Etiquette Basics You Somehow Missed

Etiquette Basics You Somehow Missed

Good manners aren’t about stuffy rules, they’re about making other people feel comfortable and valued. Unfortunately, plenty of essential etiquette basics get overlooked these days, and it has resulted in a culture that often lacks courtesy, respect, and consideration. Here are some etiquette faux pas you may be guilty of making. If you recognize yourself in any of these, it’s time to make a change.

1. You open gifts in front of the giver — without reading the card.

Oops! Showing your excitement is great, but always read the card first, the Etiquette School of America advises. You might avoid an awkward moment if that candle turns out to be from your ex or regifted from Aunt Martha! A simple “thank you” while reading the card buys you time to formulate a truly enthusiastic response. Plus, a personalized card shows the giver put extra effort into the gift, which deserves a moment of appreciation!

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2. You brag about how little you paid for something.

Finding a bargain is awesome, but broadcasting the price tag can come across as insensitive and tacky — especially if it’s a gift you’re boasting about! Focus on how much you love the item, not how cheap it was. Remember, the thought really is what counts, not the price tag.

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3. You’re always late (or freakishly early).

Punctuality shows respect for other people’s time. Life happens, but chronic lateness is rude. On the flip side, showing up super early can fluster hosts who aren’t ready. Aim to arrive right on time, or just a few minutes after the stated start time. If you know you’ll be running late, send a quick text to give your host a heads-up!

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4. You ask people deeply personal questions.

Beautiful mixed race creative business woman shaking hands with a female colleague. Two young female african american designers making a deal. A handshake to congratulate a coworker on their promotion

“So, when are you having kids?” “Did you gain weight?” Yikes! Unless you’re genuinely close with someone, it’s best to avoid prying into their personal matters. Stick to light, positive conversation starters, and let people naturally reveal more as they feel comfortable. Remember, it’s much better to be a patient listener than an intrusive question asker!

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5. You don’t RSVP.

Whether it’s a wedding or a casual dinner party, RSVPs are crucial for hosts to plan accordingly. Not responding leaves them hanging and puts them in an awkward position. Make it a habit to RSVP promptly, even if it’s to turn down the invite. It’s a small act of courtesy, but makes a big difference to the host!

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6. You dominate the conversation.

Being a good listener is just as important as being a good talker. Practice asking questions and letting others share their stories. If you find yourself rambling, pause and invite someone else to speak with a simple, “What about you?” Remember, everyone enjoys feeling heard and listened to.

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7. You give unsolicited advice.

young couple chatting on street

Even if well-intentioned, offering advice when it’s not asked for can feel condescending and intrusive. Unless someone’s directly asked for your input, resist the urge to play problem-solver. Sometimes people just need to vent and want a supportive ear, not a list of solutions. If your friend DOES ask for advice, try phrasing it as suggestions, not dictates.

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8. You’re glued to your phone during social situations.

two friends arguing on couch

Mindlessly scrolling when you’re with other people sends the message that they’re not important enough for your attention. Be present in the moment! Put your phone away (unless it’s an emergency) and give the people you’re with your undivided focus. If you really need to check your phone, excuse yourself politely with a quick, “I’ll be right back!”

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9. You leave messes for other people to clean up.

Whether you’re a guest in someone’s home or just borrowing a friend’s space, take responsibility for your own messes. A quick tidy-up goes a long way and shows that you respect the shared space. Offer to help with the dishes or take out the trash – even the smallest effort makes a difference.

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10. You don’t offer to help.

See a friend struggling to carry groceries or a host frantically cleaning up? Don’t just stand there! Offer a helping hand, even if your efforts are small. It shows you’re considerate and willing to pitch in. The simple act of asking, “Is there anything I can do?” can be a major lifesaver for a stressed-out host.

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11. You ignore basic hygiene.

Bad breath, unwashed hair, body odor – these are major social turn-offs. Basic personal hygiene is a must, Medical News Today confirms, not just for your sake, but for the comfort of those around you. Shower, brush your teeth, do your laundry… it’s that simple! And a spritz of perfume or cologne before heading out never hurts either!

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12. You cancel plans at the last minute.

Things come up, for sure, but try your absolute best to avoid flaking out on plans, especially without much notice. It leaves the other person in the lurch and shows that you don’t value their time. If you must cancel, apologize sincerely, offer to reschedule, and try to give as much advance notice as possible.

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13. You don’t write thank-you notes.

In the 21st century, handwritten thank-you notes might seem old-fashioned, but they show a level of thoughtfulness that texts can’t match. Taking the time to express gratitude leaves a lasting impression, especially for gifts or when someone’s gone out their way for you. A short and sweet note is all it takes to make someone’s day!

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14. Your apologies are insincere.

Funny businessman rejecting to give interview to journalist. Stop sign. Man from recruitment management stopping interviewing lady, fraud, unhappy customer complaining, demanding compensation

A flippant “whatever” or “my bad” isn’t a real apology. If you messed up, take ownership of your actions. A sincere apology acknowledges the impact on the other person and expresses your genuine remorse. Additionally, don’t try to justify your hurtful actions or minimize how they made the other person feel. Remember, a true apology is about their feelings, not your intentions.

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15. You’re a terrible gift giver.

Re-gifting unwanted items, generic presents, or gifts that are clearly about you, not the recipient, are major no-nos. Put some thought into it! What does the person like? Need? Would they genuinely enjoy the gift? A thoughtful card with a handwritten message can sometimes mean more than a poorly chosen, expensive gift. Pay attention to what the person talks about or hints at, to give you some ideas.

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16. You forget your manners.

two women chatting at cafe

Please, thank you, excuse me – these little words have HUGE power. Using them regularly shows basic politeness and gratitude. Even in a casual world, simple manners go a long way in making positive interactions a habit. Holding the door for someone, letting another person go ahead in line, or offering a helping hand are all small gestures that show good manners in action. Good manners make everyone feel respected.

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Sinitta Weston grew up in Edinburgh but moved to Sydney, Australia to for college and never came back. She works as a chemical engineer during the day and at night, she writes articles about love and relationships. She's her friends' go-to for dating advice (though she struggles to take the same advice herself). Her INFJ personality makes her extra sensitive to others' feelings and this allows her to help people through tough times with ease. Hopefully, her articles can do that for you.