Social norms, manners, and etiquette are a daily part of your life, whether you realize it or not. Your impulsion to say “bless you”, after someone sneezes or your willingness to hold the door when exiting the office, are all forms of etiquette that have been conditioned into you from a young age. While they sometimes seem silly and completely arbitrary, they help maintain a kind of societal order, and cultural coherency amongst several groups of people.
In a chaotic world, these unwritten rules are pleasant reminders of mutuality, and human compassion. Here are 25 rules of social etiquette that are important for you to know.
1. Turn your phone on silent and slip it into your pocket when around company. Try not to even place it on the table. Commit yourself to being present in the moment, unwavering human interaction is shockingly underrated.
2. If you’re late to an organized event, like a yoga class, take the easiest, most available position in the back. You are not entitled to disturb everyone else because you want a spot in the front. Next time, make the effort to be on time!
3. A text suggesting you will be arriving 30 minutes later than scheduled, 20 minutes before you are expected to meet is not okay. If you are running late, give your company at least an hour notice so they can plan around your tardiness.
4. Keep your personal matters restricted to phone or text conversations. Social media should not be treated as a private diary. Your old friend from high school definitely does not need to know intimate details about your life!
5. Don’t take pictures of people in public to later post on social media, or share with others. If staring is rude, this paparazzi inspired action is beyond rude. If you’re posting photos of others in general, make sure you have their consent beforehand.
6. Don’t pull out someone’s chair for them. Chivalry should only extend so far, it’s impossible to predict how much space is required for someone to sit comfortably!
7. When dining at a restaurant, don’t place your personal bag on your lap or your chair. Hang your bag across the back of a chair, or place it on the floor. A small formal clutch, however, can be placed on the table.
8. The dinner napkin is not a tissue! It should only be used for blotting the sides of your mouth. If you feel the need to blow your nose, excuse yourself to the bathroom.
9. If someone sends a long, thoughtful text message, don’t respond with “K”! And on the flip side, if there is an important discussion you need to have, have it in person or at least on the phone. Texting is not the platform for everything.
10. If you RSVP to an event as going, then it’s your job to show up. By simply not going, you’ve inconvenienced your host and occupied the space of the person that got scratched off the guest list! Note: this does not apply to massive facebook events.
11. Once you’ve showed up to the gathering, please make sure you’ve brought something to present to the host. Whether it’s a bottle of wine, or a cake for dessert, or something entirely different, it’s important to thank the host for their hospitality with a small symbol of gratitude.
12. Refrain from talking on the phone while on the bus or train, unless of course, everyone else is doing it. If you have to call someone during your relatively silent commute, make sure the conversation is quick and short.
13. Make sure your headphones are properly plugged in, before hitting play on your favorite song. While you’re at it, check that the volume is set to an appropriate level as well, because no one deserves to listen to your music through screaming headphones.
14. When boarding a plane, try your best to stow your stuff and clear the aisle as quickly as possible. In the same vein, when exiting the plane, wait for the rows ahead of you to leave before moving forward. Pushing past those in front of you, will not help you make your connecting flight sooner.
15. Keep to the right when walking on the sidewalk. This allows people moving in the opposite direction to assume left, rather than engaging in that awkward side-step dance we’re all too familiar with!
16. Ask whether it’s a good time to talk when you’re making an unexpected call. Everyone has varying schedules, it’s not safe to assume it’s convenient for someone to speak with you. This will go an incredibly long way (especially if you are calling to inquire about a favor)!
17. If you have to leave a voicemail, clearly state your name, business or affiliation, reason for calling, and number. Repeat your name and number for added emphasis, then quickly hang up. Who wants to listen to voicemail longer than 20 seconds?
18. When meeting someone for the first time, extend your hand for a handshake. This formality is a welcoming gesture, that is not only reserved for interviews!
19. Be nice to cashiers, fast food workers, waiters, and retail employees. They work the hours that nobody wants and they serve stressed out customers all day long. Don’t take out your negative emotions on them; if there’s a problem, you can solve it courteously.
20. Don’t talk about other people behind their back. It’s an easy habit to fall into, but it’s a hard one to get out of. Don’t let other people think of you as a gossip.
21. Don’t assume someone else is going to pay for your meal or movie ticket, even if it’s a date. Older rules of etiquette might dictate who pays, but these days, the onus is on you unless the other person specifically offers to pay for you too. This makes for much fewer awkward situations.
22. If someone has something in their teeth, a smudge on their glasses, or toilet paper on their shoe, discreetly let them know! Most people will appreciate you looking out for them, even if you don’t know each other well.
23. If someone offers you a mint or gum, take it. You probably need it.
24. Before you go out to eat, make sure that a tip is in your budget. If you can’t afford to tip, choose an eatery without servers.
25. Always ask a pet owner if it’s okay for you to engage with their dog or cat. You shouldn’t assume if they or their pet is okay with strangers.
Etiquette is essentially evaluating the space you occupy, and making sure it doesn’t inconvenience or disrespect those around you. If you’re wondering whether something is considered appropriate, ask yourself, “does this improve the general atmosphere of my surroundings?”. If you answered yes, chances are you’re behaving in line with proper social etiquette.
So don’t overwhelm yourself with all the nitpicky aspects of politeness, and simply live more empathetically. You can share this article, however, to subtly, or not so subtly, hint at someone that could use a revision of common etiquette rules!
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