30 Days to 40—Lesson 2: Mind Your Manners

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

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!

Iomoi skull stationery. Image via iomoi.com.
Iomoi skull stationery. Image via iomoi.com.

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.

Iomoi lucite trays
Iomoi lucite trays make great gifts. Image via iomoi.com.

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:


Read the rest of my 30 Days to 40 series >>

33 comments

  1. Love these, especially the one about bringing something to someone’s house, especially if you’ve been invited for the first time for dinner or a special ocassion. I think that small token goes a long way. So does saying “Please,” and “Thank you” to everyone you encounter. When you’re polite to people (especially people who are serving you) they remember you and you normally get that kindness paid back in return. Just those few words can brighten someone’s day and who doesn’t want to do that?

    1. Ooh, yes I totally forgot to say that my late grandmother always taught me the same thing as a child when going to someone else’s home for the first time/dinner/special occasion and to always be on time!
      x

  2. Nothing drives me more nuts than pure and simple manners… re: point. no. 2 – shoes on any kind of furniture or bed is just gross, I never got how that was possible in movies let alone in real life. I’ve grown up with the ‘take shoes off once through the door’ but I guess everyone has their own customs.

    These are all important lessons worth being reminded of every now and again. I’ll never forget the time a guy in his pinstripe suit (clearly on the way to the city), yelled ‘move’ to me because he wanted to read the papers and my oversized bag was in the way on a jam packed tube ride to work… Charming! I was too shocked to say anything back to him. It’s good to remember that being kind to someone is important too.
    Hope you’ve had a fab Aussie trip lady! Enjoy the weekend!
    x.o.x.o

  3. such a fantastic summary of MANNERS and etiquette! i will be link through my blog today for sure… and i’m proud to say i follow these rules! thanks so much x

  4. Oh so true so true! If only everyone would follow #5 – RSVP! It’s so easy to contact people these days. Send an email, a text, or leave a phone message. I’m so sick of inviting people to parties (kids parties are the worst for no RSVP) and then having to track them down to ask in person if they’re coming or not.
    Honestly, good manners are mostly about being considerate and friendly.

  5. Well said. Number 7 especially resonated with me. I am trying to teach college freshmen and sophomores standard language use and I receive many formal papers full of text abbreviations, not to mention phrases like “pissed me off” and “that sucks.” I have to fully explain the connotations these phrases trigger in “old folks'” minds.

  6. Get out. You are NOT almost 40. I don’t believe it for a second!

    And if you really are… then I declare you the poster girl for 40. When I grow up to be 40 (which is sooner than I’d care to admit), I want to be just like V! xo

  7. This is an excellent list—- I feel pretty confident about the majority of it (sometimes I fail on the handwritten thank you note…). I am going to make a major effort to improve on this. Great list!

  8. You are so right, V! I’m a huge advocate of good manners. I really wish *everyone* would follow these rules! I’ve never understood how people feel comfortable putting their shoes on furniture; it really makes me cringe. I do regularly remove my shoes and get comfortable – if I’m in the right company, of course!

  9. Excellent list/post Vahni! I am so happy my parents had great etiquette taught to them to pass down. We still send Thank You cards, though some people think that it’s an old tradition, but not so … thoughtfulness is timeless. I agree more people should have manners. #2 and #4 definitely, it’s just outrageous to put your feet on furniture. Enjoy your week! xo

  10. People must indeed acquire these etiquettes, especially those looking for jobs or those at work places. Some small things like that may help you get the job you want or a promotion.

  11. Hubby and I were talking about this yesterday concerning today’s young ones and their parents who have no social manners, specifically in grocery stores and checkout lines.

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