Habits of Most Polite People

Men shaking hands at a conference table
If you establish a habit of learning and using good manners, other people will be drawn to you. Westend61/Getty Images

Some people think that all well liked people are born with natural tendencies that attract others. While an inborn personality might play a part in popularity, just as much of it has to do with learned behaviors. Those who are surrounded by people are typically gracious and genuinely interested in others.

If you want to be considered polite, you need to establish good manners habits. Otherwise, you'll constantly make embarrassing social faux pas.

Scientific Study of Habits

Some scientists believe that it takes 21 days of doing the same thing to form a habit. However, when Phillipa Lally, a health psychology researcher at the University College London, studied the habits of 96 people for a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, she discovered that it took 66 days to establish a new habit.

Good Manners Habits

The most important thing to remember is that showing respect is essential if you want people to see you as a polite person. Whether it takes three weeks or two months, if you want your good manners to come natural, you must learn and practice them every day.

Here are 7 etiquette habits you need to establish:

  1. Be friendly and approachable. When you approach someone in business or at a party, smile, extend your hand, and offer a warm and pleasant greeting. Be armed with a couple of conversation starters and don't be afraid to use them. Use the other person's name several times to help you remember it. Doing all of this will help put the other person at ease.
  1. Give other people enough personal space. Most folks are uncomfortable with people they don't know very well getting too close. If you sense that this is the case, take a step back.
  2. Don't tell everything you know. Giving too much information (or TMI) too soon is rude and makes others squirm. Most people you don't know very well prefer not to hear every detail of your health or love life. They also don't need to know how much money you make or how much you paid for what you're wearing.
  1. Avoid gossip. Yes, I know that people are drawn to the trash-talker in the office, but it's not a good way to get respect. They'll never trust you or consider you a confidante. Keep what you think you know to yourself. You might discover that the gossip is untrue, and that will only make you look worse in the long run. By the same token, turn around and go the other way when others start gossiping.
  2. Give people credit and acknowledge their accomplishments. When a team member provided the perfect line to accomplish your goals, make sure the boss knows. When someone who works for you has a fabulous idea, tell your supervisor where it came from.
  3. Use polite language. I know that people are becoming desensitized to foul language and harsh comments, but that is still no excuse to resort to it. Being polite might not have the shock effect, but it won't have people covering their children's ears when they see you coming.
  4. Be in the moment. Put your cell phone in your pocket or handbag and pay attention to the person you are with. Ideally, you should turn off your phone and put it on silent. However, if you need to have it on in the case of an emergency, let the person you are with know.

If you follow the tips above, you'll be ahead of most people.

This can make the difference between you and someone who is less polite winning a sought after job promotion. It can also earn you a permanent spot on a host's guest list.

More Tips on Establishing Good Habits

Here are some other things you need to do:

  • Be on time. People who are habitually tardy show a lack of respect for other people's time.
  • Be generous. This includes giving good tips, putting what you can afford into the office birthday fund, and giving to charities.
  • Have open body language. In other words, don't cross your legs, fold your arms, and look down when you are talking with someone. Make eye contact and be engaged in all conversations.
  • Use good table manners. Doing otherwise might have you left behind while your coworkers head out to lunch.
  • Dress appropriately. Before you go anywhere, find out what the dress code is. It's embarrassing to arrive somewhere, only to find out that you don't have the correct attire.
  • Don't forget to RSVP. This is a courtesy that shows your respect for the host of whatever you've received an invitation to—whether it's a wedding or dinner party.
  • Send a thank you note. If someone gives you a gift or hosts you at a dinner party, send a thank you note right away.
  • Show appropriate sympathy. If you attend a funeral or know someone who has lost a loved one, be sympathetic and offer your condolences.