You’d think being mannerly would be a given, but what I’ve learned is that it most unfortunately is not. Some people either don’t know any better or just don’t care about manners and etiquette. Others think of etiquette as a rulebook written by stuffy, rich people for other stuffy, rich people.
Actually, social graces were not established to make people feel uncomfortable and inadequate—but the very opposite—social graces help to prevent awkwardness and discomfort in social situations. Social graces and good manners, when employed correctly, make people feel welcome, comfortable, and appreciated. Now who doesn’t want to feel that?
Persnickety Prints Wall Art: Manners
Many commonly-taught lessons about manners are captured in the print featured above, and we should all be cognizant of employing them in our daily lives. But—there’s a lot that isn’t captured, that many young whippersnappers these days seem to be clueless about. That ignorance is a disservice not only to the people they interact with, but to themselves.
But first, what do I mean by when employed correctly? Let’s be clear about something: etiquette should not be conspicuous or condescending. It’s not intended to be used to chastise others, and it is not a marker of social status or achievement. When you are effectively practicing social grace, you do it in a quiet and transparent manner. And best of all, it’s free. Saying a genuine “please” or “thank you” costs nothing, and means everything. People these days really underestimate the power of good manners.
Being mannerly is not about being boring or prim or perfect. I’m no angel, and definitely not perfect. It’s simply a way to interact with others respectfully.
Lesson 2: Mind Your Manners
In addition to the seven rules of manners listed above, here are seven more I’ve found have always served me well.
1. Send a written thank you for every gift you receive.
I love the opportunity to put pen to paper, but if you’re not into that, at the minimum, send a proper email, full sentence construction and all. If someone spent their time and money on you and you don’t write a thank you of some sort, you can probably expect that to be the last gift they bestow upon you. Plus these days it’s so rare that you’ll probably score extra brownie points if you do send a real paper thank you.
Consider it a legit reason to order some cheeky personal stationery. Do check out the stationery by Iomoi, which offers both printed and e-stationery. It’s beyond fun!
2. Don’t put your feet on the furniture!
Curling up in a chair or on a sofa with your shoes on is beyond rude—your shoes have just traipsed through God only knows what. Lose the shoes if you’re among good friends, or just wait until you get home to relax to that degree. It won’t kill you to sit upright and cross your legs at the knee or ankle.
3. So you’re in love. Skip the PDA when you’re in the presence of someone else’s parents.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen girls entwine themselves around a guy in front of my parents or his. If your parents don’t care, whatevs. But when you’re at someone else’s house, sit up straight on the sofa and don’t go beyond an arm draped over a shoulder or holding hands. It makes others feel uncomfortable, and it makes you look, well, a little louche, for lack of a better word. You’ll be alone with your love soon enough. Til then, just chill.
4. When you’re invited to dine at someone’s home, NEVER go empty-handed.
Whether you’ve known the host(s) 10 years or 10 days, you should bring something with you. Doesn’t have to be complicated, but it should be fitting for the occasion. If you’re guesting for the weekend at someone’s house, do something more than just a bottle of wine. If it’s just you and your friends, then wine, dessert, or some other contribution will suffice. Anything is better than nothing.
Note: If you’re ever short on gift inspo, just consult the blog of Mrs. Lilien. She’s got so many fantastic ideas, and her site is a huge inspiration in itself. Iomoi is also a veritable smorgasbord of goodies that make perfect hostess gifts.
5. RSVP and Regrets Only requests aren’t optional.
If someone was kind enough to extend you an invitation, have the decency to reply to their request for a head count. Most people make it easy to let them know, in the form of a stamped, pre-addressed envelope or email address. Respond in kind so they can plan accordingly. If you don’t respond, you shouldn’t expect there to be a seat—or a meal—for you at the event. It’s that simple. When you get married or throw some big party, you will then understand how frustrating it is when people don’t RSVP.
6. When someone holds the door open, say thank you.
It’s kind of sad that I even have to mention this, but I regularly hold the door open for people, and women often saunter through without a thank you, as if we were all put on earth just to serve them. Many men I’ve spoken to have noted that they are also incensed when they hold the door and the woman they are holding it for offers no thank you, smile, or acknowledgment. So say thank you every. Single. Time.
7. R u an adult? Then pls lv th txt hieroglyphics 2 th kids.
OK, maybe this has nothing to do with being mannerly, but it’s definitely not a sign of respect to send tweets, texts, or emails to adults that look like they were written by a 12-year-old. I get the need to abbreviate and truncate due to message limits or lack of time, but sending messages that look like a tween’s text not only make adult eyeballs bleed, they take longer to read, and make you look like an immature idiot. Sorry to be blunt, but that’s the plain truth.
If you’re an adult, be sure digital messages are written in proper English, with proper spelling and punctuation. Trust me, it can be done. Using symbols like “&” and “+” in conjunction with phrases is fine. Consider every tweet or text an opportunity to hone your editing skills. Read:
Want to read more about how to handle any situation with grace and poise?
Here are some resources:
- Everyday Manners by Emily Post
- Etipedia: Online Etiquette Encyclopedia by Emily Post
- Modern Manners Guy: Quick and dirty tops for a more polite life
- How to Have Good Manners
Read the rest of my 30 Days to 40 series >>