23 Rude Things You Didn't Realize You're Doing Every Day
Minding your P's and Q's is just the tip of the iceberg.
We've all experienced the embarrassment of accidentally closing a door behind us, only to realize someone was waiting to grab the handle. And who hasn't looked up from their phone in an elevator and noticed too late that they've neglected to press the "door open" button for someone desperately trying to get inside? While some accidental etiquette mistakes can easily be shrugged off and forgiven, there are countless other rude behaviors even the most conscious individuals find themselves falling into. From errors you're likely making at work to those less-than-polite practices you're guilty of at friends' homes, it's time to nix these inconsiderate habits and get back on Emily Post's good side.
Using the words "actually" or "just" in conversation
These two words may appear innocuous, but they can come off as rude when used casually. Consider the difference between "Our boss needs the report by Friday" and "Actually, our boss needs the report by Friday." Similarly, one small word packs a big punch when you look at "You need to pick your head up" versus "You just need to pick your head up." Without adding much to your message's content, these words minimize the position and concerns of your recipient.
Offering up an opinion without being asked
Saying what's on your mind can sometimes be helpful, notes Heidi McBain, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Flower Mound, Texas. But it's important to know when it isn't the time or the place. To be safe, it's best to only offer your opinion when you're asked for it. Otherwise, you run the risk of being rude by chiming in despite "the non-verbals from those around you that what's being said is hurtful," McBain says.
Texting and walking
While that text message may feel like it merits your immediate attention, if you're responding in the middle of a crowded sidewalk or in the doorway of a busy store or supermarket, you're being rude to those around you. "Stopping to check our phones is safer, but [it's] rude to do so in the middle of the walkway," says etiquette expert Diane Lee, founder of Street Smart Etiquette. If that message just can't wait, step out of the way of others and answer it somewhere you're less likely to cause a traffic jam.
Taking phone calls in public bathrooms
This one's pretty rude in multiple ways: It's gross (and disrespectful) to the person you're on the phone with, and it also holds up the line for those who might need the stall you're occupying. Lee says that whatever you're doing other than attending to nature's calling can—and should—wait until you're somewhere private.
Being on your phone when buying something
Prolonged, unbroken eye contact is undeniably awkward, but looking at your phone when you're talking to someone is far worse. "It is extremely rude behavior to not look up and make even the briefest eye contact in everyday interactions," says Lee. And while the interactions you have with the person ringing up your groceries or taking your coffee order may be brief, that doesn't excuse you from staring at your phone throughout the transaction. Even if you're not in a chatty mood, simply giving that other person a few seconds of your undivided attention "goes a long way for us as a civil and social species," says Lee.
Not saying "please" and "thank you" to people in service positions
Sure, you may hear tons of other people barking, "Can I get a large Americano?" at baristas so often that it seems like a totally normal thing to do. But this is the kind of trend you want to buck in order to avoid being rude. "Many of our 'please' and 'thank you' opportunities are overlooked," says Lee. Not only does taking the time to add these pleasantries to your conversation make it more likely you'll get what you want in a timely fashion, it also can "take the stress out of everyday interactions"—and believe us, people attending to the needs of hundreds or thousands of customers a day are stressed enough for the both of you.
Not allowing others to merge
Few people relish being stuck in traffic. That said, not allowing other people to merge into your lane isn't making the problem any better—and it's rude, to boot. "You are in traffic with no way out, so how much does it hurt to let the next car merge into your lane?" asks Lee.
Even if what you're looking at doesn't actually merit a strong disapproval, your face may be accidentally saying otherwise. "Having a default face that looks mean, angry, or concerned when you really are not can cause trouble," says Lee. Her suggestion? When you catch your reflection and notice you're making a not-so-pleasant face (or if someone mentions it to you) just put on a smile—after awhile, it'll be like second nature.
Using speakerphone in public
For many people, the infrequency with which they speak to people on the phone means their telephone etiquette has all but disappeared. According to expert Karen Thomas, founder of Karen Thomas Etiquette, it doesn't matter how much easier it makes your life—using speakerphone when other people can hear it is always rude. Not only does Thomas recommend using speakerphone sparingly, she says you should "always tell the caller you are putting them on speaker," as well.
Relating others' stories back to yourself
While you might think you're being helpful by telling your friend or significant other that "you've been through the exact same thing," doing so can come off as rather dismissive. As much as someone may appreciate hearing that they're not alone in their troubles, that kindness is outweighed by the sense that you're being self-involved. "Remember to listen to hear … rather than to immediately reply," says Thomas.
Not accepting compliments from people close to you
For many people, accepting compliments can be a challenge. Whether it's due to modesty, lack of self-esteem, or simply the feeling that the praise isn't deserved, hearing nice things about ourselves from members of our inner circle can be difficult. But rejecting a compliment outright not only perpetuates those insecurities, it also comes across as rude. (That doesn't mean every compliment merits a grateful response, though—if a stranger's yelling it at you or if it's inappropriate, you're under no obligation to express gratitude for it.)
Making people feel bad about not knowing something
Most people have a skill they truly excel at, whether they're a skilled coder or they make a mean German chocolate cake. However, having expertise doesn't give anyone license to make others feel bad about their lack of knowledge in a specific field.
Instead of scoffing at their questions, try taking a second to think about how you'd want them to respond should the two of you switch places.
Bringing pungent food to work
If you want to stay on the right side of your co-workers, Thomas says it always pays to just say no to onion-heavy dishes and reheated fish in the office. After all, for folks who are particularly sensitive to smells, that delicious meal for you could mean a raging headache or bout of nausea for them.
Requesting a tour of someone's home
It's natural to find yourself curious about what a friend's new home looks like when you're invited over for dinner. However, asking for a guided tour is nothing short of rude, according to Thomas. "The biggest faux pas people make when a guest in someone else home is asking for a tour," she says. After all, not everyone has time to tidy up their entire home before hosting company.
And that doesn't mean you should go snooping when you're off to the powder room, either—the only time a tour is appropriate is when the host insists upon it, Thomas says.
Not making introductions
When you know two or more people who are meeting each other for the first time, it's not only dismissive, but downright rude, to fail to introduce them. Of course, it may occasionally slip your mind, but it's important not to put your own enthusiasm about seeing an old friend again above making others feel comfortable.
You shouldn't need to be reminded constantly about the names of people in your life. Forgetting the names of those whom you interact with often signals to them that they aren't worth the small effort it takes to connect a name with a face. And is there anything more ruder than that?
Telling people to smile
Though you may be having a great day, that doesn't mean everyone around you feels the same. By demanding a smile from someone who looks blue, not only are you imposing your unwarranted opinions on them, you may be making whatever's going wrong in their lives seem a whole lot worse.
Many of us often sigh in response to distressing stimuli without realizing it—but doing so may be compounding the stress of whoever feels like they're on the receiving end of those noises. The fact is, even if what another person is saying or doing does offend us, there are better, less passive-aggressive ways of letting them know than openly sighing.
Crossing your arms
Crossing your arms can be comfy—or even keep you warm on a cold day—but it can also make you appear standoffish. Before unconsciously telling others with your body language that you want nothing to do with them, consider adopting a more open posture. Putting your hands on your hips, in your pockets, or just at your sides can make you appear instantly more approachable.
Asking people if they have children
Sure, it might seem like just another question, but inquiring into another person's family situation crosses the line into rudeness. The fact is, there's no reason to be asking someone whom you are not that familiar with whether or not they have kids. Besides being none of your business, you never know who's struggling to get pregnant, had a recent miscarriage, or just doesn't want to have to defend their decision to remain childfree yet again.
While you may have had a perfectly good reason for cancelling plans, making a habit of doing so tells friends and acquaintances that you don't value your commitments to them. If you really have to skip out at the last minute, make sure you give a good reason for why and make a plan to reschedule so that they don't feel as if they don't matter to you.
Insisting on others drinking with you
Having a cocktail or glass of champagne may be fun for you, but insisting that others join you when you crack open a bottle conveniently ignores the fact that they might not want to partake. Whether they're on a cleanse, a recovering alcoholic, in the early stages of pregnancy, or just don't feel like it, trying to get someone to imbibe when they're resisting—or worse yet, pestering them about why they won't—is rude, and may even bring up deeper trauma.
Making plans and expecting your date to split the bill
If you invite someone out for a date, don't expect them to split the bill—or risk being considered rude for doing so. After all, if you're making plans at a fine dining restaurant when your date's budget is decidedly more fit for fast food, you may be asking them to decide between spending time with you and making rent this month. Make sure you've made a mutual decision about where you're going if your intention is to split the bill—and don't only take into account your date's tastes, consider their financial situation, too. And for more ways to practice your politesse, check out these 40 Etiquette Mistakes You're Too Old to Make After 40.
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