What's considered to be good manners — as well as what's considered rude or in poor taste — can change over time, as societal views, life experiences, and technology all change themselves. Being well-mannered is just as important as being smart, creative, stylish, or anything else. It can make or break other people's opinions of you and how successful you're able to be, whether you like it or not. While modern technology requires its own set of rules, there are also plenty of old-fashioned etiquette tips that'll make you seem classier — tips that your parents and grandparents may have learned, and that still hold true today.
First impressions are important, but you shouldn't just practice your best manners only when meeting people for the first time. Plenty of etiquette best practices are things that you should be doing all the time or, at least, regularly. From comfortably navigating a meal, to corresponding with others with ease, there are many tried-and-trues that work just as effectively today as they did many years ago. Just because the times have changed doesn't mean that everything you thought you knew about etiquette has. Being kind, polite, and well-mannered will never go out of style.
1. Keep Your Plate So Your Companions Won't Feel Rushed
When you're out to eat with friends, family, colleagues, clients, or a partner, if you finish your meal first, it's polite to tell the waiter trying to clear it that you'd like to keep it, as etiquette expert Diane Gottsman told Vogue. This way, the person with whom you're dining won't feel as though they need to rush to finish. You're not in a hurry.
2. Say "Please" And "Thank You"
It might sound like a no-brainer, but you'd be shocked by how many people seem to think that "please" and "thank you" are unnecessary, optional words and phrases. They're not. According to The Spruce, saying "please" and "thank you" when conversing with others is still the polite and respectful thing to do.
3. Chew With Your Mouth Closed
Chewing with your mouth closed is an essential skill. No one wants to see or hear what's going on in your mouth while you're eating a meal. Keeping your mouth shut while you're eating is good manners, as The Spruce noted in the aforementioned article. Yes, it's something that kids need to learn, but it's something that adults should keep in mind, too.
4. A Standard Tip Is 20 Percent
Tipping can be a contentious topic, but, if you're somewhere that practices tipping, you need to know how to do it correctly. In an interview with Refinery29, etiquette expert Lizzie Post said that the standard number for tipping is 20 percent. It might seem high to some, but if you've ever worked in the service industry and had to live off of tips, you likely understand that leaving a respectful tip is important. And it tells your dining companions that you're not a cheapskate.
5. Don't Insist On Dinner Plans At A Restaurant Friends Can't Afford
If you're in charge of dinner plans, make sure you take everyone's finances into account. Insisting on a celebratory dinner at a restaurant that most of your friends can't afford, for instance, really isn't very polite. In a post for The Huffington Post, author and etiquette expert Amy Alkon wrote that it's polite to consider your friends' financial statuses when choosing a restaurant. Your friends will appreciate your thoughtfulness when their credit card comes and they don't have to fret over a giant bill they can't pay.
6. If Someone Gives You Their Full Attention, Give Them Yours
It's safe to judge how much attention you should be paying off of how much everyone else is paying you, as Refinery29 noted in the previously mentioned article. If you're at the park, for instance, and both you and your friend are watching your kids while also having a conversation, it's understandable and not rude to keep glancing over at the swing set. If you're out to coffee with a co-worker, however, to work on a presentation and they're focused on you when you're talking, you should give them that same consideration.
7. Introduce Yourself With First And Last Names
According to Alkon's HuffPost piece, it's polite to introduce yourself to someone new with both your first and last names if you're in a professional setting. It's more memorable than a single name, especially if your name is common, and makes it easier for them to track you down should they need to.
8. Graciously Accept Kind Gestures
Should a man always open a door for a woman? That's really not necessary anymore, but if the man walking in front of you does hold the door (or pulls out your chair at dinner), accept the gesture graciously, as Gottsman told Vogue in the aforementioned article. They're trying to be kind to you, so a nice "thank you" will suffice.
9. Dress For The Occasion
According to a different article from The Spruce, it's exceedingly important to know to dress for where you're going. Dressing appropriately for the occasion is, in fact, polite. Make sure you know how to decipher what's appropriate for a given situation and what isn't. You'll usually feel more embarrassed if you're under-dressed than if you're over-dressed, though.
10. Follow The Directions On The Invitation
While it might not seem like a big deal to you if you bring a gift if the invite says not to, for instance, proper etiquette says that you should follow the directions that the host wrote on the invitation, according to the previously mentioned Vogue article. If the invitation came with a reply card, always send back the reply card, don't just give the host a verbal reply. Follow directions. It's polite.
11. Show Your Appreciation
Follow up events, meetings, and more with a thank you note. While not all thank you notes need to be handwritten, whoever receives it will appreciate that you took the time to do so. According to The Emily Post Institute, even business meetings with coworkers and clients require a thank you. A simple verbal or emailed thank you to the organizer of the meeting for a productive meeting is sufficient, while for a client, a handwritten note helps build or strengthen a relationship between the two of you.
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