A friend of mine recently shared a post from goodhousekeeping.com titled “Little Social Etiquette Rules Everyone Should Follow” and I loved it. The holidays are when we are out in public quite a bit, when we are guests or host them, and when we’re sharing several meals with others. Hence, they are the perfect time to reflect on these simple gestures that everyone, regardless of age or income bracket, should follow and respect.
Say “please” and “thank you.”
It’s really so simple and should be taught at even the youngest of ages. They are truly still the magic words.
Hand write thank you notes.
If a male college graduate who we just celebrated with a mere week ago can manage to write a nice note of appreciation and pop it in the mail, so can you mom-to-be, bride and groom, new mom, hostess with the mostest, or anyone else. NO EXCUSES! Repeated no “thank you” notes from you? No demonstrated gratefulness? No future gifts from me.
Be on time.
We are all busy, especially this time of year, but your busyness does not justify making people wait for you. What’s most annoying are individuals who are always late. Really people, figure it out. It’s a flaw that needs addressing and it’s just downright rude.
Hold the door for the person behind you.
This doesn’t only pertain to men and it’s not about opening a door for someone. It’s making sure the person behind you doesn’t get the door slammed in their face as you get on with your plan. And let’s not forget to always say “thank you” when someone either opens or holds the door for you. Again, magic words people.
Tis the season for many an invite and tis the right thing to RSVP to every single one. Even a “maybe” is better than no reply at all and reply ASAP. Don’t keep the host guessing and put yourself in their shoes. Wouldn’t you want to know if five or 50 people were attending your event? Again, no excuses and with so many invitations today coming by way of Evite, it’s as simple as a click to reply. Just do it.
Ask before bringing a guest.
If the invitation reads “Bob and Mary Jones,” Mr. and Mrs. Jones should never assume it includes their five kids, no matter how well you know the hosts. Proper etiquette says the names of anyone invited will be on the invitation but when in doubt, ask.
Dress for the occasion.
There’s a fashion saying in Texas that “you’re never overdressed in Dallas and never underdressed in Austin.” Pretty accurate I will say. I love to be casual but also enjoy an occasional black tie event and I tend to lean more toward thinking it’s better to be overdressed then underdressed. But proper attire is quickly going by the wayside, which is a problem we recently faced at work. We wanted to encourage parents to dress their kids in what we called “Sunday best,” but quickly realized many no longer bring out their best on Sundays. In a world where athleisure and jeans are the way to go, asking someone to dress up may be met with distaste or tasteless outfits.
I’ll also never forget the time when my daughter was volunteering as a teen Hospitality Minister years ago but was asked to not participate one Sunday because her attire was not approved. She was livid and I couldn’t help but agree with her that yes, they should be glad a teen wants to volunteer in church and that Jesus would not care what she was wearing but only that she was there. At the same time, I reminded her that Jesus knows she had better options at home to choose from!
So please, dress appropriately for the occasion and if you’re not sure what the dress code is, ask. Keep things on the conservative and modest side for funerals and family events and save the leather and lace for the club and New Year’s Eve. And dress age appropriately. Nothing says “tacky” like a grown woman dressing too young. As they say, if you wore it the first time it was in style, when it comes back around, you’re too old to wear it.
Watch your mouth.
There are too many words in the English language to have to resort to those that are offensive, juvenile, or both. So you like to drop the F bomb do you? Great, do it in the privacy of your own home and learn more respectful and intelligent language when in public and in mixed company…especially groups that include kids and elderly. Trust me, no one is impressed by your potty mouth. They’re called “bad” words for a reason. They’re bad English and they’re bad manners. Don’t like this rule? Wise the F up.
Take food and reach out.
This pertains to not only potlucks of course, but to a new neighbor, someone who just suffered a death in the family, or someone who’s been sick or had surgery. Don’t ever pretend you don’t know someone is grieving. In today’s social media world, that is nearly impossible so if you don’t know what to say or do, just say you’re sorry. And remember that if you’re on the receiving end of this gesture, be sure to return any non-disposable containers to their owners and it’s always a thoughtful gesture to return them with something inside…be it brownies or bath bubbles. And at the risk of sounding redundant, send a thank you note when you receive something.
Stay home when you’re sick.
Sharing germs does not qualify as social etiquette and I don’t care how important you think you are, no one is important enough to infect the office, party, or classroom. Which brings us to…
Catch your sneezes and coughs in your elbow.
Yep, your inner elbow…not your hand or fist. Think about it, when you sneeze into your hand and then touch things, all those germs are now spread onto anything you touch. But, what can you touch with your inner elbow? Nothing, and that’s the point. Just cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. If you must, think about your inner super hero and grab that cape as you sneeze and cough into your elbow. Shazaam!
Step outside to take a call.
I rarely answer my phone when I’m anywhere public and if I do, I make it quick and quiet. Take note people, no one wants to hear your conversation and from what I’ve heard in some of them, you shouldn’t want them to either! Yes, I understand you sometimes have to take a call, so when you do, step outside or aside.
Keep the noise down.
Have to take that call? Then please do so quietly. Better yet, excuse yourself and take it privately. Nothing annoys me more than someone yacking away as I’m trying to relax during a mani-pedi appointment. And along these lines, turn your ringer down and silence your text beeps. We know you’re oh-so-important, but no one wants to hear the constant pings as they sit in the cubicle next to you.
Be a lovable house guest.
Your hope is probably to be invited back to wherever you’re staying, so your goal should be to be a good guest. This means making your bed every day, removing bathroom items when not using them, taking your host to dinner, and bringing a “thank you” gift with you upon arrival. The day you leave, remove the sheets on your bed, place the comforter over the mattress, and make a neat pile of the sheets and any towels you used. Better yet, take them to the laundry room if possible. And of course when you return home, mail a thank you card to your host.
Clean up after yourself.
Housekeeping only comes in hotels so unless you’re in one, it’s your responsibility to clean up your messes and put away your things. This is especially true when you’re a guest in someone’s home but it also pertains to your own home . What about at work? You, it’s all on you. Throw those wrappers away, put those office supplies back where you got them, and wipe down what you dirty.
Never show up empty handed.
What you take doesn’t need to be fabulous or personal, it just needs to be. Anytime you attend something in someone’s home, a hostess or housewarming gift is appropriate and appreciated. And guess what, if you receive them what do you need to do? Mail thank you notes!
Let someone go in front of you in line.
If you have a basket full of items and the person behind you only has a few, let them go first. If you’re mailing a truckload of packages and someone is merely dropping off a postage-paid item, step back and let them go ahead of you. Trust me; they will remember your kindness and hopefully pay it forward.
Wait for everyone to be served before eating.
Not one bite people; not one nibble. I have heard a rule that if the party is six or more, those who get their meals first can start while the food is hot, but I’d play this one by ear.
Be a polite dinner guest.
We get it, you’re living a gluten-free vegan life, but unless you have true allergies, we really don’t care and don’t care to hear about how unhealthy the rest of us are. That being said, if you are allergic to a food being served, simply and politely say so but if you just don’t care for an item, be polite and quietly move it around your plate. Whatever the case, never ever expect the host to prepare a special meal for you.
Remember your table manners.
This includes being polite about what’s being served, but it’s also about not talking with food in your mouth, chewing quietly, using your napkin that stays on your lap and is folded nicely when you leave, and sit up straight.
Push your chair in when you leave a table.
Simple, right? But I challenge you to pay attention here on out and notice how many people don’t do so…whether it’s in a five star restaurant or a dive bar.
Learn people’s names.
Hand up here, as this is truly one of my weaknesses. Try as I may, and I’ve tried every so-called no-fail trick in the book, and I am still horrible with names. It’s gotten to the point that when I meet someone new, or someone again for the second or 200th time, I jokingly admit that I’m bad with names, almost apologizing before I call Wendy “Megan” the next time I see her.
Look people in the eyes.
Who doesn’t love this, right? Look up from your smart phone, listen to what someone is saying, and even look them in the eye when toasting.
Shake hands firmly.
Have you ever shaken hands with someone and it was that awkward “bent hand half shake?” Ick, right? Man up everyone and shake firmly.
Take your shopping cart to the corral.
No my friends, rain or shine snow or sleet, the front or side of a parking space is not the proper place to leave your cart. There’s really no excuse for doing so, as parking lots today generally have “cart corrals” up and down every aisle. Get your steps in and do the right thing…and push your cart to the end.
Give people a pass.
You really don’t know why the waitress was rude or why a driver cut you off so give them a pass. Maybe they just learned a loved one died. Maybe they were late to a meeting that would determine getting a much-needed job offer. Be nice and be forgiving.
Ask before posting.
How many times have you seen a posted photo of someone who looks great in the shot but everyone else looks not so good? Even if the whole group does look presentable, always ask all of them if it’s okay to post the pic…unless you’re under the age of 30 because everyone in that age group posts everything and anything. Also, don’t over-tag people. I rarely tag anyone because I figure if they want the pic or post, they can simply save it or screenshot it.
Don’t reply right away to an unkind message.
I know, it’s hard. Someone emails or texts you something insulting, rude, or just mean and what do you want to do? Go right back at them. But don’t. Breathe a little and wait a day before responding. You will thank your cool head in being the bigger person and they might even apologize during those 24 hours of silent ghosting.
Clean up after your pet.
Here’s how it works pet owners: your dog poops anywhere that’s not your property and you scoop it using a plastic bag that you wrap around your hand, scoop the poop, pull the bag down over your hand and said poop, and tie a knot in it. Then, proceed to toss the bag in an appropriate receptacle. I love dogs, but I hate when I see random poop somewhere that a dog owner didn’t pick up. It’s not okay.
Use turn signals.
Lots of cars out there this time of year, and who doesn’t know this????? Are you going to turn? Then use your turn signal! Easy-peasy please!
Wash your hands.
Remember the Seinfeld episode where Poppie didn’t wash his hands before making Jerry’s pizza dough? Well, that’s how most people feel if you don’t wash your hands after using the restroom. I don’t care if you touched very little, you touch enough and need to wash your hands. And wash them before eating and after blowing your nose for that matter.
Let people off first.
Getting on an elevator or train? Let those coming off of either exit before you enter.
Don’t groom in public.
Please don’t brush your hair, floss your teeth, or put on make-up in public, especially at a table. Reapplying a quick swath of lipstick maybe, but pulling out a compact and mirror? No, just no.
Return and reply.
This applies to texts, phone calls, and emails. If someone takes the time to message you, call you, or leave you a voicemail, you need to make the time to reply and reply promptly.
Say I’m sorry.
Learning to say you’re sorry is one of the hardest things to do for some and one of the earliest lessons little ones should be taught.
Teach your kids good manners.
I love that my school offers an afterschool manners class as it’s never too early to teach good manners. Teaching is all well and good, but so are good role models. Parents and teachers: lead by example. At all times.
So there you have it; the dos and don’ts of social etiquette. Do you have any to add? Please share!