Emily Post is rolling over in her grave. According to a study conducted by Pew and Public Agenda, just 23 percent of Americans found that most people they encounter have what they would describe as “very good” manners. If you’re someone who wants to win friends and move up at the office, it would behoove you to improve.
“People like to be around people who show respect and courtesy for them,” says Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick, founder and president of The Etiquette School of New York, who notes that etiquette can also increase confidence in social situations. “The reason these rules were devised in the first place is to make people more comfortable. When you practice social etiquette, it’s easier to make friends and it shows you respect them.”
So, how can we swing the pendulum back in favor of politeness? Start by ensuring you’re not making any of these social etiquette mistakes. And when you want to make your vocabulary a whole lot more polite, make sure to eschew the 40 Things No Man Over 40 Should Ever Say!
Neglecting Thank-You Notes
Saying “thank you” in person upon receiving a gift often feels like you’ve given more than enough gratitude. However, if you’re not actually writing a thank you note after the fact, you’re ignoring some pretty basic rules of social etiquette.
Even if you’re only writing that note because you feel like you have to, you’ll likely reap some rewards, too: researchers at the University of Miami found that expressing gratitude was associated with greater energy, alertness, and enthusiasm. Not convinced? Discover the 5 Ways being Thankful Will Change Your Life!
Not Introducing People
We’ve all encountered those situations where you’re with a friend and you run into someone you know and they don’t. In your confusion or haste, you accidentally forget to introduce the two, both an etiquette faux pas and an awkward moment for all of you. Not introducing people can make everyone involved feel uncomfortable, or worse, make them feel like you don’t think they’re worth introducing. Luckily, all it takes is a brief mention of each person’s name and how you know them and that uncomfortable situation will be a thing of the past. And when you want to blossom socially, This Is the Best Way to Make New Friends.
Not Offering to Clean Up When Someone Else Cooks
Just because you didn’t cook a meal doesn’t mean that you’re absolved of all responsibility after the fact. Not offering to clean up when someone else has cooked is akin to saying, “Hey, why don’t you do some more work on top of the hours you just put in?”
While the chef may deny your offer, it’s always polite to ask first. And, if it’s your spouse turning on that Julia Child act in the kitchen, it’s even more important that you do your part: research from the Council on Contemporary Families found that inequality when it comes to housework can put a huge strain on relationships, and can decrease overall satisfaction in a marriage. And when you want to make your cleaning routine a whole lot easier, start with these 20 Genius House-Cleaning Hacks That Will Blow Your Mind!
The anonymity—or perceived anonymity—of online conversations can embolden even people who consider themselves pretty polite in person, making even the tamest folks prone to arguing with their digital nemeses. In fact, research conducted by VitalSmarts reveals that, among 2,698 respondents, 88 percent believe that people are less polite on social media than in person.
Worse yet, 76 percent of those polled said they had personally witnessed a social media fight. While it may be tempting to tell your annoying neighbor, humblebragging Redditor, or Twitter troll why you’re right and they’re wrong, doing so is an undeniable etiquette faux pas, and, thanks to the nature of the internet, one that might follow you around for some time. And for more ways to clean up your social media act, ditch these 15 Facebook Habits You Need to Break!
Talking on the Phone in a Restaurant
We all have those phone calls we absolutely can’t miss. However, if you’re talking on a phone inside a restaurant, no matter how noisy the place is already, you’re being undeniably rude. If you need to take a call when you’re eating dinner, make sure to duck outside to do so, or risk the ire of your fellow diners, and earn yourself a permanent spot on the “nightmare diners” list. And when you’re ready to untether, start with the 11 Easy Ways to Conquer Your Smartphone Addiction.
Pointing at People
Yes, it’s sometimes hard to identify the person you’re talking about using descriptors alone. That said, pointing at people is still a serious social faux pas. Pointing makes people feel singled out and can make them assume you’re gossiping about them, even if all you’re actually doing is complimenting their outfit from afar. And when you want to make the people around you more comfortable, discover the 20 Easy Ways to Be Less Mean.
Assuming Someone Else Is Treating
People often assume that if someone asks you to have a meal with them, it’s their responsibility to pick up the check, as well. Although this may have been true at one point, if you’re going to lunch with a friend, or even someone you’re interested in dating, it’s always your best bet to assume that you’ll be going Dutch.
“You can’t assume that someone else is treating you just because they’ve asked you to a meal,” says Napier-Fitzpatrick. “Always take enough for your meal, and ask if you can help. If they say no, say thank you, or ask to pay for the tip.” Luckily, when you do want to save money, the 40 Easy Ways to Stretch Your Paycheck can definitely help.
Inviting Extra Guests to Events
“The more, the merrier” doesn’t apply to every situation, unfortunately. No matter what the occasion, you should always ask your host before you bring someone who wasn’t specifically invited along to an event, even if it’s your significant other. And when it comes to weddings, there’s no excuse for bringing an uninvited guest. And when you want to be a more welcome guest at your next event, make sure you’re not guilty of the 30 Biggest Holiday Party No-Nos.
Bringing Your Dog With You Everywhere
We get it: you love your dog, and you want them with you everywhere you go. However, actually bringing them with you to every event is a major etiquette blunder. Not only is bringing your dog into certain places, like restaurants, unsanitary and a potential safety hazard, the onus shouldn’t be on other people to let you know that they don’t want their meal licked by your pooch before they dig in. Just assume that places aren’t dog-friendly unless you have specific evidence to the contrary. And if Fido doesn’t seem to want to go anywhere with you lately, make sure you know the 15 Signs Your Dog Is Depressed.
Listening to Something without Your Headphones in
If you don’t have your headphones on you, but you really want to catch up on your favorite show or podcast, consider yourself out of luck. There are few things more disruptive to others than playing something with the volume on in an enclosed space. Opt for a silent activity instead, and resume your binge-watching when you’re in the privacy of your own home. And when you want to be more polite on a day-to-day basis, start with these 23 Old-Fashioned Etiquette Rules That Still Apply!
We all run late from time to time, but being a consistently late person is one etiquette mistake you can’t afford to keep making. “It shows that your time is more valuable than their time. It’s showing disrespect for the person you’re meeting. It’s a personality flaw, for sure, but it’s also an etiquette flaw,” says Napier-Fitzpatrick.
While being chronically late is associated with being a multitasker and having a more traditionally Type B personality, there are ways to stop making this mistake. So, how can you turn things around? According to researchers at UCLA, envisioning your task complete may help you accomplish it more effectively and in a more timely manner.
Not Making Eye Contact
While it’s always uncomfortable to feel like someone’s peering into your soul when you’re trying to have a casual conversation, avoiding it altogether is also quite the etiquette no-no. “Making eye contact when you’re having a conversation with another person shows respect for that other person and shows that you have confidence,” says Napier-Fitzpatrick.
So, how much time should we be spending looking at the person we’re talking to? “We should make it 40 to 60 percent of the time when we’re talking to someone,” she recommends. “It makes you a better listening and it shows that you’re interested in what the other person is saying.”
It’s generally nice to feel included, but reply all isn’t the way to do it, particularly in a business setting. Considering that the average person receives a staggering 122 emails on a typical day, replying all when something isn’t actually must-have information is nothing short of rude. When you forward a meme or other non-essential info via reply all, you’re taking time out of the recipient’s day and potentially even stressing them out because of it. In fact, according to research published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, checking email less frequently was a significant stress reducer for study subjects.
Not Saying Please and Thank You
While “please” and “thank you” are part of most people’s vocabularies by the time they hit their 30s, that doesn’t mean we’re using them anywhere near enough. Those expressions of humility and gratitude should be used any time you’re asking for something or have received a courtesy from someone else, whether you’re asking where to find your preferred shampoo at a CVS or asking for a loan to buy a house. In fact, research published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that being in a relationship where gratitude was readily expressed was significantly correlated with increased overall well-being.
Texting While Talking to Someone
We’ve all done it: you’re hanging out with someone, but the lure of your phone proves too strong, and before you know it, you’re shooing them a quick text and trying to ignore the enraged look beginning to form on your present company’s face.
“The person in front of you comes first. However, we’re in this 24/7 world and we’re expected to be on call all the time. If you’re having lunch with someone, your phone shouldn’t even be somewhere you should see it,” says Napier-Fitzpatrick.
And if you do have a message or call that you can’t afford to miss while you’re out with someone? “Your phone should be in your pocket on vibrate, and you let the person know ahead of time that you might be taking a call and excuse yourself to do it,” she recommends.
Not Following Up After a Date
Not every date you go on is going to be a winner. However, for those concerned about social etiquette, ghosting isn’t an option, especially when you’re well out of your reckless teenage years. While research from Plenty of Fish reveals that 80 percent of study subjects had been ghosted, it’s always unkind to do so, and may cost you dates in the future if you get a reputation for being a frequent ghoster. Instead, regardless of how the date went, follow up within 24 hours to let your date know that you’d either like to see them again, or don’t see things working out. It may be an uncomfortable conversation, but it’s worth having.
Not Bringing Something to a Party
While it’s safe to assume that your host isn’t expecting you to bring a prepared dish or enough wine for everyone at their party, showing up empty-handed is a major etiquette mistake. If you’ve been invited to an event, bring something to show your gratitude, whether that’s a bottle of wine, a bouquet of flowers, or just a fun little gift for the host.
Assuming Your Children Are Always Welcome
Many parents find their children endlessly delightful. Unfortunately, not everyone feels that way, particularly when they show up uninvited. Before you decide that your little ones are welcome guests at any event, make sure you ask first, or you’ll risk not being on the invitation list in the future.
And try not to be offended with your host about their decision if they say no, either; while paying for a babysitter or sitting the evening out may be annoying, so is having a thrashing toddler at what was supposed to be a grown-up dinner party. “You should never assume that your children, your dogs, or cats are invited. There are as many people who want children want people at events as those who don’t,” says Napier-Fitzpatrick. “Don’t be upset if they’re not invited. It may not be a party for children.”
Tipping Too Little
While people from other countries may be appalled by America’s forced-tipping culture, that doesn’t mean you can skip it. Your server is counting on that money—they have bills to pay, too—and, considering that virtually every restaurant in America assumes their employees will be tipped, there’s no excuse for feigning ignorance about the total cost of your meal. Unfortunately, that doesn’t keep plenty of people from skipping the gratuity, however; in fact, according to a study from CreditCards.com, 20 percent of those polled said they don’t tip when they go out to eat.
Forgetting to RSVP
If you receive an invite to an event, even if it’s on Facebook, it’s essential that you RSVP in a timely manner. Even if it seems like a relatively casual gathering, you’re making the host’s job harder by making them guess how many guests they can expect, or how much food or drink they should buy. And if there’s a formal RSVP card, make sure you mail it back with as much information as they’ve requested as soon as you have an answer. And if you’re RSVPing digitally, make sure you know The Single Best Way to Sign Your Emails!
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