Etiquette 101

Culture isn’t just what you know, but also how you act. The way we act says a lot about who we are. Believe it or not, people are watching us more often than we think. So I’ve decided to list a few ways in which our etiquette can be improved.

Now, in this post, I’m not going to tell you how to leave your utensils on your plate or which way you’re supposed to pass the salt. First, I’m going to start with broad strokes to gives us all a reminder of how to act. Being aware and practicing the big things will turn them into habits and then our minds can be more attentive to the little things later on.


P’s & Q’s

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Always, always, always say “please” and “thank you.” I don’t care if the person you’re talking to is older or younger than you, if they’re your boss or your subordinate, or if they’re your closest friend or your server in a restaurant. If you’re making a request of someone, say “please.” If they give you something, say “thank you.”

Recently I was a counselor at a middle/high school camp and each cabin took turns serving each meal.  A kitchen staff would put the main dish on your plate, and then they would pass it to the student next to them, who would ask if you wanted whatever they were serving. This continued until you received your plate after being passed by all the food options. Every time my plate was passed and a high schooler asked if I wanted salad/bread/whatever, I would say, “yes, please” or “no, thank you.” It’s just common courtesy.

When I was on the other side of the counter doing the serving with my cabin of students, you can bet I appreciated the students who said “yes, please” or “no, thank you.” It just makes the whole exchange more pleasant.  Pleases and thank yous are not about you. They’re about the person with whom you’re interacting.

On the note of thank you’s, when you receive a gift – send a thank you note! I remember as a kid, sitting for hours (or at least it seemed like hours) at the kitchen table writing out thank you notes after my birthday or Christmas. As an adult, shamefully, I’ve fallen out of that practice. I usually opt for a text to thank the person, but a handwritten note through snail mail goes a long way.


Be on Time

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If you’re 5 minutes early, you’re 5 minutes late – that’s my motto. I’m compulsively early wherever I go. I value my time, and as a result, I value others’ time. There’s nothing more disrespectful than making other people wait on you. Obviously, life happens and sometimes we will be unavoidably detained. If we’re meeting others, it’s important to count on arriving 5 minutes early, then add travel time from the parking lot to the meeting (crossing the parking lot, elevator ride, etc), then add travel time from your house to the meeting (think of the day of the week and the time of day to account for traffic). I always, always overestimate my calculations, because I’d much rather be accidentally 20 minutes early than suffer the embarrassment of being 5 minutes late.

Just like minding your P’s and Q’s, this is not about us. This is about the people we’re meeting and respecting their time.


Introductions

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If you’re with someone and you see an old friend, by all means, say hello! But don’t let either one of them feel awkward by not introducing them to each other. I recently visited family and went to their church with them.  After church, they milled around and talked to other members of the congregation, and I stood there, occasionally chiming into the conversation without an official introduction being made. I’m not gonna lie – it was a little awkward. Finally, I just said, “by the way, I’m Emily” and shook their hand. If I’m not going to be introduced, I will introduce myself, and it’s going to make the mutual friend look rude.

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The next time, you can bet as soon as a conversation with someone new started, I was introduced.


Silence Your Cellphone

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There are very few instances in which you need to be attached to your phone in a social situation. Sure, if you’re waiting on Aunt Rita she is prone to get lost, keep an eye on your phone in case she calls and asks for directions.  Other than that, when you’re in a social situation, turn your phone down and stick it in your pocket/purse.  There are no texts that need immediate responses. If it’s important enough, they will call. (Sidebar: if someone calls you, it’s perfectly acceptable to excuse yourself to answer it. I’ve inadvertently missed emergency phone calls before in favor of “being present” and it wasn’t worth it. If the person is calling just to chat, it takes no time at all to tell them you’ll call them back later. Plus, excusing yourself from the table and stepping away to answer a call is much classier than answering it then and there. The people at the table don’t need to hear your conversation.)

By all means, take a group photo to commemorate the night, but there’s little need to photograph the appetizers, the entree, and your dessert. Your Instagram followers don’t care that much. Be present where you are and with the people there. You’re likely to miss out on a lot when you’re stuck on your phone. Not to mention, again, this is about other people and their feelings. They’re taking time out of their day to spend with you – make it worth their while.


So, which of these habits do you find yourself lacking in? What steps will you take to improve?

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5 Comments

  1. I agree with a lot of what you say here, but I don’t particularly appreciate that you’re perpetuating the myth that being late equals disrespect. For some of us, it’s an affliction. Maybe you won’t believe me, maybe you’ll think I’m being dramatic/making excuses/whatever. I’ve heard it all. And I’ve been treated like crap for trying to talk about it plenty of times, but here I am, anyway. I genuinely cannot be on time on most occasions – it doesn’t matter whether I want to be there or not. I was late every single day on my own vacation to Disneyworld. I’m late to work, and I love my job. I can’t tell you why I’m late, because if I could then I would have already done something to correct it. Because tardiness is so ingrained in social niceties, I am quite often treated like crap, because people perceive me as disrespectful.

    So here’s the real social etiquette rule: If you’re running late, do your best to tell the person you’re meeting. We have cell phones now, which are quite the gift to the chronically late. Obviously, only do so if you can do it safely (don’t text and drive), but keeping them informed keeps them from feeling anxiety about your absence at the expected time.

    It’s great that you can be on time, even early. I’m envious of that talent. But it’s exactly that – a talent. For some, a skill they’ve developed. Some people are good at being on time. Some are good at ballet. Some are just naturally charming in awkward social situations. Many of these skills can be learned, but for some people, they can’t be. (Sidebar: That’s why things like ADHD are called a LEARNING DISABILITY. Because some things cannot be learned for them that for others come naturally. But then, we’re good at things neurotypical people aren’t necessarily naturally good at.)

    I appreciate your dedication to making the world a little more pleasant to live in. But part of that lesson should include the understanding that we’re not all one-size-fits-all. Common courtesy can also include things like tolerance for those of us who try very hard, but still fail. It’s embarrassing enough to be fully grown and unable to be on time for mysterious reasons. Having someone be gracious about it makes our lives easier. So in that instance, remember… it’s not about you. It’s about the person you’re meeting with and respecting their efforts.

    Like

    1. Thanks for your comment, Abigail!

      As I said at the beginning of my post, this was very broad strokes and therefore not meant to cover every specific instance. Nothing on this blog series is one-size-fits-all, just tips and tricks that I’ve either researched or use myself. You’re right – giving people a heads up if you’re late is the right thing to do (and one I failed to mention in the post when I said that sometimes being late is unavoidable).

      Personally, when I’m running late, my palms get sweaty, my heart races, and I get incredibly stressed out. I’ve built my life to avoid that kind of stress. Some people may find my system helpful, but I am well aware it’s not for everyone (I have many friends and relatives who leave me sitting on the porch, twiddling my thumbs as I wait for them). When it comes to informal things like meeting for ice cream, going shopping, etc., punctuality is of lesser consequence than say, a business lunch, a job interview, or a staff meeting (which is really when “etiquette” comes into play).

      My post wasn’t meant to shame people for being late. It’s presented as all of my blog posts are – my opinion and, for some people, another way of seeing things. When I have an appointment, be it formal or informal, there is usually a significant amount of effort on my part in fitting it into my day. When someone is late, I feel like that effort is disrespected, especially when their tardiness impacts the rest of my day (causing me to be late for other appointments, which leads not only to stress on my part but disrespect to others who are then left waiting for me). I highly value my time, while others might value money, status, or accomplishments more.

      As I said before, I have friends who are always 15-20 minutes late, but I know that that’s just them and being their friend means accepting that, just as they accept all my quirks. They know how I feel about it and I know how they feel about it. I’ve learned to factor their tardiness into our plans, and we always make it work, so long as there are effort and understanding between both parties.

      Thanks for reading!
      Emador

      Liked by 2 people

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