Social etiquette is one of those things that people tend to roll their eyes at these days. Nobody wants to be prim and proper anymore but, unfortunately, as we’ve let go of the etiquette rules that had run their course, we’ve also stopped following the rules that made the world a little bit easier to live in. From things like putting our phones down during dinner to courteous driving, sometimes it feels like politesse is dead.
But the truth is that manners and etiquette don’t have to die a lonely, neglected death. In fact, you can start to slowly make things a little easier on yourself, your loved ones and the rest of your fellow humans by incorporating some more courtesy, respect and etiquette into your life. Before you know it, you’ll see others catching onto your etiquette and the rest will be history.
Put Away Distractions During Dinner
How many times have you been at dinner with someone and, in the middle of the conversation, they took out their phone? It’s probably happened more times than you care to admit and you’ve probably even done this yourself. However, a small but important part of etiquette is to keep the phone out of sight all night. Enjoy dinner with your loved ones (or even by yourself) sans distractions, and it will make life a little happier.
Give Others A Break
Someone cuts you off on the road, a waiter takes forever to refill your glass of water and the cashier seems distracted and taking forever to ring you through. Yes, all of these things can add up to real annoyances during your day but you’ll be doing yourself (and others) a favor if you just give people a break. You never know what someone else is dealing with on a particular day, but if you approach them with kindness and compassion, that’s much better.
Say “Please” and “Thank You”
Nobody says “please” and “thank you” anymore, but you can bring it back. It’s one of those small little etiquette lessons that can pay off big in the long run. Even if you don’t do it right now, start putting more of this language into your vocabulary and you’ll soon find people are saying it back.
Répondez S’il Vous Plaît
Every invitation you’ve ever gotten probably comes with an RSVP but many people these days are foregoing actually responding and just showing up. Here’s the problem: That creates a lot of stress for the host when they don’t know if 2 or 20 people are showing up. So do everyone a favor and always, always make sure you check off the “yes” or “no” box… and respond in a timely manner.
Leave Stinky Foods at Home
Courtesy tends to stay at home when people bring their stinky food and suspicious leftovers to work. The truth is that having stinky foods at the office creates a disturbance for all and we’d like you to quit now. It’s totally fine to eat what you want to eat but just remember to be courteous and not have your worst smelling foods out all the time.
Don’t Reply When You’re Angry
Sending an email back to that coworker who is driving you crazy at the moment might only take a moment but it’ll end up costing you much longer in the long run. Instead, it’s a much smarter and more etiquette-friendly strategy if you pause, breathe and wait until you’ve calmed down a bit before answering an email, text or phone call that has you on edge.
Bring Food Over
Nobody brings food over anymore when someone you know is grieving or when there’s a new neighbor on the block. It’s one of those sad etiquette memories that would make the world a brighter place if we all started doing it again. Next time you know someone who could use a welcome hand or a little cheering up, why not bring food over as a lovely gesture?
Don’t Take Phone Calls in Public
We have our phones on our hips pretty much 24/7, which is why most people have long forgotten the etiquette lesson about not taking phone calls in the middle of a crowded place. You could be in line or something or in the middle of a restaurant and, all of a sudden, you’re involved in someone else’s phone conversation. Instead, do us all a favor and step outside when you get a phone call. It will make you feel better because nobody will be listening nearby.
Use Your Turn Signal When Driving
As we’ve all been driving more and more, people have started to forget the basic courtesies (and laws) of the road. One of the biggest culprits here is using your turning signal. It’s not unusual to be driving and all of a sudden have to slam on your break because the person in front of you forgot to signal and all of a sudden they’ve slowed down to turn. Don’t be that guy. Use your turn signal!
Stay Home When You’re Sick
These days, our overworking culture has most people showing up to work even when they’re rocking a fever or coughing up a lung. Basic etiquette doesn’t even enter into the equation but the truth of the matter is that the best thing you can do for yourself (and for others) is to stay home when you’re sick. This badly needs to come back into popularity because getting others at your office sick does no one any favors.
Look At Who You’re Talking To
Just as it’s really easy for a lot of people to pull out their phones during dinner, it’s really easy to do the same pretty much anytime you’re actually engaged in a conversation. It’s fact, you could say it has become an epidemic of rudeness where nobody ever looks at each other anymore. Well, you can stop that easily by making sure that you are looking at whoever you are talking to directly in their eyes whenever you are one-on-one with a co-worker, friend or family member.
Be Courteous on Elevators (and Public Transit)
Here’s the basic etiquette rule of elevators and public transportation: Step aside and let the people getting off to do that before you try to get on. Unfortunately, many of us ignore this rule in our rush to just get on that bus or elevator as if the thing could actually leave without us on there. It won’t. Stop worrying and start stepping aside to let people through without being pushy.
Hold the Door for Others
Somewhere along the way, we forgot to hold the door open for others. When you are entering a new establishment, it doesn’t take that much extra work to hold the door for the person behind you. It’s a small courtesy but one that can definitely pay off in the long run as they get inspired to hold the door for the person behind them and on and on.
Don’t Ask Women When/If They’re Pregnant
A huge mistake that some people make in terms of etiquette is to ask a woman who has just gotten married about her baby plans. Even worse, if she’s not drinking or if she puts on a bit of weight or if she’s just crossing your path, the person asks again. Well, don’t. It’s simply not polite to assume that a person is planning on having children or, much worse, that she’s actually pregnant. If she wants to share that information with you, she will. Otherwise, just stay out of it.
Help Those You See Struggling
Sometimes, going to the grocery can be a hassle for those of us who are on the shorter side. It’s a pain to reach for higher shelves and it can be an even bigger pain to see those struggling get no help from anyone surround them. Thankfully, you can change all of that. A basic etiquette rule is about lending a small lending hand whenever you see someone having a bit of a hard time. Pay it forward and you’ll feel pretty good about yourself.
Send Handwritten Notes
Other than weddings, nobody seems to send handwritten notes anymore. However, it was once a standard etiquette rule to send handwritten notes to your friends and relatives. This was especially true for invitations and thank you cards. The good thing is that you can easily bring this back by starting a tradition yourself where you send handwritten notes to your loved ones no matter what the occasion.
Wipe Down the Exercise Machine
Whenever you step foot into the gym, you probably see at least one person who very obviously uses an exercise machine and then walks away the minute they’re done. That’s right, without wiping down the machine. It’s a major etiquette no-no but one that needs to be brought back a.s.a.p. because nobody wants someone else’s germs on them. Let’s do it.
Alway, Always Wash Your Hands
Just as a lot of people aren’t wiping down their machines at the gym, they’re also often leaving bathrooms without washing their hands. The problem with this is that you are taking the germs from the bathroom back out into the world and possibly getting yourself or others around you sick, too. Instead, never ever leave the bathroom before you thoroughly wash those hands and rid them of germs.
Knock Before Entering
Nobody wants to be barged in on and yet everyone forgets to knock these days. Whether you are at home walking in on your partner’s office or at the office needing a minute with your boss, remember to knock. It’s a small etiquette rule that just reminds you and the people around you that there’s respect here.
Stop Being Late
Lateness has somehow become an epidemic in our culture and it’s not getting any better these days. Etiquette is all about respecting other people, though, and that includes respecting their time. One of the things that you are saying to someone when you are late is that you do not respect their time, only your own, so if you continue this, it can ruin relationships. Instead, stop being late and you can bring a little more courtesy back into your life.
Reach Out to Those Grieving
Grief is a difficult, complicated emotion. If you’ve never experienced it, and even sometimes if you have, you may not know how to deal with someone in your life who is grieving. Yes, you can bring over food but even something as small as saying “I’m sorry” can be a comfort. Don’t be afraid to reach out and instead go ahead and call your friend that’s going through a hard time and just let them know you love them.
Don’t Check Your Phone at the Movies
Checking your phone at dinner is nowhere near as bad as the worst cell phone crime of all: Checking your phone at the movies. Back before the cell phone days, this was never an etiquette problem. But these days, it’s almost impossible to go to the movies without at least one jerk looking at their phone mid-movie. This needs to stop immediately because checking your phone at the movies lights up brightly, no matter how well you think you are hiding that thing inside of your jacket. Just stop it, period.
Use Your Shopping Cart Correctly
When you are grocery shopping, there are a few things that you should keep in mind in order to keep up with etiquette rules that we have long forgotten but should definitely bring back. First of all, you should never, ever leave your shopping cart stopped in the middle of the aisle so that others cannot get through. Secondly, make it easy by walking on the right side of the aisle so that others can walk by easier. And last but not least, take those extra two minutes to take your cart back into its cart area. Don’t just leave it loosey-goosey in the parking lot.
Ask About Those Plus One’s
When you get invited to a party, it’s easy to get really excited and want to bring a friend. And that’s okay…. just as long as you do not forget to contact the host about bringing a plus one. These days, that old etiquette rule seems to have fallen by the wayside as people forget to R.S.V.P. +1 and instead just bring their friend or new partner along. But it’s always a much better idea to let the host know so that they can plan accordingly instead of freak out because 20 people brought a surprise plus one.
Don’t Eat Until Everyone Has Been Served
In our rush to eat and get back to whatever activity we were doing before, we often forget that a basic etiquette rule is to wait to eat until everyone at the table has been served. This is an easy one to forget but also an easy one to correct. It lets your friends and loved ones know that you respect them just a little bit more if you wait a few minutes until everyone at the table has food in front of them. It won’t really cost you anything extra, so go ahead and take the more courteous route.
Curb Your Pup
Many cities and states now have laws about this but it shouldn’t take a law to remind you to always clean up after your dog. Dogs are pretty awesome and many people love them, but nobody loves it when you don’t clean up after your dog and they, ahem, step in it. Literally. So go ahead and curb your pup, always, because you’ll be doing society a nice little favor.
Don’t Blast Your Headphones
Wearing headphones in public is totally okay but it can get a bit tricky when you are wearing headphones and all of a sudden hear a lot of noise coming from someone else’s headphones. Talk about awkward! One basic rule of etiquette is to make sure that your volume is turned down enough so that you are not disturbing anyone around you. After all, you’re signifying that you don’t want to be disturbed by wearing headphones and those near you should get the same courtesy.
Clean Up After Yourself
Littering is nobody’s friend but yet people still do it. This can be just as true outside as it is when you are in somebody’s home. Don’t get yourself fall into this big etiquette no-no and instead make sure that you are always cleaning up after yourself. Whether you are putting the dishes in the dishwasher after having dinner at a friend’s place or making sure that you find a recycling bin for that soda you just finished drinking, it’s the least you can do since you created the mess in the first place.
Ask Before Posting on Social Media
In this age of social media, this etiquette rule is actually a new but standard one that everyone should know. If you are a big fan of Facebook and never miss an Instagram picture, that’s really cool. But you know what’s not cool? Putting up a photo of your cousin’s baby when your cousin isn’t on social media and really doesn’t want her kids there either. So a good rule of thumb is to ask anyone before posting about them on social media. It’s a small courtesy but you will appreciate it when you can say “yes” or “no” to someone else’s post, too.
Sneeze Into Your Elbow
If you’re about to cough or sneeze, do you take care of it in your elbow? Probably not. This might be the last etiquette rule on this list but it is definitely not the least important. It’s one of those things that can really help you with keeping your germs away from other people. If you sneeze into your hands, then you are probably spreading it around. Instead, sneeze into your elbow and then find a tissue as soon as you can. You’ll appreciate it once you start seeing others do the same.