What Is Social Etiquette? Proper Manners for Social Situations

Written by on October 24, 2019 in Conscious Living with 0 Comments

Emily Post said, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” Specific manners may go out of style, like the rule from the 17th century that women could not serve themselves, but good manners never go out of fashion.

What Is Social Etiquette?

Etiquette may sound like it’s only for the wealthy or royalty, but everyone needs to know how to act in social settings. When you’re at a restaurant with your new boss or visiting your in-laws for the first time, you want to do the right thing. Bad manners make the wrong impression. Every image consultant knows, when you behave rudely, it may cause people to think twice before inviting you to professional or social events. Put simply, social etiquette is about conducting yourself in a manner that is polite and compassionate.

8 Tips for Social Etiquette and Manners

1.    Please and Thank you

You learned this in kindergarten or even before. Please and thank you go a long way toward making those around you feel as if you aren’t bossing them around. Many people forget to use please and thank you with their loved ones. Good manners aren’t just for your boss or dignitaries. Your mom and dad deserve your respect, too.

2.    Respect Personal Space

Watch people’s cues when you’re greeting them. Shake hands firmly, but not so tight you hurt someone. Don’t hug, unless you know the other person is a hugger, too. Say “excuse me,” when you bump into someone, even if it isn’t your fault. Hold the door for someone behind you. Let someone go in front of you in line, especially when they seem inconvenienced or when you might slow them down. When you’re shopping, park your cart on the side of the aisle, not in the middle.

Clean up after yourself whether you’re at home or in the office. Would you want to come into the break room at work and have to wipe up mustard before you can make your lunch? When you have to cough or sneeze, use a Kleenex to avoid spreading germs. If you can leave the table to get to the restroom, that is ideal, but sometimes you can’t make it.

3.    Give Your Attention to Others When Speaking to Them

When you’re talking to someone, look at them. Put your smartphone away when you’re eating dinner with family or friends. Learn people’s names when you’re at an event. No, not everyone, just a couple of people who are sitting around you at a banquet, for example. If you’re bad with names, use mnemonics to help you remember, or find ways around it.

4.    It’s Better To Be Early Than Late

Respect other people’s time. When you’re meeting your boss, show up five to ten minutes early so that they aren’t waiting for you. Get to the movie theater a few minutes early to get seated and situated before the movie starts. This way, you’re not interrupting the view for others. Everyone is busy these days. Always RSVP promptly and then follow through by showing up for the events that you commit to.

5.    Watch Your Language!

Cursing isn’t the faux pas it once was, but it’s still important to watch what you say. If you wouldn’t want your grandma or six-year-old niece to hear it, don’t say it in polite company. Foul language can offend people, but it can also depend on the context. It might be completely appropriate in the locker room after you’ve lost a game, but you shouldn’t swear in the office with your coworkers. Profanity is lazy, and in some cases, it can cause you to come across as ignorant.

6.    Monitor Your Volume in Quiet Environments

Use indoor and outdoor voices appropriately. In the theater or at a wedding, if you must talk, do so in a low voice. Don’t disturb others. At networking events, you may need to project your voice a little more to make sure the other person can hear you. Think about the venue and atmosphere before responding.

7.    Cell Phones, Social Media and Internet Use

Cell phones are ubiquitous these days. As such, it’s necessary to choose the proper time and place to use them. Does everyone in line at the store need to hear your conversation? If you can step out to a private place or wait to answer that call, do so. Silence your phone when you’re in public places or at work so you don’t disturb your colleagues. Not only is it good manners, but it will make you more productive.

On social media, don’t immediately react or respond to snarky messages. Remember that you may not be fully understanding the context or tone of the message because emotions cannot be conveyed adequately through words on a screen. Just be nice in your own communication, whether on Facebook, Twitter or email. You’re only responsible for what you say and how you respond. For that reason, it’s almost always best to wait a day before responding to emotionally-charged content.

8.    Dress For the Occasion

Know the dress code for the event that you’re attending. Black tie weddings require different attire than beach formal weddings. If you’re not sure, ask the host or organizer. Professional events may call for business attire, business casual or informal. You’ll feel more comfortable when you’re not over- or under-dressed.

Even though your neighbor might wear their pajamas to the grocery store, that doesn’t mean you should look like you’re just getting out of bed. Put some effort into your wardrobe, even for a trip to the gas station. You never know who you might run into.

Follow These Rules to Make a Great Impression

When in doubt, look to someone you trust. Ask the host before bringing a guest not on the invitation. Call up the hostess and ask about the dress code. Watch a trusted mentor at a dinner to see how they act. Read up on good manners for different situations.

What do you do when you make a faux pas? Apologize as soon as you learn of it. Saying that you’re sorry goes a long way toward remedying your mistakes. You don’t have to be perfect to have good manners, you just need to respect the feelings and boundaries of those around you.

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