Modern Social Etiquette Rules Respectful People Always Follow

In a world where basic manners seem to have gone out the window, keeping up with the nuances of modern etiquette can seem daunting (and kinda pointless, tbh). However, the foundation of good manners remains timeless and universal—respect for others and yourself.  While technology and social norms may change, the essence of respectful behavior endures. Here are 12 social etiquette rules that respectful people consistently follow in today’s world.

1. They acknowledge important messages quickly.

In today’s fast-paced digital world, responsiveness is key. When you receive a message, acknowledging it quickly is not just about good manners—it’s about showing respect for the other person’s time. A prompt response, even if it’s to say you’ll provide a fuller answer later, assures the sender they’ve been heard. This rule is particularly important in a professional context, where delayed responses can disrupt workflow and create inefficiencies. In personal exchanges, it maintains the momentum of the conversation and the relationship.

2. They respect other people’s privacy online.

Online privacy has become a significant concern in the digital age. Respectful people exercise caution and consideration by not oversharing someone else’s personal information, photos, or life updates without their consent. They understand that what is shared online can have real-world consequences, and that each individual has different levels of comfort with their online presence. By respecting these boundaries, you not only protect others’ privacy but also build trust in your online interactions.

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4. They don’t keep their phone out on the table during mealtime.

The act of putting your phone away during meals is a statement—it says that you value the real-life company of those around you. This practice allows for undistracted communication, enabling you to engage more deeply in conversations and create better connections. It’s an easy yet powerful way to show that you’re fully present and that you prioritize the people you’re with over virtual interactions.

5. They are mindful of their surroundings in public places.

Being considerate of your surroundings means acknowledging that you share space with others. It’s about recognizing the collective experience, whether that’s keeping noise to a minimum, not blocking walkways, or being attentive to how your behavior affects others. By being mindful of these simple things, you contribute to a more pleasant and harmonious public environment. It’s an understanding that everyone is part of the social fabric, and each thread should be treated with care.

6. They regularly use “please” and “thank you.”

“Please” and “thank you” aren’t just polite words; they are the grease that allows the gears of social interaction to turn smoothly. These phrases express acknowledgment of others’ efforts and contributions, regardless of how small or expected they might be. They add a layer of respect to everyday requests and exchanges, reinforcing a positive social exchange. In the workplace, these words can make the difference between a task feeling like a burdensome demand or a collaborative effort. In personal settings, they show appreciation and reinforce bonds. A culture of gratitude begins with these simple expressions.

7. They make introductions when necessary.

When you find yourself in a situation with someone who doesn’t know everyone in the group, stepping in to make introductions is more than just a social formality—it’s an act of inclusivity. It prevents anyone from feeling left out and helps to build networks and connections. By providing a little background information about each person, you can kickstart conversations and help people find common ground. Introductions should be made with consideration to the context and relevance to the parties involved, ensuring a smooth and comfortable social interaction.

8. They offer their seats to someone in need.

Offering your seat isn’t just about giving up your spot; it’s an acknowledgment that you are aware of and care for those around you. It demonstrates an active engagement with the welfare of others, particularly those who might benefit from a seat more than you, such as the elderly, pregnant women, or individuals with disabilities. This action is a universal sign of empathy and kindness that doesn’t diminish your status but rather enhances your respectability in the eyes of onlookers and the individual who accepts the seat.

9. They hold the door open for people.

This gesture goes beyond simple courtesy (or modern chivalry); it’s a small act of service and an acknowledgment of the other person. By holding a door, you convey patience and a willingness to assist, no matter how brief the moment. It’s a practice that isn’t about gender or age but rather the situation and the opportunity to ease someone else’s path, even in a small way. It’s a universally understood action that when done sincerely, reflects a considerate and attentive character.

10. They disagree respectfully.

In a world of diverse opinions and perspectives, disagreements are inevitable. However, the way you handle dissent can display confidence and respect. Engaging in respectful disagreement means listening to the other side, refraining from interrupting, and articulating your perspective without belittlement or hostility. It’s about striving for a productive dialogue rather than a combative debate. This approach not only fosters a more constructive conversation but also helps maintain relationships despite differences.

11. They follow dress codes.

Observing dress codes is a clear sign of respect for the event, organization, or place you are visiting. It shows that you take the expectations seriously and are willing to make an effort to fit into the prescribed social norms. When you adhere to a dress code, you communicate that you understand the importance of the occasion and respect the shared social agreement of the setting. It’s not just about looking the part—it’s about being part of a collective experience and contributing to the intended ambiance or professionalism of an event or place.

12. They RSVP (or decline) with enough notice.

When you receive an invitation, especially one that specifically requests an RSVP, responding swiftly shows respect for the person’s invitation and their event planning process. It reflects your organizational skills and your consideration for the effort behind the scenes. A timely response can help hosts manage their guest list, caterers to prepare the correct amount of food, and event planners to finalize arrangements, ensuring that the event runs smoothly for everyone involved. It’s a simple task that has significant implications for the planning process and is a fundamental courtesy in social etiquette.

Originally from Australia, Emma Mills graduated from the University of Queensland with a dual degree in Philosophy and Applied Linguistics before moving to Los Angeles to become a professional matchmaker (a bit of a shift, obviously). Since 2015, she has helped more than 150 people find lasting love and remains passionate about bringing amazing singletons together.

Emma is also the author of the upcoming Hachette publication, "Off the Beaten Track: Finding Lasting Love in the Least Likely of Places," due out in January 2025.