89 Social Etiquette Rules – Hidden Social Tips You Never Learned at Home
Social etiquette rules are not made by the posh to feel superior. It is not about placing knives in the correct order or drinking tea with your pinkie finger in the air. That is so 30 years ago.
What then is social etiquette and why must you learn these hidden tips your parents never taught you?
I believe society developed social etiquette rules over time to ensure its smooth functioning and pleasure of people. Etiquette matters to you because it is core to get work, make friends, and well, fit in. Children need it for the same reasons. Anyone with poor social etiquette creates awkward moments with people shrieking at each other wishing the rule-breaker to vanish. Even when you gain nothing, good etiquette is virtuous. It makes the world a better place.
Rules of social etiquette stem from two qualities: respect and empathy. Smile at someone you meet (respect). Apologize for knocking into a stranger to show displeasure with yourself (empathy). Introduce unmet friends to one another so they are not left alone (respect and empathy). Check with the public transport passenger beside you if your music is too loud (respect and empathy).
When you find yourself lost at restaurant, meeting someone new, or feeling out of your league in a wealthy environment, do that which entails respect and empathy. You will be sensitive to the feelings of others to charm men and women.
Specific guidance helps so I have a monstrous list of 89 tips for you in a variety of situations from meeting people to etiquette in business and public transport. A lot of the social etiquette rules shared below are in Emily Post’s Etiquette. It is a 900-page authority resource on general etiquette I read and encourage you to get if etiquette interests you.
Onwards to the 89 social etiquette rules and tips you may have never learned from your parents:
When Meeting People
- Acknowledge people you know. Whether it is a head nod, wave, or “Hello”. The fundamental of good social manners when meeting people is responding to their presence.
- Hold your drink and other objects in your left-hand to keep your right-hand free for handshakes.
- Stand when you greet someone. Especially obey this etiquette rule when meeting someone for the first time. Don’t stress if it’s difficult to stand like when a baby is in your lap. When you are unable to stand, leaning forward can be a substitute to show interest.
- Once you stand to meet someone, smile and offer your hand to the person for a handshake. It’s a simple way to make a good first impression.
- When meeting close friends and family of the opposite sex, you can kiss them on their right cheek. Move straight-in and kiss on their right-side to stop head bumps. Whether a kiss is acceptable or not may change across cultures.
- Greet a family member and anyone staying in your home when you see them for the first time in the day. A simply acknowledgment like “Hey” and “Good morning” can make the home a more pleasant place to live.
- Introduce two people to each other if they have not met. Letting your girlfriend stand awkwardly smiling amongst your friends will have her leave you in no time.
- If you are introducing two people to each other, look at the person you are introducing someone to. So if you are introducing Jane to Dad, look at Dad when saying, “Dad, I’d like you to meet Jane.”
- When groups of people are involved in an introduction, share attention. Look equally at those you introduce and talk about each person as much as the other. Ranting on about Jane in her introduction then saying, “Oh, this is Tara” is not cool. This etiquette rule is especially true for couples when you habitually ignore the person you know less about.
- Start a conversation when introducing people. Add information so the couple can start chatting without your presence. “Dad, Jane loves coffee maybe as much you.” “Tom’s brother actually lives in the area.” “Steve just moved from north of us and started working here.”
- When you are introduced to others, listen carefully for their names. If you forget, be courteous by saying, “I’m sorry, I forgot your name. What was it again?”
- For self-introductions, share your name first rather than ask for their name. People will share their name after you say yours. Disclosure in conversations is often reciprocated.
- Use people’s names how they were shared in the introduction. Don’t call Alexander “Tony”, “bud”, or “honey”.
- If you do not know how to pronounce someone’s name, ask them or someone who knows before you need to say it. If it’s too late, apologize for your mispronunciation then practice to correct yourself.
- Do not break eye contact from the group in an introduction. Looking in the distance tells the person you are meeting that you prefer to be with someone else. As the conversation continues, you’re allowed to break more eye contact. Too much broken eye contact at anytime shows disinterest – a common relationship mistake.
- For every arrival, there is a departure. Make your departure more gracious than a “bye”. Wind down the conversation. You can sum up a key point of the conversation (“I’ll make sure to get the report to you by Monday to prevent further hassle”), reference a private joke from the conversation (“Next time we meet, I hope you’ve figured out how to use the mower!”), or appreciate the person and the conversation (“Well, Andrea, I’ve got to get going but I’ve enjoyed talking with you”). For a complete guide to leave a lasting impression on people, discover the five ways to make a great last impression in Big Talk.
Do your conversations build relationships and make others enjoy being with you? Or do people want to run when faced by conversation with you? Good conversation etiquette with the following tips will have others happy to be in your presence.
Rules of social etiquette stem from respect and empathy.
- Adjust your language, stories, jokes, and opinions to who you talk with. You are a cool guy to your friends, but telling your boss, “see ya dude”, will make him feel disrespected. The best socialites understand different people need different conversations. If you can get along with kids, the elderly, the homeless, and the wealthy, you are great with this conversational etiquette rule.
- Be gracious when someone could feel embarrassed. Graciousness is the art of being kind and gentle. The best way I’ve found to be gracious is placing the burden on myself. Did someone forget your name? “Don’t worry. I’ve forgotten half the people’s names in this room already. My name is Josh.” Did the person trip over a cable? “Uh, hope you’re okay. I should really have covered that up so an accident doesn’t happen.” Graciousness will make you an angel to those in your presence.
- Do not hold the conversation on yourself or what only matters to you. Talking about the health care system to a doctor is not your chance to seek a 10-minute health consultation for an ailment. Good conversationalists talk about their experiences and share their opinions, but they also ask questions about the person, expand on what others share, and show interest in what people say.
- Share the speaking spotlight. If you have talked for a couple minutes without comments or input from others, you are hogging attention. Your conversational partner wants you to be quiet for a moment.
- Let people finish what they want to say. This is the traditional conversation etiquette rule of “do not interrupt”.
- When in a group, talk to everyone. Do not talk only to the hot girl you want to impress. It also means making the subject of conversation suitable for everyone. Telling a group about your latest Spiderman figurine that only your mate cares about is not socially suave.
- Learn how to say no to politely decline requests and invitations. Refrain from a courteous no when you want to say no to create false expectations, persistent requests, or even conflict.
- Do not participate in gossip or criticism. When someone gossips, Emily Post advises you to say, “But, Jim, Amanda says such nice things about you.” If the person ignores your attempt to steer the conversation away from gossip, say, “Let’s get off that subject.” If the rudeness continues, leave.
- Researchers advise to keep a minimum distance of 60 cm (24 in) from conversational partners to stay out of their personal space. Even a kind word said one-foot away can be offensive.
Want a complete system to talk and make friends with anyone? You need more than etiquette tips when you are shy and have no idea what to say. I suggest you check out my full step-by-step guide called the Big Talk Training Course.
Whether you walk the streets or browse the shops, there is a right way to behave in everyday circumstances. These social etiquette tips mostly help you blend-in.
- Prepare to behave differently than normal. Many etiquette articles advise you to be yourself, but I think “just be yourself” is bad advice. The people with the best social etiquette adapt to situations and people by understanding the rules of social etiquette shared in this article. What feels natural may not reflect social etiquette.
- Keep your voice down. If someone has a loud voice, talk quietly to them – even whisper – and they will clue in then lower their voice.
- Do not swear. If you must, find a PG-rated alternative on Thesaurus.com for your favorite four-letter word.
- Arrive to parties and other events on time. Being late regardless of an excuse hints that you care little about those you meet.
- Hold doors for people behind you. Let go when someone else holds the door. Always say “thanks” when a person holds a door for you. Appreciation takes no time and shows you liked their simple gesture.
- If a door to a room is closed, knock then wait a few seconds. When no one responds, slowly open the door.
- Here are my elevator rules. Hold elevator doors open for someone if they try to make it before the doors close. If the elevator is crowded or the door has been held multiple times, respect passengers by not delaying them any further. Should you be on the unlucky end of missing an elevator or it is crowded, stand back to let passengers know you are okay for them to go up or down. Other rules include move to the back, face the door, keep chat to a minimum, and avoid disturbances like phone calls or loud headphone music.
- Walk on the right-side of sidewalks and shopping isles. Especially move over if you are slow. You can’t expect everyone to do this. An aircraft falling into your backyard right now is more likely than society walking on the right-side so walking etiquette is more about maneuvering yourself. Prepare to dodge and weave like Ali, keep objects like bags close to you, and give a quick apology when you bump someone.
- Take your hat off at appropriate times. It’s not as simple as you think when considering the type of hat and the situation. Learn the etiquette of wearing a hat.
- Give service staff and others you talk with your full attention. Get off the phone and take off headphones when paying for goods. It is rude and frustrating for someone like a McDonald’s worker to serve you when you talk to someone else. If you struggle to get off your phone, think of poor North Koreans. When an important politician dies, mobile phone use for a 100-day period is a “war crime” punishable with death.
- Avoid these 16 email etiquette mistakes.
- Leave a group or room to answer a phone call then keep the call as short as possible. Answer your phone at the dinner table to see the full effects of breaking this social etiquette rule. The rule is in place because nearby people deserve more attention than those who are distant.
- When answering the phone, unless you know both of you have each other’s caller ID stored, greet the person followed by your name, “Hey, this is Josh.” If someone fails to introduce their name, it is polite to ask, “May I ask who is calling?”
Social Business Etiquette Principles
…nearby people deserve more attention than those who are distant.
Office gossip, loud employees, or time-wasting coworkers. Business can be filled with bad etiquette. With good business etiquette like most social skills, you create a better work environment and set yourself for a promotion. The same rules of everyday etiquette apply to social business etiquette with a few extra tips specific to what you encounter.
- Greet coworkers when you see them for the first time in the day. Small talk is unexpected and can be frowned upon, but acknowledgment through a comment like “Good morning Jon” or a smile and a head nod beats out a cold look or avoidance.
- Stand from your seat when your boss or someone of senior rank comes near your workspace. Also stand when you meet someone you haven’t seen for awhile. It’s a sign of respect. Stay seated if someone comes by daily. Stand when your secretary walks by your desk every 30-minutes will have her scratching her head and you getting no work complete.
- Before you enter someone’s cubicle or office – even if the door is open or there is no door – knock on a wall or door then ask, “May I come in?”
- Unless you are an international visitor from a company, the company’s owner, or a key leader to the meeting taking place, do not sit in the middle seats or at the table’s end. Even more so avoid the middle and end seats that face the door. These are for the big kahuna.
- Sincerely praise a coworker for a project he or she worked hard on. “Diana, you put a lot of effort into this project and got good results. Nice work.” You will make them feel good and come across as a thoughtful person.
- Focus on the face. Whether you give a presentation or wait on a phone call, avoid looking at devices that detract from your attention and someone’s feeling that you care about them. Look into people’s eyes to at least make them feel you are present.
- Whenever you make small talk in the office, gauge the person’s attention to you. Leave if they seem occupied. Don’t let chat interfere with business. When you get interrupted, politely respond, “Unfortunately it’s a bad moment for me right now. Can we catch up after this report is complete?”
Etiquette Tips for Men with Women
You can have good etiquette without behaving like a gentleman in the Victorian era when a man took of his hat to greet a lady each time they crossed paths. Women notice a man who is considerate and respectful of others.
- “Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength,” said Eric Hoffer, a 20th-century American that loved to write about social issues. There is nothing manly about being rude to others. A gentleman disagrees without bitterness or anger. If an agreement cannot be reached, agree to disagree and focus on any neutral ground.
- Walk in-front of a woman in tough crowds and on slippery surfaces. Hold her hand for safety.
- Walk on the curb-side of footpaths. It’s a tradition of safety when a wayward buggy or horse would pose a hazard. Be a man by taking a wayward fast car to the face for your woman.
- Allow women to enter doors and other devices for travel like escalators and cars before you. The exception is when a woman needs help. For a slippery set of stairs you walk down a step in-front of her, look her in the eyes, ask if you can be of help, then offer your arm.
- Offer your arm the correct way in the right situation. The correct way to offer your arm is at a right-angle from the elbow with a small gap between the body and a straight wrist. The right-arm is traditionally what you offer but it matters little. Be ready to tighten your arm in case the lady slips if you are not already flexing your bicep for her (and your ego). Common situations to offer your arm are to help an elderly woman, walk with your partner to a formal event, or assist a lady cross ground she may trip over.
Etiquette Tips for Women with Men
Corsets and tea-sipping with a raised pinky is old. What follows are powerful etiquette tips women can use to be more appealing to men. It’s what men want in women.
- When taking a man’s arm, place your hand with fingers together around his bicep then walk close with him.
- Be positive about everyone. If someone is less fortunate than you, have pity. If your man does something you hate, keep silent and tell him in private. A lady gives her heart and treasures to those around her to make others feel loved and respected.
- Do not groom in public. This applies to men and women. No make up, flossing, and hair adjustments unless in a private area like a restroom.
- To be a “Victorian Lady” in the 19th-century, the dressing room was your sanctuary. You admired and beautified yourself so when you left the room, your beauty seemed effortless to the man you aimed to please.
- Expose yourself to elegant women you admire. Note their habits and simple movements to learn how you can be like them.
Social Etiquette for Children: Tips for Parents and Those Wanting to Help Children
Good etiquette in children helps them make friends and be appreciated by adults. You get to enjoy dinners at restaurants or shop together without onlookers gasping like they saw a horror movie.
Everyday life offers situations to practice consideration.
- If you think children are ruder now than ever, it is because of adults. “The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any,” said Broadway dancer Fred Astaire. Children and teens will be most considerate when adults model good behaviors. If you expect your child to do something, check to see if you do it. A good model, for example, can teach a child listening skills (a core part of social etiquette) by listening.
- Everyday life offers situations to practice consideration. “Please do not run in the house because of the noise.” “We say ‘hi’ to guests in our home.” “Please take your plate to the sink to share the dinner workload.”
- Have conversations with the child like you would with an adult. There is nothing awkward about conversing with a child. Through conversations you build a relationship and teach the child how to converse.
- When the child talks with you, get him or her to look you in the eyes. Eye contact is key for communication and friendship.
- Reinforce use of the two magical words: “please” and “thank you”. “Please” when asking and “thank you” when receiving.
- Give little adjustments at the right time when talking with a child you care for. Correct pronunciation of a word or point out an unsocial habit. Regardless of your adjustment, never interrupt or embarrass the child otherwise you display poor social etiquette. Always be a role model.
Society is built around meals. In Eastern and Western cultures, it is a way to develop relationships, share good times, or extend thanks. What you do at the table (your table manners) affect how people nearby perceive you.
- Order at a restaurant by firstly checking if everyone at your table is ready to order. Decide what you want now to not waste the waiter’s time. Close the menu to signal the waiter you are ready. If you cannot get the waiter’s attention and she is serving no one, it is good etiquette to ask a polite question (“Waiter?”) just loud enough followed by your hand raised to chin level.
- When you are invited to someone’s home for a meal, offer to help prepare the meal. If they decline your offer, offer to help in other ways, “What other ways can I help?”
- Take what you will eat. Never more. Edge on the safe-side of leaving more food than necessary for others to serve themselves. It sucks to get to the potato salad only to discover it’s all gone!
- Observe your host when you are unsure what to do. Eat when your host does and observe what utensils to use.
- Eat with your mouth closed and do not talk with food in your mouth. Did I really need to share that?
- Use “please”, “thank you”, and “excuse me”. Such simple words make you a welcome guest at the table.
- Sit up straight. Why is this a social etiquette rule? It shows you are engaged and makes table guests more likely to converse with you. To eat, move a utensil to your face instead of hunching.
- Elbows on the table can be fine – even good – when you do not hold utensils. Leaning forward with elbows on the table makes you appear more interested to who you listen. Table guests can also hear you more easily when you speak in noisy restaurants.
- At the end of a restaurant meal, who pays? On first dates the person who invites should pay. Split the bill whenever you are confused. Splitting does not have to be awkward. One person can pay while the other after dinner buys drinks in a pub or movie tickets. Keep suitable amounts of cash on hand for your share. Offer to cover yourself whenever someone wants to pay. If they decline your offer, thank them and leave it at that. The best piece of advice on “who pays” is to figure it out before the occasion to prevent ruining a nice time.
Whether you are in a cart pulled by a horse or on the dirty subway, transport etiquette ensures a smooth ride for fellow passengers.
- Give up your seat to an elderly person, a disabled person, a pregnant women, and even a parent with a young child. Win an extra brownie point with your passengers by donating your seat to a person so he or she can sit near friends. Too bad if you had a rough day and wanted to sit. Most people will dislike taking a seat from you so stand up before making your offer with a smile.
- Sit in a seat near no one before sitting near someone.
- Keep your bag and other objects off the seat beside you. Get a car if you want privacy.
- Carpooling is about consideration of passengers. Ask before opening windows, avoid repetitive habits like tapping, and sought out compensation for fuel.
How to Handle Tough Situations You Have Not Thought Of
Maybe you have thought of the tough situations below, but had no idea what to do. Boost your confidence by knowing how to deal with situations that make people squirm.
- Ask for the owner’s permission as courtesy to pat, feed, or talk with their pet animal. Such behaviors with service dogs is dangerous because it distracts them from duties.
- When translators are used, do not talk to the translator. Look at the person who speaks the foreign language when he or she talks and when you talk.
- Address people appropriately with the right name and title. You have Doctors, Professors, Bishops, and Ambassadors, and Judges. I thought it was simple until discovering the hundreds of titles in Emily Post’s Etiquette. I cannot remember how to address a Senator so my advice is to prepare for the right way to address someone when you anticipate a meeting. Eventually you will learn how to address a Mayor (“The Honorable Bill Smith”) like you do with a Doctor (“Dr Smith”).
- You were invited to the White House? Lucky you. Respond within the day. There are few accepted reasons to decline such an invite so be ready to go. Why would you decline anyway, I have no idea. Arrive a few minutes early because it is a cardinal sin to have the President walk in ready to meet you without your presence. Once you arrive and are escorted by guards to an appropriate room, if you are in a small group the President and First Lady greet you. Remain standing. In a large group the guests form a line passing by the President. Address him as “Mr President”. The use of “Sir” in conversation is also appropriate.
- Flag rules. Only use a flag in good condition replacing it when damaged or discolored. When a flag is handled, keep it off objects. Never hang a flag upside down unless to signal distress. Never use a flag as clothing, but flag-designs of clothing is permissible.
- Treat people who do work for you, such as a maid, as equals. When you think like this, you do not order them around or take advantage of their services.
- When someone is about to leave after staying at your place, be a good host by showing the guest to the door then stand outside until the guest is no longer seen. This signals you have enjoyed the guest’s company and are not rushed to return to daily duties (even if you are).
- Follow the dress code for invitations. Codes confuse. They vary from black tie to white tie and formal to casual. Learn more about dress codes.
- A bad date is rarely one person’s fault. Never make the other feel uncomfortable because you are dissatisfied. Be realistic about perfection. Treat the person as an individual. No “all men are jerks” comments or thoughts.
- Bad news like death and divorce is difficult to share. It is okay to gradually spread the news. The person suffering can tell close friends and family. They then can share the bad news with others over time. A person responsible for sharing the news should be given the responsibility only if he or she can keep composure.
- When someone goes through a tough time, never say, “I know how you feel.” It’s condescending and about you. Nor should you say, “Call me if you need help.” It’s too vague. Instead say, “Please know I am thinking of you.” and “May I cook for you this Sunday night?”
- When you hear bad news, a simple, “I’m so sorry to hear” or “I wish you the best” is sufficient. Never try to make lemonade out of their lemon with comments like, “Be thankful her suffering is over.”
- Adoption is none of your business. Do not ask about biological parents, reasons, or anything else to do with adoption. Drop the thought that adoptive parents are saints because it places a burden on them and guilt on the child. Let the parents or child raise the topic when they want.
- Rudeness happens. It is a complex issue that cannot be fully covered here. My quick tips to deal with rudeness are to consider ignoring the issue, acknowledge your contribution to the problem, and never give the rude person anything to build on like raising your voice or reciprocating rudeness. Know how to deal with difficult people and you will manage their rudeness.
- You now know more than most about social etiquette so be careful about being a grouch at those who disobey social etiquette. Be tolerant and friendly. Do not be the old crank at the golf club who yells at non-members for wearing a baseball cap inside the clubhouse. Rudeness is bad etiquette no matter the situation. When you respect the flaws of others, you give them the chance to respect you.
How will you use these social etiquette rules? When will you show etiquette to others? Will you treat others with respect when they are respectful to you? Will you take the high road only when you gain something like a promotion at work or admiration from onlookers? Your character is defined by what you do to people who cannot do anything to you.
Joshua Uebergang aka "Tower of Power"
Joshua Uebergang, aka "Tower of Power", teaches social skills to help shy guys build friends and influence people. Visit his blog and sign-up free to get communication techniques, relationship-boosting strategies, and life-building tips by email, along with blog updates, and more! Go now to http://www.towerofpower.com.au/free/