16 Signs You Lack Social Etiquette (And Why It Matters)

16 Signs You Lack Social Etiquette (And Why It Matters)

Social etiquette isn’t about outdated rules of how to hold a teacup or which fancy fork is for salad and which is for the main meal. It’s about basic consideration and respect for those around you. If you’re committing these offenses, don’t worry – it’s fixable! Here’s a self-check — and the reasons why good social skills make everyone’s life more pleasant.

1. You monopolize conversations, making it all about you.

Are you the one who tells long-winded stories, constantly steers the chat back to your own experiences, and rarely lets anyone else get a word in? Yikes! That’s no good. Good conversations are about exchange, Psychology Today points out. If you’re doing most of the talking, you’re not connecting. Learn to ask open-ended questions, do some active listening, and find ways to relate to the other person’s experiences rather than turning every topic into a monologue about yourself.

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2. You’re always glued to your phone when you’re with other people.

Constantly checking notifications, scrolling mindlessly, or texting during face-to-face time sends the message that the person in front of you isn’t worth your full attention. Unless you’re expecting an urgent call, put your phone away and be fully present in the conversation. Not only is it respectful, but you’ll find the interactions more rewarding when you’re not constantly distracted.

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3. You’re a fake who cancels plans last minute or ghosts people altogether.

While emergencies happen, if you’re a serial plan-breaker, it shows a lack of respect for other people’s time and commitments. Barring a genuine crisis, give people ample notice if you need to cancel, and don’t make disappearing without a word a habit. A quick text to say your plans have changed goes a long way.

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4. You interrupt people constantly.

Do you jump in before other people can even finish their thoughts? This bad habit sends the message you don’t value what they have to say. Stop and take a breath (or five), even if you think you know where they’re going. Let them finish what they’re saying without interrupting. Your eagerness to speak can wait those extra few seconds.

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5. Your idea of a “gift” is regifting unwanted junk or passing on stained t-shirts.

Thoughtful presents show you care. Regifting unwanted clutter implies you didn’t put any effort into something special for the recipient. If regifting is done well (the item is genuinely nice, suits the person, and they’ll never know its origins), it can be okay, but don’t use it as an excuse for cleaning out your house.

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6. You’re chronically late or don’t bother to RSVP.

man who's stressed out for work

Your time isn’t more valuable than anyone else’s. Habitually showing up late throws off schedules and makes you seem inconsiderate. RSVPing to events is basic courtesy because it lets hosts know if they should expect you. If your schedule is unpredictable, let those inviting you know that you’ll try your best to make it, but your attendance isn’t guaranteed.

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7. Your compliments are vaguely insincere or backhanded.

Generic statements like “You look nice” or the dreaded “You’ve lost weight!” (was that a good thing?) don’t feel genuine. Specific compliments show you’re paying attention: “I love that necklace, it perfectly complements your outfit!” are far more impactful. If you can’t say something truly kind, sometimes silence is the better option.

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8. You overshare personal details with casual acquaintances.

Revealing your deepest struggles or health issues to a barista or someone you just met is TMI. Oversharing too quickly makes people uncomfortable and blurs the lines of appropriate social boundaries. Build trust slowly, and tailor what you share depending on your closeness with the person.

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9. You forget to say “please” and “thank you.”

skeptical man looking at woman

These basic words are ones you literally learned when you were a toddler, so they should be hard-coded in you by now. Forgetting them makes you seem unappreciative or even entitled. A sincere “please” when asking for something and a heartfelt “thank you,” even for small acts of kindness, go a long way in making people feel valued.

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10. You talk loudly in public spaces and are oblivious to those around you.

Nobody needs to hear your phone conversation on the bus in excruciating detail. Be mindful of your volume in shared spaces. Theaters, libraries, and restaurants have a certain expectation of a quieter environment. Respect those around you who might be seeking peace, focus, or trying to enjoy their own conversations.

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11. You’re messy in shared spaces and always leave a mess behind.

Whether it’s a guest in someone’s home, using a public restroom, or sharing an office, leaving a mess is inconsiderate, Business Insider reminds us. It assumes someone else will clean up after you. Take responsibility for your own belongings and discard your trash thoughtfully. Tidying up after yourself shows respect for the space and those who also use it.

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12. You post embarrassing pictures of friends online without asking.

Just because you think that double-chin photo is hilarious doesn’t mean your friend wants it shared with the world. Always get consent before posting pictures of people on social media. You might find it funny, but they might feel humiliated, leading to damaged trust and hurt feelings.

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13. You give unsolicited advice on things that are none of your business.

two men looking at mobile phone

Unless someone specifically asks for your opinion on their weight, parenting choices, or relationship problems, keep it to yourself. Unsolicited advice feels judgmental and presumptuous. If you genuinely want to help, ask: “Would you like my perspective on this?” instead of assuming they need your unsolicited guidance.

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14. You’re an unapologetic one-upper.

If a friend describes a stressful situation, responding with an even more stressful anecdote from your life isn’t supportive, it’s attention-seeking. Let everyone else have their moment to vent or seek advice. Learn to actively listen, sympathize with their experience, and offer help if appropriate, rather than hijacking the spotlight.

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15. You lack basic hygiene or wear overtly attention-grabbing outfits in inappropriate settings.

Bad breath, unkempt hair, or clothes covered in pet fur make people uncomfortable. While self-expression is great, wearing a revealing outfit to a family gathering or a neon tracksuit to a funeral show poor judgment. Maintain basic hygiene standards out of respect for those around you, and consider the context when selecting what to wear.

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16. You ask overly personal questions of people you barely know.

Demanding to know why someone isn’t married, doesn’t have kids, or how much money they make is intrusive and rude. Stick to light topics with new acquaintances unless they naturally open up about deeper matters. Don’t assume a level of familiarity that hasn’t been earned yet.

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Phoebe Mertens is a writer, speaker, and strategist who has helped dozens of female-founded and led companies reach success in areas such a finance, tech, science, and fashion. Her keen eye for detail and her innovative approach to modern womanhood makes her one of the most sought-out in her industry, and there's nothing she loves more than to see these companies shine.

With an MBA from NYU's Stern School of Business and features in Forbes and Fast Company she Phoebe has proven she knows her stuff. While she doesn't use social media, she does have a private Instagram just to look at pictures of cats.