Treating other people with kindness is one thing that should not go out of style. However, it's helpful to have a few guidelines when it comes to interacting with others, because people can be super complicated. With that in mind, there are some old-fashioned etiquette tips that are still super thoughtful today. For the most part, it's all about being mindful and respectful of the people around you.
Granted, not all old-school etiquette tips apply in today's world. For example, it was once considered a faux pas to wear jewelry of mixed metals, but this kind of accessorizing is fine now, according to The Spruce. The same thing goes for wearing white after Labor Day or pairing black with navy blue. For the most part, people are freer than ever to dress however they want, and I'm all about the end of unnecessary fashion rules.
But treating other people with respect and courtesy is probably never going out of vogue, as corny as that sounds. For the most part, the etiquette tips that still matter today are all about treating others well, not worrying about whether your socks match your shirt. Read on to learn the art of being polite without coming across as too uptight.
1. Stand During Introductions
When you're meeting someone for the first time, it's polite to stand up for the initial handshake and hello. "Standing up sends a signal from across the room that you’re willing and eager to greet and welcome the other person into your here-and-now. It speaks well of you even before you’ve had an opportunity to say your first word because it shows by your action that you’re a welcoming person," wrote Maralee McKee, the founder of Manners Mentor, on her website. It's just a little way to make the other person welcomed and included.
2. Look People In The Eye When Speaking
OK, this doesn't mean to stare at them with a spooky, unblinking gaze. But for the most part, maintaining eye contact for about 60 to 70 percent of a conversation ensures you make a better emotional connection with the other person, according to data from Quantified Communications. Plus, it's just nice to let the other person know you're paying attention when they speak.
3. Bring A Hostess Gift
It doesn't have to be anything expensive or elaborate. A bottle of wine is classic, but anything from bath bombs to place mats are great hostess gifts, too, according to Today. Hosting a party or get-together can be a big job, so it's nice to thank the person for their effort.
4. RSVP ASAP
When you get an invite that includes an RSVP at the bottom, then do your best to let the host know whether you're coming as soon as possible. Also, remember that it's perfectly OK to decline invitations, as Lizzie Post explained in Refinery 29. Whether you can make it or not, just let the person know.
5. Walk Away From Gossip
This is a politeness power move, because hot gossip can be so tempting. But extremely polite people will excuse themselves from conversation when it turns to gossip, as explained in Inc. They just decline to get involved.
6. Send Thank-You Notes Or Texts
Sure, sending a handwritten thank-you note for a gift is still the ultimate show of good etiquette. But it's totally OK to call or email your thanks for gifts received during a bout of sickness or tough time, according to the The Emily Post Institute. For more casual events, even a thank-you text is fine, because the sentiment itself is more important than the way it's conveyed.
7. Offer Your Seat
There's an easy way to offer up your seat on public transportation without the risk of offending anybody who might not need it. "If you see someone who you think needs your seat more than you do, wait until they see you, and then simply get up," wrote Virginia K. Smith in Lifehacker. The other person is then welcome to take the seat or decline it.
8. Hold The Door
Don't drop the door on the person behind you. The whole practice of holding the door for others is cool because it helps minimize the amount of effort required for other peoples' daily tasks, as explained in Psychology Today. It's a little way to help the person behind you have a mini-break in the middle of their hectic day. Sometimes those little gestures can matter a lot.
9. Set The Table
Yes, even if it's just a takeout dinner or a sandwich you slapped together in seconds. The presentation of the table is just as important as the taste of the food, according to Martha Stewart. Beyond that, it's an easy way to show your guests that they are welcomed and wanted at your table.
10. Use A Coaster
Even if you're just enjoying a casual hang with friends, there's bound to be some drinks floating around. Some hosts go a bit nuts when guests don't use the coasters that are in plain sight, as noted in House Beautiful. So if you see a coaster, use it. And if you don't see one, then just ask. If your host doesn't care about marks on the furniture, you'll still get points for being so thoughtful.
11. Say "You're Welcome"
Sure, sometimes a casual "no prob" or "no worries" is a fine response when somebody says "thank you." But in other cases, a sincere "you're welcome" and smile mean so much more. "But I always prefer the traditional way of saying 'You are welcome.' The rest of the words sound too generic," said Maryanne Parker, founder of Manor of Manners, in Town & Country.
12. Overlook Embarrassing Moments
If somebody is dealing with obvious bodily noises in public, it's better to refrain from pointing this out. If you're out with casual friends, acquaintances, or strangers, then it's polite to ignore any embarrassing bodily functions, according to The Spruce. The other person is probably embarrassed enough already.
13. Knock Before Entering
Try not to barge into people's spaces. "Opening the door without being invited in is rude and inappropriate," wrote Jill Haney, owner of JH Image Consulting, in The Cincinnati Enquirer. If you're dealing with coworkers or acquaintances in particular, then it's best to show abundant respect for their privacy. (Parental rules about whether kids can close doors will vary from household to household, so that's a different case.)
14. Make Polite Conversation
Close friends and family members can discuss whatever they like, but it's still a good idea to be a bit more cautious around strangers. If you're at a wedding reception, for instance, then there are a few key topics it's best to avoid: money, religion, politics, and sex, as explained in Refinery 29. These are the most likely to cause controversy and arguments, potentially taking away from the event itself.
15. Listen Attentively
Active listening is almost always appreciated. Whenever someone is speaking, give them your full attention and ask follow-up questions about the topic, as explained in Very Well Mind. In a distracted, busy world, giving someone your attention may be the most polite move of all.