It goes without saying that some of the traditional rules of etiquette are now considered obsolete or at the very least unnecessary. (When was the last time you saw someone other than a business traveler dressed up on an airplane?) But, with the changing times, there comes some new and modernized rules of etiquette, as well as some traditional etiquette tips that no one ever taught you.
In 1922, author and traveling correspondent Emily Post — whose stories were published in Vanity Fair and McCall's — brought ethics into the popular world of etiquette books when she published Etiquette: In Society, in Politics, in Business and at Home. Post soon became a household name. She passed away in 1960, but the Post family continues to run The Emily Post Institute where consideration, respect, and honesty is "more important than knowing which fork to use." Modern etiquette is a combination of traditional tips which are still relevant, and new rules that have developed with the growth of technology and the growing popularity of the internet and social media.
Here are some modern etiquette tips you should be following, but were probably never taught.
1. Always RSVP
Not responding is not the same as formally declining an invitation. When you don't RSVP, your host has to do the awkward thing of reaching out again to see if you can make it — a task no one likes to do. RSVPing even makes a difference at smaller events where your family's attendance can mean ordering an extra pizza or renting another table or chairs.
Additionally, don't RSVP "Yes" if there's a good chance you can't attend. If you don't show, you've cost the host money and probably kept another person from being invited.
2. Don't Use Speaker Phone In Public
Last week, I was on the same grocery store path as a woman talking to her mom on speaker phone. I am now privy to the details of her divorce and her mom's bunion surgery. Fun times. I once even overheard a man giving out his credit card information, complete with expiration date and CVV code. If you feel inclined to have a cell phone conversation in public, keep it off speaker phone, and use your inside voice so that your personal business stays personal.
3. Respect Personal Space
On more than one occasion, I have been sitting in a mostly-empty movie theater when another theater-goer chooses the seat right next to me. It is one of my pet peeves and makes me feel like my personal space has been invaded. Whether you're in line at the grocery story, standing in an elevator, or seating yourself at a restaurant, respect the personal space of the people around you. Sometimes you have no choice but to stand or sit close to someone, but whenever you can, make a conscious effort to give others some breathing room.
4. Don't Expect Others To Follow Your Dietary Restrictions
If you're on the Paleo Diet, you can absolutely serve only Paleo-friendly dishes at your party. But don't get bent out of shape because Denise served flour tortillas for Taco Tuesday instead of the mashed and baked plantain tortillas you make at home.
5. Always Help Clean Up After A Play Date
Unless your host forbids it, always start cleaning up before your leave from a play date. As your kids get older, this should become their responsibility. The one possible exception could be if the room was already a giant mess before you got there. I once knew a mom whose disastrous playroom only got cleaned up by the parents who came over for a play date. She confessed her sneaky little trick after one child found dried up cat-poop under a Little People's play set.
6. Don't Assume Your Pet Is Invited
You might have the cutest tea cup Yorkie ever, but that doesn't mean I want it in my house. This is especially true for homes that already have pets. The last thing your host needs is to get in the middle of a literal dog fight.
7. Don't Assume Your Kids Are Invited
If you are invited to a formal event, don't be surprised if your kids' names are not on the invitation. Your friends or relatives may truly want to celebrate their big day with you, but they are likely limited by space and budget. Inviting a family with three or four small children can mean not being able to invite work colleagues or other adult friends. Use it as a much-needed date night, or if you don't think you can find a sitter, promptly decline the invitation with a brief explanation. Definitely don't get worked up or angry.
8. A Party Is Not A Pot-Luck, But A Pot-Luck Can Be A Party
I used to live in a neighborhood where every party invitation came with a pre-designated dish or item that we had to contribute to the event. These weren't just block parties or neighborhood pot-lucks. These were birthday and anniversary parties.
It is not your guests' responsibility to provide the food and drinks (plus a gift) for your event. The pleasure of their company is all you should expect when sending out party invitations. Most well-mannered guests will bring a bottle of wine or a dessert, anyway.
9. Don't Call Too Early Or Too Late Just To Chat
Each person has their own definition of early and late, but I don't talk on the phone after 9 p.m. or before 9 a.m. unless it's an emergency. These are the times when my kids are in bed and my spouse and I get to hang out, or we're running around in the middle of our morning routine.
10. Know Your Order Before You Get To The Front Of The Line
Starbucks, Panera, the deli, the movies, the cutting counter at Joann – there is never a time when these places don't have a line. Take time to consider what you will order before you reach the front of the line. The employees and the people behind will you hate your guts if you stand there going, "Hmmm...I think I want...wait...let me think...uhhhh."
11. Use The Universal "Thank You" Hand Signal
Whether you are crossing in front of a car that stopped for you, someone let you merge, or another car slowed down so you can switch lanes, always give them the universal "thank you" hand signal. All you have to do is smile and raise and/or slightly wave your hand to show the driver you appreciate their kindness.
12. Don't Take The Mile
You've likely heard the saying "Give someone an inch and they'll take a mile." This is when a person offers a small favor and gets roped into doing way more than they bargain for. Don't be the kind of person who takes advantage of others. If a relative offers to babysit, don't stay out hours later than you promised. If your friend takes you to lunch, don't order the most expensive thing on the menu.
13. Go To The Funeral
Funerals suck. But what sucks worse is needing your friends, and they don't show up. Funeral services are meant to honor the departed, but they are also designed to surround the family with the comfort of their loved ones. When my husband's grandmother passed away, we were surprised and heartbroken when a couple of our really close (and local) friends didn't show up, because they "don't like funerals." We will never forget the ones who stopped by, even if only for a minute, to pay their respects. If you're local, always go to the funeral.
14. Put Pets Away For Parties
I always crate my dogs when guests come over. This is for their safety as well as the comfort of my guests, as not everyone loves animals. I've seen toddlers sobbing and clinging to their parents all night because the family dog insists on approaching, jumping on, sniffing, or licking them. Also, a lot of animal shed, beg, and are used to sitting on the furniture. The last thing your guest wants to do at your dinner party is eat cat hair with their lasagna or giant paw prints on their new blouse.
15. Buy Aisle Seats
They may not give you the best view in the house, but if you think you'll be exiting the theater or concert hall often, try to book aisle seats so that you aren't disturbing the people around you.
16. Avoid Taboo Topics At Parties
Do your hostess a favor and avoid the topics of politics, religion, money, and health. Better topics include movies you've seen, books you've read, your favorite TV show to watch, or that new song you heard on the radio.
17. Don't Overstay Your Welcome
If everyone has already gone home and your hosts are yawning, cleaning up, or have turned off the music, it's a sign that it's time for you to say your goodbyes. Even if they have an all-night babysitter, they may want to enjoy some alone time before grandma shows up with the kids first thing in the morning.
18. Ask Permission To Tag
Everyone has that one friend who wants to "check in" everywhere they go (I have a friend who "checks in" at home after work.) But sometimes, checking in, posting pictures, and tagging friends can create drama. You friend may have declined another invitation or left someone out of a gathering. Ask permission before tagging or posting pictures of others.
19. Proceed With Caution For Group Texts
Group texts can be the bane of your existence. Every group text I've ever been in has included a grandma who won't let the thread die. When it comes to group texts follow these rules:
- Don't include people who don't know each other in a group text.
- Don't include more than five or six people in a text.
- Don't have a two person conversation within a group text – start a new text with that person.
- Be cognizant of the time that you're sending or replying to a group text (work hours, bed time, etc.)
- Don't be that guy who resurrects a dead group text.