Cover Your Mouth to Yawn
This etiquette rule originated out of fear from demons entering your body when you yawn. Now, it's polite to cover your mouth to prevent the spread of germs (and so no one has to look at the inside of your mouth).
Even if you're with friends or family, it's best to practice good etiquette and cover your mouth when you yawn.
Take Off Your Hat Indoors
Back in the days of castles, princesses, and chivalry, knights would lift their visors to reveal their face. This would show people that the knight meant no harm. Now, we don’t take off our hats to show that we’re not a threat, but we do to be polite.
Hats are usually worn as protection from the elements when you’re going somewhere. It’s considered good manners to remove your hat when you arrive somewhere to show that you are staying.
Say "Bless You" When Someone Sneezes
When the Black Death was plaguing Europe, one of the early signs you were infected was sneezing. It was polite to say “bless you” to offer thoughts, prayers, and well-wishes.
Today, it’s still good etiquette to say “bless you” to anyone who sneezes. Even in other cultures, a blessing of good health or long life is still customary when someone sneezes.
Give a Strong Handshake
Much like with knights showing their face to indicate their benevolence, the handshake is a sign of peace. By shaking hands, you were letting the other person know you didn’t want to stab them; otherwise, you would have grabbed your sword.
Nowadays, it’s polite to shake hands when you meet someone for the first time—it’s also important in the work setting. Giving a good, strong handshake lets the other person know you’re confident and happy to see them.
Bring Wine to a Dinner Party
It’s customary across the world to bring a gift if someone invites you to an event in their home. This still holds true today, and you’ll look rude if you show up to a dinner party without a gift.
Wine is usually a much-appreciated gift, especially if you’ve been invited to dinner or a party. If your host doesn’t drink alcohol, you can bring something else, like a dessert or flowers.
Keep Your Elbows Off the Table
In medieval times, it was common practice to place your elbows on the table to ensure you had enough room to eat. At feasts, you had to keep your elbows on the table to avoid other people getting in your space.
We don’t have to worry about guarding our territory around food anymore, and it helps with posture to keep your elbows off the table.
Don't Point at People
Pointing at people used to mean that you were trying to cast a spell on someone. While you’re not scared someone is trying to curse you anymore, it’s still an uncomfortable feeling to be pointed at.
It’s never polite to draw unwanted attention to someone, and that’s exactly what pointing does.
Wear All Black at Funerals
This etiquette rule originated in Rome from the dark togas worn for funerals. The color black has been a symbol of mourning for a long time.
It might seem fine to go to a funeral in jeans or colorful clothing, but it’s more formal and polite to wear all black.
Pull a Chair Out For Your Date
Back when women wore huge hoop dresses that made even walking difficult, sitting down was no easy feat. It was customary for the man to pull out a chair for a woman so she wouldn’t have to struggle to sit down.
This rule no longer applies to just women. If you ask someone out on a date, no matter what their gender is, be polite and pull their chair out for them.
RSVP to Your Invites
This acronym comes from the French phrase, “Répondez s'il vous plaît,” which means “respond if you please.” It can seem old-fashioned to send back the RSVP letter, but your host sent those out for a reason.
Be polite and send back the RSVP, even if you decline to attend, so the host can have an accurate number of attendees to prepare for.
Send "Thank You" Notes
Sending thank you notes might seem old-fashioned, like sending back your RSVP, but it’s a good way to show your appreciation. If someone did something nice for you, like get you a gift or invite you to dinner, it’s polite to send them a thank you note.
Thank you notes don’t have to be very long. As long as they’re handwritten and sincere, the recipient will be thankful for your note.
Don't Spit on the Ground
Other than just being gross, it has been considered impolite for a long time to spit on the ground because of health concerns. While it’s not enforced, some cities have laws against it.
It’s still bad etiquette to spit on the ground, so save it for a private space.
Don't Invade Personal Space
This should go without saying, but it’s good manners to give people a respectable amount of space. Without at least 16 inches of distance between other people, our brain’s defense mechanisms turn on.
It’s polite to give people space so you don’t alarm them.
Hold the Door Open
This etiquette rule used to be “A gentleman should hold the door open for a lady,” but has been amended for the modern day. It’s a nice gesture for anyone to do, regardless of gender, and it doesn’t take up any time.
If you’re the first person to reach a door, it’s polite to hold it open for the person behind you, especially if their hands are full.
Be the Bigger Person
It can be easy to let someone’s mean words get to you and throw an insult right back, especially when we have phrases like “an eye for an eye.” It might feel good or be an automatic response to be mean to someone who is mean to you, but it’s not good etiquette.
If someone offends you, you should be the bigger person and just walk away.
Make Eye Contact
This etiquette rule comes from biological responses to eye contact. When you look someone in the eye, you share involuntary emotional responses. Making eye contact is a sign of respect and makes people feel like they can trust you.
This etiquette rule is easy to follow and just requires you to look at the person you're talking to.
Call, Don't Text
Hearing any news, good or bad, is better straight from your mouth. It’s not always possible to be there in person to deliver news, but it is always possible to make a phone call.
By following this etiquette rule, you are showing respect for the other person, and you ensure that they get your message. They can’t say they never got your text if you told them yourself!
Always Say "Please" and "Thank You"
This is an etiquette rule we’ve all heard, but it can be easy to forget—especially if you’re in a hurry. It doesn’t matter if you’re being served in a restaurant, if someone is holding the door open for you, or if someone just tells you to “have a good day.”
Show your gratitude and say “please” and “thank you” always. It's only polite.
Welcome Your New Neighbor
Don’t you want to be on friendly terms with the people who live next to you? Greeting a new neighbor and bringing them a housewarming gift is a great way to show your friendliness.
By just being polite, you can make a new neighbor feel welcome. You might need your neighbor to watch your pets or check your mail in the future, so it’s always a good idea to be nice.
Call in Advance
It’s considered rude to show up at someone’s house unannounced. Other than the fact that they might not be home, the person you’re looking for could be sleeping or otherwise unprepared to greet people.
Show others the respect you would want and allow them time to prepare for your visit. Call or send a quick text to ask if you can come over.
Put Down the Device
With the advent of smartphones, the problem with people ignoring their surroundings has grown. Let the person you’re with know you’re happy to be there and interested in what they have to say by putting down the phone, paying attention, and engaging in conversation.
This etiquette rule isn’t just for the dinner table either. If you’re in class, on a date, or just having a conversation, put down the device and listen to them.
Chew With Your Mouth Closed
This etiquette rule exists to save everyone the sight of half-chewed food in your mouth. No one wants to see (or hear!) the food you’re chewing on.
Practice good manners and chew with your mouth closed. This also keeps food from falling out of your mouth when you eat, which is uncomfortable for everyone.
Ask Them to Pass the Salt
It can be easy to forget about the smaller etiquette rules, such as asking someone else at the table to pass you an item. Especially at home or if you don’t like asking for help, it can be easy to forget about this rule.
If you need something on the table that isn’t directly in front of you, ask someone else to hand it to you so you don’t stick your arm in front of their face while they’re eating.
Say "Excuse Me"
We've all been told to say excuse me after letting out a burp. You should never burp in public or at the dinner table, but it if one does slip out by accident, be sure to say “excuse me.”
Other than unpleasant sounds at the dinner table, be sure to say “excuse me” if you bump into someone, even if they ignore it.
Leave It As You Found It
We all know that we should pick up after ourselves, if not leave a place cleaner than we found it. If you leave a mess behind, then everyone will know you lack some respect.
Practice good etiquette and pick up after yourself. Make sure you aren’t leaving something behind that someone else has to clean up.
Ask Before Taking
It’s good etiquette to ask permission before you take something that doesn’t belong to you. Whether this means borrowing clothes, taking someone’s food, or using someone’s phone charger, you need to make sure the owner is okay with you taking it.
This avoids conflict and misunderstandings about theft and disrespect.
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The early bird gets the worm, or at least your boss’s respect. Arriving at work or a planned outing a few minutes early not only allows you time to find a good seat or scope out the area, but it also shows the person you’re meeting that you’re excited to be there and you respect their time.
By following this etiquette rule you show that you are responsible and care about the event you're going to.
Let Them Know You're Going to be Late
If arriving early is a sign of respect, then being late is a sign of disrespect. You’ve made a commitment to be somewhere at a certain time and need to honor that, but everyone knows that things happen and sometimes being late can’t be avoided.
Practice good etiquette and let the person you’re meeting know that you’ll be late, so they don’t feel like you’re blowing them off.
If You Don't Have Something Nice to Say, Don't Say Anything At All
This etiquette rule is commonly told to children, but adults could use a reminder, too (especially when it comes to social media). It can be easy to let a rude comment slip out, but you should never intentionally say something mean.
Practice good manners and before saying that comment, ask yourself if it is true, kind, necessary, or helpful. If not, it might be best to not say anything at all.
Tip Your Server
This might not seem like an old-school etiquette rule, but you might be surprised at how often people don’t tip (or don’t tip well). It’s common courtesy to tip 20% if your server did a good job.
Tipping comes from 17th-century British taverns where they would slip the barkeep some money to ensure fast service. It’s now considered rude to bribe someone for faster service, but showing your appreciation for good service is always welcomed.