Several months ago I came across an article citing a survey on etiquette. I wasn’t at all surprised to read that 35% of those asked, rated Americans as having poor etiquette and manners. What was more interesting though was that 80% of those surveyed reported their own manners as being ‘excellent’. It’s the age old adage of judging others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. Sounds fair, right? 😉
Given that we all still have experiences with those that have less than stellar manners, I thought I’d do a little review of the basics. While many of you are aware of these common manners, sometimes it never hurts to have a little refresher. In these modern days when many things have increasingly become more lax, it’s good to know what traditional etiquette still calls for.
1. Say Please & Thank You – It’s amazing how simple this is to some and yet so difficult for others. When encountering flight attendants; waiters, store employees, cab drivers, business clients and your own family, friends and neighbors, remember to be courteous and polite. Adding to this would be saying the words ‘You’re Welcome’ when someone has thanked you for something. While the words ‘uh, huh’, ‘no problem’, ‘yup’ or ‘okay’ are prevalent, especially here in America, it is not proper or polite.
2. Eye Contact & A Smile-Whether you are meeting up with an old friend, meeting new people at a party or interviewing for your dream job, be sure to make eye contact and give a warm smile. Not only does this put people at ease, but you will appear more confident even if you are in an uncomfortable setting. In some cases such, such as meeting someone for the first time, it is appropriate to entend your hand for an assertive handshake.
3. Use Discretion & Judgement- If you ever find yourself asking, “Is it alright to do, wear, say, ‘x’?” then the answer is probably NO. Whether it pertains to attire, gifts, greeting someone, leaving a party, etc., if you are unsure of how to handle a situation, do the most polite thing you feel possible and always consider anyone that might be affected or on the receiving end of a choice you make. Afterwards, be sure to consult an etiquette book on how to handle a similar situation in future.
4. Hold the Door – This is not reserved for chilvarous men, whether male or female, hold a door that you have just passed through for someone else. I am amazed at the amount of clueless passers-by that watch a woman struggle with a stroller and don’t even make a move to help her, or those that are less gracious with the elderly.
5. The ‘Right’ Side– When you are on a sidewalk, walking up a set of stairs, on an escalator or riding a bike on the road, always keep to the right to avoid ‘traffic jams’ and bumping into others.
6. Turn the Cell Off– Cell phones have become quite a nuisance and have only gotten worse as all of the new applications launch. Be sure to turn your cell phone completely off during a business meeting, social function, or while traveling via public transportation where others are enclosed in a space and forced to listen to your call. In other environments like the grocery store or the office, the ‘vibrate’ mode is most preferable.
7. Hostess Gifts & Thank You Cards- Always bring a gift for the hostess upon being invited to a party or event. It’s best to bring something that won’t cause her to stop and fuss with it, such as cutting and setting flowers in a vase. If it is a potluck event or you are asked to bring food or other items, the hostess gift if not a necessity as you’ve already contributed. As a guest, thank your host with a formal card. Hostesses should also thank anyone that has attended their event or gathering with a formal note card. In extremely casual settings, an e-card or an e-mail is acceptable.
8. Mingle- When being invited to a social event such as a wedding or even a business function, it’s easier to chat with those you know, but well-mannered guests and hosts alike always make a point to circulate and speak to those they do not know. After all, it is the people, not the food or drink, that should be your main focus. How many times have you seen people flock to a dessert station or the bar only to linger for far longer than they should?
9. Be Kind- Treat others as you would like to be treated. Period. Even if you don’t feel someone deserves the respect you will give them, be gracious and show respect and kindness at ALL times. There is nothing to be gained by being rude, cruel or speaking unkindly to another person.
10. Fork, Knife & Spoon- Whenever possible, even finger foods, should be eaten in the most polite way possible, especially while dining out with others. In very casual settings, using your fingers is acceptable for pizza, wings and the like. When eating meat, fish or vegetables, pieces should be cut as they are eaten, not sliced up ahead of time as one would prepare for a toddler. Sawing through food and stabbing a piece of meat as though using a pitchfork is not elegant dining behavior. Forks are also not replacements for knives, turning them on their side to push through a piece of food is not necessary unless it is a dessert, in which case using a spoon or fork to do so is expected. It shouldn’t have to be mentioned here, but it still happens: no speaking while chewing and always push your chair in upon leaving the table.
There are literally thousands of tips that I could have listed here, but this post would have been huge! These are some of the most general essentials as it pertains to being well mannered.
Speaking of manners 101, I thought it would be cute to show you the very first book I ever read on good manners as a child. Thanks Mom and Dad!
Feel free to leave a comment and share a basic ‘Manners’ or ‘Etiquette’ tip that you have found many still do not embrace. Are there any on the list here that you feel you sometimes overlook. I look forward to hearing from you!