8 Most Common Etiquette Mistakes

Everyone makes etiquette faux pas every now and then ... even etiquette experts. The key to making things right is to apologize for whatever it is and move on. Learn from your mistakes and try not to keep making the same ones over and over.

Following certain rules of etiquette is essential in both social and professional situations, so it’s a good idea to learn them. It can mean the difference between keeping or losing friends and getting ahead in business. Just as important is to learn what not...MORE to do.

  • 01 of 08

    Being impolite to anyone.

    Waiter handing business people menus at restaurant table
    Chris Ryan/OJO Images/Getty Images

    Being nice to others in all scenarios is the most important rule of etiquette you can follow. You may not know proper placement of dinnerware or when to use which fork, but most people will forgive you for those small infractions. However, being rude to people is something that you may not be able to undo.

    Politeness extends to everyone you come in contact with, from the doorman of your office or apartment building to your boss and other company executives. Showing gratitude and respect to...MORE servers at restaurants, sales clerks at retail outlets, and the bagger at your grocery store can make the difference in the service person’s day. Not being nice to these people shows a lack of character on your part.

  • 02 of 08

    Being late.

    Woodgrain wall clock
    Pay attention to the time so you're not late. Cohdra/Morguefile.com

    If you are one of those people who are chronically late, you are showing disrespect for other people’s time. When you agree to show up at a certain time, be there on time. If you are occasionally late, you will probably be forgiven if it isn’t something you do often. Always call and let someone know your circumstances and your estimated time of arrival.

  • 03 of 08

    Failing to introduce others.

    Friendly people smiling and shaking hands
    Don't forget to introduce people who don't know each other. Portra Images/Getty Images

    When you are with two people who don’t know each other, you should always introduce them. If you can’t remember either of their names, politely say something like, “I’m sorry. I know we’ve met, but I can’t recall your name.” Then use the person’s name during the introduction and afterward in conversation. If you include something you discussed with that person in the past, it will soften the fact that you forgot his or her name.

  • 04 of 08

    Chatting or texting on your cell phone while physically with others.

    Woman texting on her cellphone in a coffee shop
    Don't be rude with your cell phone in public. Marianna Massey/Getty Images

    Always give the person you are physically with your attention. If your cell phone rings, or you receive a text that needs immediate response, politely excuse yourself and keep all electronic contact brief. Then when you return to the person, apologize and refrain from making a habit of chatting on the phone or texting when you're with someone.

    Never text while dining with others. That is rude and frustrating for other diners.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Failing to RSVP.

    mattjeacock.E-.jpg
    RSVP card. Mattjeacock/E+/Getty Images

    When you are invited to any event – whether it’s a dinner party or wedding – let the host know whether or not you’ll be there as soon as possible. Failing to RSVP can hamper the person who must plan the guest list, food, and space. If you send regrets and later discover that you are able to make it, call the host and ask if there it isn’t too late. Be understanding if the host has already filled your position.

    If you have accepted, and you get sick at the last minute, call the host immediately....MORE Never change plans if something more interesting comes along. You may never get invited by that host again if he finds out.

  • 06 of 08

    Being too self-absorbed.

    Two women having a conversation outside cafe
    Conversation should include everyone present. JAG IMAGES/Cultura/Getty Images

    When chatting with friends, family, or coworkers, give them equal time during the conversation. If you have a pattern of making the discussion all about you, you may discover people walking a wide berth around you or running away when they see you coming. You don’t want people to see you as narcissistic or self-absorbed.

    The best way to have a decent conversation with someone is to ask questions about him or her and then be attentive. If you are a good listener, chances are the person will turn...MORE around and ask you questions. Back-and-forth conversation is more enjoyable for both parties and will gain you favor among people you care about.

  • 07 of 08

    Having bad table manners.

    Men shaking hands at a conference table
    Good table manners should become a habit. Westend61/Getty Images

    In this world of people rushing around, you may have become accustomed to running through fast food drive-thru lanes and eating on the run. Not only is this bad for digestion, it gets you out of the habit of exercising good table manners.

    When dining with others, take your time to observe proper table manners. If you are unclear about which utensil to use, learn before you go. Don’t be in a rush while eating, or you may wind up having accidents that could have easily been avoided.

    Take time to...MORE chew your food properly, and don’t talk with your mouth full. If someone asks you a question right after you take a bite, she most likely will understand and be willing to wait until you chew and swallow.

    After you finish eating, wait for the others. It is rude to leave the table while others are still eating.

  • 08 of 08

    Forgetting to be thankful.

    Young woman giving a gift to a friend
    Always show your gratitude when someone does something nice for you. Blend Images/Hill Street Studios/Vetta/Getty Images

    When someone gives you a gift or does something special for you, always show your gratitude. Immediately say, “Thank you.” When you get home, send a brief thank you note. If time gets away from you, don’t let that be an excuse to ignore what you should have already done. Send a thank you note as soon as possible.