“Consideration for the rights and feelings of others is not merely a rule for behavior in public but the very foundation upon which social life is built.”
― Emily Post
Emily Post is the first person who comes to mind when I think about etiquette. She was born in 1872 and died at 87 in 1960. She lived a privileged life of wealth and high social class. She was an author who began writing when her boys were old enough to attend boarding school. She first wrote humorous travel pieces and newspaper articles. Still, she is known and famous for her knowledge and writing about etiquette. If she were around today, what would she say about the advances in technology and its effect on manners and our society?
When we are young, we learn the importance of saying please and thank you, using sir and ma’am to address our elders and excuse me instead of interrupting a conversation. We know from seeing examples from our parents and others that holding the door open, and offering help to others in need is polite and shows kindness. Table manners and navigating a formal dinner place setting is another aspect that many have learned in the past, but how relevant is that information now? How many younger generations know what a butter knife, bread plate, or dessert spoon is? It is still relevant information because sometimes an invitation to a formal event or a dinner at a fancy restaurant may pop up. I learned the rules to navigate the fancy dining experience more efficiently, and I feel comfortable knowing what fork to use first, the little fork for the salad. The most important tip to remember is to be confident and kind; no one will notice or judge you if you get the place-setting rules mixed up.
Another rule that may or may not be as important is when is it okay to start wearing white? At Easter or after Memorial Day? We know Labor Day is the cutoff for the year to wear white, but who is following this? The older generations? Or is this still a Southern rule? Wearing white in the warmer months was meant to help keep cool and was a sign of wealth since the high class would vacation on the coast or in the mountains and leave their dark, heavier clothes behind. In 2023 in the South and throughout the US, it is more about being comfortable and feeling good, and if wearing white in the winter feels good, do it.
In the last few years and stretching back to the previous decade and longer, new influences in our lives require new etiquette guidelines and considerations to not be rude in public or online. Social media, smartphones, and virtual meetings are a part of our lives, and there are rules to consider when using each. Plenty of published guidelines for proper use exist for our young generation, who may not remember what life was like before Facebook, iPhones, and Zoom. Parents have much more to worry about now than if their kids are being polite and using good manners. There is a whole other online world that brings dangers to unsuspecting kids. That should also be addressed when access to social media and the web is granted. Still, that subject is enough for another article.
In mid-March 2020, virtual meetings became the norm for students and anyone interacting with people, whether for work, volunteering, or even doctor appointments. That experience created another opportunity to think about proper etiquette. Dress appropriately, mute yourself, be mindful of your background, and have your camera on are just some of the points to consider. Virtual meetings are happening less now, but I don’t think they will ever go away since we have realized the convenience of not having to leave home and fight traffic.
As we go about our business and personal interactions, I created a brief list from various resources and my observations as a reminder of good manners and etiquette.
A handshake is still the professional standard.
Always check your emails for tone and errors before sending.
Avoid talking about religion and politics.
Be on time.
No phone during meetings.
Respond to emails promptly, no longer than 24 hours, if possible.
Make eye contact and smile when saying hello.
Speak clearly and make sure not to mumble.
Stay present with those you are with and pass on answering your phone or texting.
Follow through when you say you will do something, and keep your word.
Arrive on time.
Tipping is 15-20% if dine-in or 10% if take-out or delivery.
Let others know when they are on speakerphone.
Take out your AirPods when talking with others.
Silence or set your phone to vibrate in public.
Wipe down equipment at the gym.
Ask about food preferences when planning a party or sharing meals with groups.
Do not request cash for gifts or post your Venmo.
If you choose to text a thank you message-send them separately.
Do not add your boss on social media.
Bring a gift for the host of the party.
The most important thing to consider is treating others how you want to be treated. Kindness goes a long way in life.
There are endless resources online to learn more about etiquette. Everyday Manners is a local company in Fayette County offering corporate training and group and individual classes to build confidence and social civility. Suppose you want to begin an etiquette business. In that case, The American School of Protocol in Atlanta has a comprehensive program for Children’s Etiquette Certification and Corporate Etiquette Certification.