Social Etiquette — It really isn’t that hard.
We may all be subjects of circumstance, but we are also creatures of our own habits. Too often we just let social etiquette go by the wayside, and although the majority of the time it is of little consequence, our lack of attention can unknowingly alter others impressions of us. Simple adjustments to our less than charming habits can impact the way we are seen and perceived by others.
Although most of us say we do not judge a book by its cover, the internal recesses of our minds typically do not follow that nonjudgemental sentiment.
That being said, technology is a huge culprit toward our justification for being often cavalier in everyday interactions. It, technology that is, is moving incredibly quick, and subsequently it has changed much of the way we interact with each other. Whether good or bad is open to personal interpretation I suppose, but I do come from a midwest town and born of Canadian parents who taught me that manners are extremely important. And let’s be honest, practicing gracious manners doesn’t take much, we are just becoming neglectful.
So in lieu of this, I have put together a list of bad habits I see on a regular basis. Many of these might seem superficial or inane, but I know I am not alone in my despondency toward many of these.
- Be in the moment — If you are out with friends, family or at a work event, be present. I know it is tough sometimes not to instantly return that text, email, or respond to some social media emergency, but the attention you might lose from the person on the other end of the phone is nothing compared to what you might sacrifice with the people sitting in front of you.
- Hang it up — When you get to the front of the line at Starbucks or the grocery store, hang up the phone. If your conversation is truly that important, tell the person you will call them right back or step out of line. You may think it isn’t important to barista, checker or clerk, and they may in turn not want to even talk to you, but, here’s a thought… try saying “Hello”. See what happens. A simple smile and a greeting can go so far and it really doesn’t take much effort if you think about it.
- Headphones do not make you invisible — You are not Harry Potter and your headphones are not an invisibility cloak. Just because you can’t hear someone, doesn’t mean they aren’t standing right in front of you.
- You do not have to capture everything — You are not as relevant as your most recent Instagram post. It is okay to put the camera away sometimes. As John Mayer put it so eloquently, stop “tryin’ to fit the world inside a picture frame”. Your photos are only as good as the experience behind them.
- Public spaces are not your living or a meeting room — Airplanes, buses, trains, coffee shops, etc. are not places to air your personal grievances or conduct long-winded business interactions. The world may be your oyster, but the people in the grocery store don’t need to know about the fight you are in with your significant other or the boss you just cannot stand. Plus you never know who might be listening.
- Keep your politics to yourself — I know you have the right to post whatever you want and I definitely support that. But, just because you can, doesn’t always mean you should. If you are just doing it for a reaction, well than frankly you are just an attention seeking bottom feeder who needs to find other ways to feed your insecurities.
- Not a place to air your personal laundry — Basically this fits right along with #1. You probably wouldn’t walk into a restaurant with a giant sign saying “My partner cheated on me!” or “Brett is such an asshole. He owes me $500!” So why some people think blasting it on their social feeds is okay is just beyond me.
- Stop Trolling — Honestly, just stop if you do this. It doesn’t matter if you mean well or you feel that someone is wrong. No matter what the circumstances, you will always end up looking like an insecure asshole. If you don’t like what someone has to say, just ignore, unfollow or defriend them.
- Be real — Not everything in your life is perfect. Stop pretending it is. It is okay to have a bad hair day, not use a filter or take the same picture 10 times to make sure it is perfect. Heaven forbid we showcase ourselves as we really are and not attempt to portray ourselves as infallible.
Life, Work, Bars and Cars
- Be on time — Texting that you are going to be late, IS NOT the same as showing up on time. This somehow has become the standard rather than the exception. If you aren’t 5 minutes early you are late.
- Stick to the scheduled time — If you set a meeting for an hour, wrap it up in an hour. Don’t expect that other people can stay longer and do not have somewhere else to be. If you have to run over, ask (and I mean ask, not casually order) if everyone else can accommodate staying longer.
- Dress appropriately — You know the saying, “Don’t dress for the job you have. Dress for the job you want”. I think it should be: Don’t dress for the life you have. Dress for the life you want! Seriously though, it’s okay to have edgy style, but don’t go overboard. You may not care what someone else thinks, but going out of your way to be different can often times come across as daft and feckless.
- Avoid gossip — It doesn’t do anyone any good. Seriously. I speak from both sides of this equation. It may seem harmless and no big deal, but you end up coming across as petty, self conscious and immature. Plus you never know if it might come full circle on you.
- Hand shakes — Those that know me, know that this is incredibly important to me. It is more than a gesture of salutation. It is a sign of respect. Do not offer yours lightly, and do not accept others nonchalantly.
- Make eye contact — For the love of God, look at someone when they are speaking to you. I haven’t done any research on this, but when body language is so much of what we actually say, eye contact, or lack there of, can significantly impact the words coming out of your mouth.
- Listen — This is truly a skill. Listening is the greatest weapon we all possess, but so frequently neglect. Often we don’t even let the other person finish before we try to get our two-cents in. It is even okay to pause before we respond. Let what someone said sink in before responding. The arguments, miscommunication and misunderstandings that could be avoided from really listening is be mind boggling.
- Don’t show up empty handed — If there is a question of whether you should bring something, you probably should. And it doesn’t have to break the bank. The gesture alone is worth more than whatever you actually brought.
- Send handwritten Thank You and Birthday cards — I know it takes time, but again, it’s about the gesture. And your handwriting being awful is not a valid excuse. Practice and slow down. And if you can write in cursive, which I know many of us can’t, take the time and embrace the art.
- Use your turn signal — The car manufacturers did not install the thing as a suggestion. There may be no one there, but just make it a habit. You never know when a motorcycle might sneak up on you.
- Let someone in — Don’t assume someone will let you in, but never be too proud to make room for someone else. You never know when the shoe could be on the other foot.
- Hold the door and give up your seat — Chivalry is not dead no matter what the socio-economic milieu might suggest. Courtesy and kindness does not take talent; they simply takes awareness.
- Tip — Just do it. We all work hard for our money including servers, bartenders, baristas, valets, etc. If you can’t tip, maybe you just shouldn’t go.
- Wave — We might not always have time to stop and chat, but a wave of acknowledge or thanks is powerful. Next time someone let’s you merge, wave and I’ll bet you will get one back.
- Say “Hello”— This may be the Canadian in me, but it’s okay, it really is, to say hello to someone on the street or in the grocery store. You never know what a smile and a greeting can do for someone having a bad day. So get your eyes off your floor, your phone or whatever else you are using to avoid eye contact and, maybe, just maybe, make a human connection for a change.
This list is not comprehensive nor is it complete. I guarantee that I have missed many, but these are the ones that struck me right off the bat.
Also, I am not to proud to say that I am at fault for many of these myself. For those of you that know me, I bet you can even guess which ones. By being aware, and making simple changes, we can all do a little better job with our everyday interactions. Who knows, we may even find that our individual graciousness may turn out to be contagious.