Good Manners Are Always En Vogue

I’m no Emily Post.  I’m not even close. But if there’s one thing I learned growing up is that good manners are always en vogue.  I learned that while I might not always have the fanciest or most expensive clothes, what I could always have – good manners.  I assumed all people learned this lesson growing up. And even though I now know that isn’t true, I’m still always shocked when I watch people stumble through life unintentionally committing the occasional etiquette faux pas and, almost always, offending someone. Since I’ve seen this so many times, I thought I’d share a few tips and tricks to successfully navigating the basics of etiquette.

  • When invited into someone’s home as a guest, properly thank the host:
    • Dinner Guest – When you’re a dinner guest in someone’s home, you should always bring something for the host. Even if the host tells you “Just bring your appetite!” bring something anyway.  You don’t go to a restaurant and not leave anything so don’t show up to anyone’s home without leaving something. Bringing a small gift says “I’m appreciative of the invitation,” “Thank you for putting dinner together,” “I was ‘raised right’ so I’m bringing something so I don’t look like Caveman raised by Wooly Mammoths.” It’s just the right thing to do. The gift doesn’t have to be extravagant.  A nice bottle of wine or champagne is always a good choice (unless you’re visiting a teetotaler).  Even if the host doesn’t drink regularly, the wine can be served at other dinner parties.  It’s also a great re-gift gift. If the host is attending a dinner party at someone else’s home, they can always take the bottle of wine. It just works. If you’re on a bit of a budget, a nice handwritten thank you card with a $5 gift card to their favorite coffee shop works too.  Your friends usually know, and understand, your financial situation. The point is not to outdo any of the other guests, the point is to properly express your gratitude for the invitation.
      • If you do bring something edible as a gift to the host, you are NOT allowed to consume it or set it out for general consumption during the event.  The gift is to be left for the host.  If the host decides to open the bottle of wine or serve the box of chocolates during the party, fine. However, under no circumstances are you allowed to open the item or suggest that the item be opened.  It’s just tacky.  You brought it for the host, so let the host decide what to do with it.
      • If you decide to “bring what you drink,” make sure to still bring something for the host and make sure they know that you’ve brought something for them AND something for yourself.  You don’t want to appear accidentally tacky when you crack open your favorite bottle of wine, sit it between you and your plus one and drink the entire bottle by yourselves.
    • Overnight Guest – If someone is gracious enough to allow you to rest your head in their home overnight, say ‘Thank you’ by taking the host out for a meal or, if you’re on a budget, preparing a meal (with groceries you bought). Also, make sure you keep your accommodations tidy. Make the bed and tidy up the bathroom before you leave.  Don’t be the guest who doesn’t get invited back because s/he was ungrateful and sloppy.
  • Text Messages are almost NEVER a proper thank you. If someone buys you a gift, does something nice for you or gets you out of a jam, you should send a handwritten thank you note.  (Sidenote: Keep stationary on hand. I personally have a variety of stationary, some custom, some off the shelf, but all appropriate for writing a ‘Thank You’ note). If someone sends you a gift and you send a text message to say thank you, you’ve almost certainly guaranteed that you will never get another gift from that person.
    • Dating – Just about the only time it’s appropriate to send a ‘Thank you’ text message is following a date. If someone takes you on a date and buys you food or drinks or pays for an activity, you should follow it up with a proper Thank You.  Even if you didn’t like the person and have no intentions of going out with him/her again, sending a simple “Thank you” text shows that you appreciate the effort the other person put into the outing. No one owes you a date.  No one owes you dinner, drinks or activities. It’s a rough economy. Show your gratitude for someone spending their hard earned money on you when they didn’t have to.
  • Cell Phones – Put them away at the dinner table.  It’s one thing to fetch a ringing phone from your pocket to answer it.  It’s another to scan Facebook, Twitter or other social media while dining.  1) You’re not that important; and 2) You’re being rude. If the text, email, tweet or status update is that important, you should have stayed at home so you don’t miss it. In the event that you’re expecting an important call, text or email, inform your company ahead of time so that they know upfront that you’re not being rude for the sake of being rude.

These are just a few of the etiquette transgressions I witness on a daily basis. I’m sure there are hundreds more that you can think of.  Feel free to add them to the comments.


Footnote: If you think you’ve offending me by breaking one of these ‘rules,’ don’t apologize.  Let’s just pretend it didn’t happen.  But, by all means, do better next time . . . if you get another chance.