16 Etiquette Mistakes You Should Stop Making Now
Resist leaving your phone on the table, to start.
Sharing embarrassing stories in a toast
It’s a toast, not a roast, so if you’ve been honoured with the job of giving a toast at a wedding, birthday, or another honorary event then make sure what you’re saying is actually honouring the person, says Lisa Grotts, etiquette expert and author of A Traveler’s Passport to Etiquette. In other words? Save the hilarious story about their vomit-laden spring break for your friend group chat. “Keep the toast light and airy, avoid saying anything overly personal about the individual and keep it short, three minutes max,” she says.
Using your napkin to blow your nose
Even though it’s fine to use your napkin to wipe your mouth, tears, or food off your face, stop there, says Grotts. If you have to blow your nose, head to the bathroom and use a tissue, she says.
Setting your phone on the table
Keeping your phone within eyesight may keep you on top of your notifications but it’s incredibly poor manners, Grotts says. It pulls your attention away from the people you are dining with and makes for an overall less pleasant eating experience for everyone, including yourself. “Don’t place any items on the table that are not part of the meal such as your mobile phone, keys, or sunglasses,” she explains. (Plus, learn how to properly disinfect your cell phone.)
Using emojis in your work emails
“Too many individuals treat emails to work colleagues as text messages in business settings,” says Brian Lipstein, a corporate image consultant and president of Henry A. Davidsen Image Consultants. Don’t be casual in any of your work communications he says. Modern manners say that business emails should still have a formal introduction, an appropriate subject line, a greeting, full sentences, and a formal closing, he explains.
Sending error-filled texts or emails from your phone
Being on your mobile is no excuse for bad grammar and spelling, especially if you’re texting your boss or colleagues, Lipstein says. “Grammar and spelling should be properly presented and proofreading is a must,” he says. “Remember, it may be ‘just a text’ but this is still representing you, your values, the quality of your work, and overall leaves an impression on the reader of who you are and the sophistication you possess.” Plus, with grammar and spelling tools built into almost any system these days, there is no excuse for tons of errors, he adds. (Check out these other work-form-home rules everyone should follow.)
Posting everything you do on social media
From identity theft to privacy to workplace concerns, there are dozens of excellent reasons to be circumspect about what you post online. Think of your social media like your “cyber DNA,” Grotts says. “Anything you post, even if you delete it later, is online for life.”
Sitting when being introduced to someone
Generally, both parties should be standing when being introduced for the first time, Lipstein says. So if you’re sitting at your desk or a table when meeting a new person, take a moment to rise, he says. This small gesture shows that the meeting is important to you.
Failing to RSVP
Late or missing RSVPs cause unnecessary logistical and emotional stress for hosts, says Emilie Dulles, an event protocol and etiquette expert. “Send in your reply as early as possible—the reply by date is not a challenge for you to eke out at the eleventh hour,” she says. “If you do miss the reply by date, RSVP anyway and also follow up via phone or email with a brief apology for your oversight and express gratitude for their kind invitation.” RSVP via the method you received the invitation, so if you got a reply card with an invitation, use that. If it’s an e-vite, it’s fine to respond electronically.
Showing up with an uninvited guest
With the Covid-19 pandemic, large social gatherings are on a bit of a hiatus. When things open backup, always look for a “plus one” to be explicitly stated. “If your invitation does not include a guest or date, don’t try to add one last minute. Be an adult and go to the celebration on your own,” says Dulles. “If there is a change in your relationship status, you can reach out to the hosts and see if your fiancé or spouse might be included. Respect their answer either way. You can always opt not to attend if they say no, but you can’t force them to say yes.”
Forgetting to write a thank-you note
Too many people forget the most important rule of receiving a gift: Thanking the giver. For big gifts, like for birthdays or weddings, do more than simply saying “thank you” — send a card, Dulles says. (Here are the occasions that absolutely call for a thank-you note.)
Waiting a year to acknowledge big gifts
The old etiquette rule was that a newlywed couple had up to a year to formally thank people for their wedding gifts but no more, thanks to modern communication technology, Dulles says. The new rule is all gifts need to be acknowledged, whether on paper or electronically, no more than three months after your wedding, she says. “Otherwise, guests may worry that their gift was not received or, even worse, not appreciated,” she explains.
Spilling your guts to anyone who will listen
Reality TV can make it seem like nothing is off-limits, but the truth is real relationships need a balanced give and take, says Rosalinda Oropeza Randall, an expert in workplace civility and business etiquette and author of Don’t Burp in the Boardroom. “Regularly sharing your ever-changing moods while expecting others to always listen gets old real soon,” she says. You should be listening at least as much as you talk and choose carefully what you decide to share and where.
Leaving your earphones in when talking to someone
Earbuds are a staple in our technology-laden world, but you can take tech too far. Too many people these days will leave one earbud in or, in the case of wireless Air Pods, leave both in during conversations, and this is a huge etiquette breach, says Amy Alkon, a science-based manners expert and author of Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck. This can make the other person feel like you don’t care what they’re saying and you aren’t really listening (which may be true). Always take out your earbuds or remove your headphones when speaking with someone in real life, even if the sound is already turned off.
Using speakerphone in public places
No one needs to hear your conversation with your spouse, the details of your work report, or the results of your physical exam. It’s rude, annoying, and could open you up to problems. If you really need to take a call, just answer it the normal way and do your best to remove yourself from those around you.
Sneezing into your hands
Pre-pandemic, the default for many people was to sneeze into their hands or, even worse, just sneeze into the air. Not only is that super gross but it’s unnecessary, says Grotts. Sneeze into your elbow or at the very least turn your head away from other people, she says, adding that if you feel multiple sneezes coming on, excuse yourself to the restroom.
Failing to show gratitude for others’ little acts of service
A common complaint these days is that kindness and compassion are in short supply. You can change this for the better by looking for little ways to help others and making sure to thank them when they do the same for you, Czink says. “If someone holds the door for you, a ‘thank you’ is needed, even if it’s just a smile or a nod of your head,” she explains. “People aren’t there to be your servants, they’re doing you a kindness so show gratitude.”
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