Welcome to the first post in my series on etiquette! (My introductory post can be found here.) I will say this a million and one times, but etiquette serves to make the most number of people comfortable and when you are familiar with etiquette, it can often serve to alleviate some social anxiety (which is the reason why many people avoid situations). As Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning say, etiquette is about compassion, respect, and empathy. Today’s post is all about daily etiquette and things that come up in normal, every day lives- greetings, punctuality, wardrobe, and eating. I find that these daily items tend to revolve around respect for you and respect for others!
1) Greeting People
Every interaction begins with a greeting, and that greeting sends a message. I think it is generally easier for all of us when we are meeting with people that we already know and we don’t have to think about the greeting, but most of us do interact with people we don’t know throughout the day. Work, school, the store, the library, public transportation, and any other number of places will be filled with people you don’t know. Positivity goes a long way with a greeting (and I think we all tend to remember when someone goes out of their way to be pleasant). Sometimes you will need to actually greet someone, and sometimes a brief smile and nod is more than appropriate. If you make a point to pay attention to how you are greeting people, it will be easier to recognise when to do what!
When greeting someone, make brief eye contact, say a pleasant hello, and introduce yourself if you haven’t met them (or you haven’t seen them in quite some time). If you have met them, greet them with by their name warmly. It sets the tone for the entire interaction, and is an easy way to set yourself up for success!
Above all else, being late is my pet peeve. I completely understand if your bus is running late, if there is traffic, or bad weather (as we just got our own bad storm earlier in the week), but being habitually late is incredibly frustrating for everyone around you. I have said it a million times and I will say it a million more, being late repeatedly tells me that you don’t think my time is as valuable as yours. I know that people struggle with mornings, don’t realise where the time went, underestimate the time needed to get ready, and any other number of time-related issues; however, there is no reason to not work on those. Realistically, unless you are a hermit, you will need to make plans with people on a semi-regular basis, even if that plan is work and/or casual plans with family and friends. If you are regularly late, look at why that is and how it looks to other people.
Aim to be 5 minutes early to on time; any earlier and you may catch the person you are meeting before they are ready! Any more than 5 minutes left, and you are sending the message that your time is more important than their’s.
3) Wardrobe and Grooming
Everyone wants their style and appearance to say something different about them, even if it is simply that they don’t care about it (which is another discussion for a different day). I think that we all understand how we should be dressed for our daily/regular tasks and appointments, but when something new comes up, sometimes we struggle- this is where dress codes can help. Yes, they can be overwhelming at first, but spending a little bit of time understanding what they all mean (my post on dress codes is a very basic intro), and feeling comfortable asking the host to clarify will go a long way to ensuring that you are dressed properly. (I think that for the majority of us, being highly overdressed or underdressed leaves us feeling out of place and uncomfortable.) However, despite differing styles, dress codes, and wardrobes, I think that there are a few constants that we can all stick to when we are getting dressed for the day.
You should always be clean and free from wrinkles and rumples, no matter what you are wearing or what you are doing! A clean and pressed outfit shows that you take care in your appearance, but more importantly in general, that you can pay that care and attention. Also ensure that you have done your due diligence on what the dress code is for an event/outing and that you have done your best to try and meet it! And finally, make sure that you check the weather before you get dressed to avoid mishaps.
4) Table Manners
I think that table manners are one of the most nerve-wracking and overwhelming areas of etiquette, because most of us don’t encounter complex table settings in a formal situation on a regular basis. I think a lot of us grab the one or two utensils that is needed to eat whatever meal we have, and might even end up eating it on the couch in front of the TV. (No judgement, sometimes it is a nice way to relax!) I know that it really can seem overwhelming but a good deal of table manners really boils down to common sense when you think about. If you absolutely can’t swallow whatever food you are eating, it should come out the way it came in- ie. you put it in your mouth on a fork, take it out of your mouth with a fork. And take solace in the fact that your table mates will probably be as lost as you are!
Work in order: as soon as you sit down, place your napkin in your lap! And the basic rule of thumb is to start from the outside and work your way in. (See table map below!) And if you are unsure of where things are and what belongs to you, don’t feel embarrassed to ask the person beside you if the water glass is yours or theirs. (Heads up- if it’s on your right, it’s your glass.)
What etiquette issue seems to come up the most for you?