Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Social skills in the new year

Any casual reader of my blog knows how I feel about the value of reading and, more importantly, writing.  Over the 2012 calendar year, I made time to send over 400 pieces of personal correspondence to a number of civilian government officials, senior Navy leadership, all of our NAVIOCOM Commanding Officers, Shipmates and many other people of consequence in my life. Writing is very important to me.  Relationships are very important to me.  Successfully putting those two things together has always been a source of personal satisfaction for me.  (Lots of "I" and "me" in this post - sorry about that).

I was taught early in my Navy career that "answering the mail" was an essential element of an officer's responsibility and an expression of his/her social/professional 'breeding'.  Fortunately, my Mother was a prolific letter writer and she taught me well.  I cannot fail to mention that my sister helped immensely with my penmanship lessons.

The responses (and non-responses) to my correspondence over the past year have been instructive for me.  I often hear some variation of the following (excuses):

  • Hey, I got your letter and meant to answer it.
  • Oh yeah, I need to do a better job of keeping up with the mail.
  • You just don't know how busy it is on the staff here.  I barely have time to eat my lunch.
  • I'm just not a good letter writer. My penmanship is horrible.
  • I can never find the right paper to write on.
  • I wish I had more time in the day to write like you do.
  • I've been meaning to write.  I'll give you a call.
  • You have no idea what my schedule is like; I don't have a minute for myself.
I was heartened to learn recently that the United States Navy recognizes the value of personal and professional correspondence and provides instruction through the COMMANDANT OF MIDSHIPMEN INSTRUCTION 1520.4B.  The subject is OFFICER PROFESSIONALISM AND CIVILITY TRAINING PROGRAM which addresses some of the following areas (relevant to my discussion here):

c. Stationery.
   (1) Social and military correspondence (Examples displayed during seminars).
    (2) Stationery specifics.
         (a) Calling Card.
              1. Correct size and correct information on card.
              2. Various ways of using calling card.
         (b) Personal Card vs. Business Card.
              1. Correct size and correct information on card.
              2. Correct use.
         (c) Stationery Use.
              1. Writing paper.
              2. Thank you notes.
              3. Condolence notes.
              4. Use of ink fountain pens.
          (d) The personal signature in life.

So, I have resolved to continue to work on combining writing and relationships in 2013.  Some of you will continue to hear from me.  And others, well...I will continue my onslaught of filling your inbox in hopes that one day you will pick up a pen and put it to paper.


Anonymous said...


I am reminded of this quote:

"Time is a created thing. To say "I don't have time" is to say "I don't want to"" - Lao Tzu

Anonymous said...

Everyone has 24 hours. Vr/ Andy

Anonymous said...

I googled the Instruction you excerpted


and it is an excellent outline of good manners.

I wonder if anyone knows if there is a companion USNI press book or training manual or other written guidance that fleshes out the above outline guidance?


MB said...

As a grateful recipient of some of those 400 notes, Mike, thank you! They mean a lot to me and always lift my spirits and brighten my day! As my son says, "People like a little hand-written note, Mom!" :) Nancy R.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the outline is the table of contents to OPNAVINST 1710.7A Social Usage and Protocol Handbook