Do you ever feel awkward and socially inept? If so, don't fret because lots of people feel that way. Take control of your life and learn some basic etiquette and manners tips to help you feel more poised and graceful. It doesn't take much effort, but the reward will be great as it touches every aspect of your life.
There are times throughout every day of your life when you have to make a choice of whether to use good etiquette or be that person whose friends and family start avoiding. Even under the most trying of situations, it isn’t that much more difficult to be well mannered, and you’ll ultimately feel better later if you do the right thing.
Most parents teach their children a handful of manners, but a lot of things typically fall through the cracks. After all, being a parent is difficult enough as it is. Adding manners and etiquette lessons takes time, and most adults are already swamped. So don't blame your parents for not teaching you how to hold a fork at a dinner party or send an RSVP to an invitation. It's never to late to take responsibility for your own actions.
Be Friendly and Polite
If you step outside your house during the day, you’re likely to encounter people, so try to be friendly. Even on miserable days when everything seems to be going wrong, forcing a smile has the potential to lift the mood of not only the person you’re looking at but yours as well. Offer a greeting, and you might even see an extra ray of sunshine.
Certain words carry a tremendous amount of power when you care enough to be polite and civil to others. Add “please,” “thank you,” “you’re welcome,” and “excuse me” to your vocabulary, and you may find others responding with reciprocated kindness. You get extra points in the manners and conversation department if you include a compliment, such as, "Good job," or "You look nice today."
Be On Time
Avoid being late for an appointment with anyone, whether it's your doctor or your child. Being on time shows your respect for the other person.
When you're late for meetings, appointments, work, get-togethers with friends, or anything else, you're forcing others to wait, which is a huge waste of their time. They'll never get those minutes or hours back. Remember how you feel when you've had to wait for someone.
Be a Helper
You don’t have to be a Boy Scout to help out your fellow citizen. If you see someone whose arms are overloaded with packages, open the door for them. Also, if you have just entered a building and someone is right behind you, hold the door to keep it from slamming in his or her face. These gestures of kindness are simple but make a big difference in everyone's mood.
When you interact with other people, you need to respect them. Allow others to voice their opinions without argument. Respect their personal space as you would want others to respect yours. When you are in the company of someone of greater authority, show him or her proper respect.
The old saying “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything” is wise and should be followed in most social and business situations. You’ll avoid having to backtrack or explain if you keep your snarky thoughts to yourself. Avoid gossip, even if it is juicy and entertaining. If you know that a political discussion will result in an argument and possibly even name calling, avoid starting one.
Let Others Go First
If you can let others go first without awkwardness, then do it. This includes walking, standing in line, and driving. A woman with small children will appreciate getting through the checkout lane quickly, particularly if her children are hungry or bored. If a driver needs to move into your lane, and you can let him in without the person behind you rear-ending you, then gesture for him to go ahead.
Hold Down the Noise
This world has become too noisy, so try not to add to it. Keep your cell phone ringer volume as low as possible. If you work in an office cubicle, be considerate of your fellow office mates by keeping your voice low while chatting on the phone. Don’t honk at other drivers unless it’s to avoid an accident.
Whether you brought your lunch or you’re eating out with friends, everyone appreciates good table manners that your parents should have taught you. Keep your elbows off the table, don’t talk with your mouth full, and avoid reaching across people to grab the saltshaker. Formal dinners have more etiquette rules, so if you’ll be going to one of those, take a little time to brush up on what’s expected.
When eating in a restaurant, there are additional rules you need to follow. You need to be considerate of everyone, from others in your group to the server. Make sure your you talk to your children about behaving properly before you take them to a restaurant so they'll be welcome back.
Remove Your Hat
The old remove-the-hat-indoors etiquette rule seems to have gone out the window, but there are still some guidelines that you’d be wise to follow. If your hat is large and obstructs someone’s view (such as at church or in a theater), remove it. If you are on a business call or job interview, don’t risk being seen as impolite by leaving your hat on. When the national anthem is played, it’s a sign of respect to stand and remove your hat.
Send a Thank You Note
Being thankful will never go out of style. When someone does something for you, or sends you a gift, thank the person with a handwritten note. It’s the least you can do for a person who has taken the time to think of you.
When you are in a situation where you’re the only person who knows the other parties, take the time to introduce them. Look at the person whose name you are saying, speak clearly, and if you’re in a social setting, find something the people have in common. For example, you might say, “Jim, I’d like you to meet my friend Sally. She just got back from Italy, and since you used to live there, I thought you might enjoy talking about your experiences.”