Volumes of books have been written on the subject of etiquette. There are proper ways to conduct oneself when attending a social function, religious ceremony, event or meal. One does not have to refer to oneself as "one" in order to observe proper etiquette, and, in fact, it's quite possible to display very improper behavior even when speaking eloquently; etiquette is more than saying the proper, flowery things at the appropriate times.
Nevertheless, it's not difficult to use. Generally you must treat others in the same manner that you would like to be treated, or sometimes even more politely than you feel you need to be treated. Etiquette involves respect of those around you and consideration of their needs, and ought to be observed during the most everyday and mundane activities.
What follows are a few basic guidelines to help you:
- There are general social rules that should be easy enough to follow. Always say "please" or "thank you." No one likes a demanding or ungrateful person. When requesting an item, always say, "please," and never say "gimme" or bark an equally rude order.
- When making someone's acquaintance, it's always proper to shake the other person's hand and say "nice to meet you" or offer similar pleasantry.
- Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.
- It's never good manners to burp, pass gas or display other rude bodily noises.
- Never interrupt when someone is speaking. Wait until you're sure he has finished before adding your own thoughts.
- Never wear a hat indoors.
- When greeting someone, it's always best to say, "Hello Judy," or, "Hello Mr. Smith," rather than simply "Hi," or, "How's it goin'?" If another person is with you, always make introductions immediately after shaking hands.
- Proper table manners are very important--regardless of how fancy the dinner is. When eating, always use silverware if it's offered to you. Unless you're eating bread or a type of cuisine that's customarily eaten with fingers, it's very bad form to use your fingers.
- Always excuse yourself from the table or room when blowing your nose.
- Never speak with your mouth full of food.
- Always keep your elbows off the table and your hands in your lap when not in use.
- Always turn off cell phones before entering a restaurant.
- Always wait until your entire party is seated and served before eating.
When In Public
- When standing in line, always wait your turn and never push those in front of you. Impatience is impolite.
- When visiting a theater, turn off cell phones, iPods, pagers and other noisy personal devices. Refrain from talking once the show begins and never kick the chair in front of you. You may even want to consider the subject matter of a film before buying a noisy container of popcorn or candy.
- Consider the age of those around you. Some language or behavior may be inappropriate for children to witness.
- Always send a thank you note when a gift is received or thoughtful service or deed is performed.
- No matter how clean you would like your carpet to be, it's not proper to ask guests to remove their shoes upon entering your home. If they are expected to go shoeless, slippers should be provided.
- Always be sure guests have been properly introduced. Never assume everyone in the room knows one another.
- Keep conversation flowing and avoid awkward pauses. Change the subject when bawdy or controversial subject matter arises. Traditionally, political and religious discourse are to be avoided.
- Be sure each guest has been offered refreshments upon entering the social room.
- When using an answering machine, proper phone etiquette is to be as brief and focused as possible.
- Always return phone calls within 24 hours unless you're away from home.
- Avoid letting young children answer the phone. It may be adorable to the child's parents, but to the party on the other end, it can be rather frustrating.
- Speak in a low, clear voice. No one likes to be the recipient of shouting and yelling.
- Turn off televisions and music and talk at a time when the children are quiet. It's difficult for the other party to hear with a lot of background noise.
- When speaking on the telephone, never yell or slam down the phone. If you must put the other party on hold, only do so for 30 seconds. If the party needs to hold longer, do come back on the line every 30 seconds or so to assure that person she is being taken care of.
To use proper rules of etiquette is to show others that you care enough to be considerate. It's not difficult to say a few kind words or treat others with respect. In return, you'll be shown the same courtesy.
For More Etiquette Tips, Try this Recommended Reading:
- Emily Post's Etiquette, 17th Edition.
- Etiquette for Dummies, by Sue Fox.
- Commonsense Etiquette: A Guide to Gracious, Simple Manners for the Twenty First Century by Marjabelle Young Stewart and Elizabeth Lawrence.