20 Bad Habits You Need to Break

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Does your spouse glare at you as you when you knock things off the table with your elbows? Have you noticed people backing away when you get close to them?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, you might need to take stock of some of the reasons this may be happening. Start working on changing your habits to good ones that will attract people rather than repel them.

Once a habit is established, it can be extremely difficult to break. Here are some of the most difficult bad etiquette habits to change. Keep in mind that it can take a while to change your behavior, so you might need a reminder every now and then.

Let others know you are working on it so they can give you a gentle nudge when you fall into old habits. Then thank them when they do.

Don't fall into a habit of defending bad behavior. No one will buy your excuses, and it makes you appear unwilling to change.

  • 01 of 20


    Woman staring on subway while listening to her phone.

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    Although looking someone in the eye while talking to him or her is considered good manners, staring at someone is not. When you catch your gaze fixed on a stranger or making someone uncomfortable by staring, make a concerted effort to blink and look away. If the person catches you staring, offer a friendly smile before turning your attention elsewhere.

  • 02 of 20

    Talking Too Loud

    Grandparents sitting on a couch with a dog, while the wife is showing the husband something on her tablet.

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    Some people seem to talk at a high volume all the time. The reason could be that someone close to them is hard of hearing, or maybe they don't realize how loud they are.

    At any rate, check your volume. Remember that most people can hear just fine, so practice talking more softly unless the other person asks you to speak up.

  • 03 of 20


    Students presenting project with a tablet.

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    Granted, there are many times when the only way you can get a word in edgewise is to interrupt the nonstop chatterer. However, interrupting when it's not necessary is generally bad form. Wait until the other person pauses or stops talking before you open your mouth.

  • 04 of 20

    Not Tipping Enough for Service

    $20 bill and coins resting on a white saucer.

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    Remember that many people who rely on tips make below minimum wage, and they often have families to support. Tip according to the type and quality of service rendered.

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  • 05 of 20

    Talking With Your Mouth Full

    Friends eating street food outside.

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    Talking with a mouthful of food is just plain rude and a sign that you need to learn some table manners. Chew, swallow, and then talk. If you are asked a question, indicate with a gesture that you'll answer after you swallow.

    Don't rush. If the other person really wants to hear what you have to say, he or she can wait.

  • 06 of 20

    Elbows on the Table

    Woman drinking a cocktail at a cafe.

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    Elbows on the table might seem harmless, until you knock over a pedestal table or push a glass off the edge, causing the contents to spill. It's best to sit back and keep your elbows to yourself.

  • 07 of 20

    Drinking Too Much

    Friends toasting at a rooftop party.

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    We're not talking about coffee, tea, water, or soda. When you are in a social situation that involves drinking alcohol, avoid overindulgence. Maybe it helps you feel more social, but it can also cause you to say or do things you'll later regret.

    Most of the time, you won't get a do-over, so stop before you feel the buzz. If you drink too much and make a fool of yourself, you might find yourself falling off the host's next guest list.

  • 08 of 20

    Popping or Cracking Your Gum

    Young girl chewing gum and drawing outside.

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    Bubble gum is supposed to be blown into bubbles, right? And when gum forms air pockets when you chew, it pops. Maybe so, but chomping, popping, and cracking your gum is annoying to those around you. If you can't chew gum without popping it, don't chew it in public.

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  • 09 of 20

    Making Inappropriate Comments

    Friends having lunch outside.

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    Have you ever noticed that some people seem to have no speech filters, and they say the most inappropriate things? If you suspect you are one of them, stop and think before you open your mouth, even if someone is wearing shoes that clash with her dress. You don't want to embarrass yourself or anyone else by constantly making rude comments.

  • 10 of 20

    Chronic Cell Phone Use

    Older gentleman using his cell phone.

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    Cell phones are wonderful until they replace personal contact. If you are one of those people constantly tethered to your electronic device, don't be upset if all your friends start to walk a wide berth around you. When you are with others, put your cell phone away.

  • 11 of 20

    Invading Personal Space

    Two coupleseating at a diner counter.

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    No matter how close you are to someone, give him or her some personal space. No one likes having someone underfoot all the time. You'll be amazed by how many fewer accidents you have when you give people their space.

  • 12 of 20

    Public Displays of Affection

    Couple kissing outside around a group of people.

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    You might have a constant burning desire to make out with your main squeeze, but do it in private. You don't need to inflict your constant desire to be in a lip-lock on innocent bystanders. Many people are embarrassed by public displays of affection, so keep things cool until you are behind closed doors.

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  • 13 of 20

    Sarcasm and Insults

    Three friends sitting at a table and talking.

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    Sarcasm is funny—to everyone but the subject, that is. When you feel a bout of sarcasm coming on, bite your tongue until the urge diminishes. Remember that if you can't say something nice, either don't say it at all or wait until you have a chance to think about whether or not you want to keep that person for a friend.

  • 14 of 20

    Poor Hygiene and Gross Actions in Public

    Woman painting her nails in a cafe while two other woman look on.

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    Most personal hygiene needs to be conducted in private. If you need to brush your hair, never do it at the table. Get up and find a restroom.

    If you are consistently doing gross things, stop. No one wants to be around someone who constantly spits, picks his or her nose, or scratches private areas.

  • 15 of 20

    Taking Food Off Someone Else's Plate

    Six friends sitting at a wooden table and eating burgers.

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    Are you guilty of seeing something on another person's plate and stabbing it with your fork? This is rude and may cause you to get your hand slapped. Never take food off anyone else's plate unless it is offered.

  • 16 of 20

    Cutting in Line

    Three people standing in line at a grocery store.

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    Remember what you learned in kindergarten: Get in the back of the line and wait your turn. Doing otherwise can get you into all kinds of trouble and is extremely ill-mannered behavior.

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  • 17 of 20

    Dropping Trash on the Ground

    Woman using park trash can.

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    After you finish your food or drink, look for a receptacle for the wrapper or can. Dropping your garbage on the ground is boorish and leaves a mess for someone else to have to clean up.

  • 18 of 20

    Inappropriate Attire

    Woman selecting clothes in her closet.

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    Every place has a dress code, either written or assumed. This includes work, school, church, sporting events, and all other places where you'll find groups of people. Before going to an unfamiliar place, find out how you should dress.

  • 19 of 20

    Inappropriate Gestures

    Angry male driver dressed in a suit.

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    You've probably seen people who are quick to gesture inappropriately. If you are one of those folks, think about what your mother would say if she saw you. If it's an act that would have you sent to your room, don't do it.

  • 20 of 20

    Laughing at Other People's Misfortunes

    Friends sharing phone photos
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    As funny as it may seem, when something bad happens to someone else, avoid the urge to laugh. If the urge to chuckle is too strong, try biting the insides of your cheeks. Remember that if it's not funny to the person who experiences the misfortune, it's rude to laugh at him or her.