all these events, I thought it would be worthwhile to express gratitude for the small but important parts of life. And also, I wanted to grumble a bit about the trend toward rudeness that seems to be increasing.
On the Positive Side
I have come to know many people who value the important things in life. They aren’t afraid to ask for help and are grateful when they receive it. They aren’t too busy to listen to your problems – in fact, they ask about them! I am happy to say I appreciate those people, as they make life run smoother.
People Who Express Gratefulness
I often take my editorial skills for granted. However, when I help out new authors who are unfamiliar with the basics of writing a book proposal or creating a table of contents, I realize how valuable my experience can be.
I am very appreciative when authors mention me in their book acknowledgements or in emails, thanking me for helping them reach their goal of completing a book.
Friends Who Listen Without Judgement
Most of us have that special ‘person’ in our lives to whom we can talk about anything, even if we haven’t been in touch regularly.
I am grateful for my early morning gym pals who will listen endlessly to my complaints about work, family, health or just about anything on my mind. I am also grateful for my out-of-town close pals who will always respond to a call or text when I’m in need of advice or just a little cheering up.
Professional Contacts Who Treat Me Like a Friend
You hope that you will become friends with colleagues or clients, but that doesn’t always happen. I am grateful for the people who will ask how I am or what’s happening with my family before we start discussing work.
I will always remember people who sent me notes or cards after my parents’ passing. In many cases, the nicest gestures were made by people I didn’t know that well. It was these acquaintances who often shined when others did not.
On the Negative Side
As a freelancer, I recognize that I’m the one who usually has to go the extra mile. I have to pitch myself and my work, and sometimes that means editing sample pages or doing a half-hour consult without getting paid.
In spite of many years of experience, I accept that this effort is sometimes required for the opportunity to get a new client. Job-seekers find themselves in similar positions; regardless of your background, you may have to provide samples or complete assignments as part of your application.
Lately, though, I’ve seen a pattern of what I’ll refer to as ‘professional rudeness’ that seems to be on the increase. Are these scenarios familiar to you?
Not Responding to Requested Material or Information That Has Been Provided in a Timely Fashion
I can get busy, and occasionally, emails will disappear into my crowded in-box. However, I usually advise people that I will acknowledge receipt of an email and say when I will be reviewing the material. In fact, when starting a new project, I tell people to follow up if I don’t respond to an email within 48 hours.
That’s pretty clear, I think. But after I have had one or more phone calls, several emails and then send a proposed agreement, why is there radio silence? I would like the person to whom I wrote say, “I have your agreement and will be reviewing it over the next week (or some other timeframe).”
We’re all busy and I have to schedule multiple projects. When someone asks for an agreement, I assume we’ll have a spoken or written conversation regarding any questions about the agreement, but that ultimately, we’ll be working together.
Recently, one author sent me a text with a screenshot of a graph that needed to be re-drawn for his book. I had to forward that text to myself to review in larger type and then send onto the publisher. But I couldn’t recall what chapter it was in; after all, I’m working on several books.
I texted back and asked the author what chapter or page number the graph was on. I’m still waiting for an answer!
Whether it’s a friend finalizing plans, a family member asking for a favor or a client with a work question, let’s keep communication clear. Provide enough details so the person getting the email or text isn’t left wondering or having to do additional research.
More, More And More
You know how kids will keep asking for something they want. You would give an explanation or answer a question, but the kids have seemingly endless responses.
As an editor, I send back material with tracked changes showing my edits along with any comments or questions. The authors will review my edits and then send back a revision or we’ll have a conversation.
However, there are those authors who will send multiple emails asking question after question about why I deleted a particular word or why I made a particular change.
There’s no reason to send multiple texts or emails with question after question. We’re all professionals, and we’re all busy. If you’re responding more than three times, then it’s time for a phone call. This principle doesn’t just apply to work but also when you’re trying to make plans with friends or family.
For the coming year, let’s all try to think about how we behave at work and at home. I believe that how you act in a professional setting is an extension of your personal behavior.
What are some things you are grateful for and what are you grumbling about? Please share your most recent experiences below.
Debra W. Englander is a writer, editor and book coach based in New York. She has written for numerous publications and managed a business book program for John Wiley. She writes “The Savvy Self-Publisher” column for Poets & Writers. Follower her on Twitter @DebraEnglander.