Monday, June 28, 2010

Manners Monday: The Basics

Several months ago I came across an article citing a survey on etiquette. I wasn't at all surprised to read that 35% of those asked, rated Americans as having poor etiquette and manners. What was more interesting though was that 80% of those surveyed reported their own manners as being 'excellent'. It's the age old adage of judging others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. Sounds fair, right? ;)

Given that we all still have experiences with those that have less than stellar manners, I thought I'd do a little review of the basics. While many of you are aware of these common manners, sometimes it never hurts to have a little refresher. In these modern days when many things have increasingly become more lax, it's good to know what traditional etiquette still calls for.

1. Say Please & Thank You - It's amazing how simple this is to some and yet so difficult for others. When encountering flight attendants; waiters, store employees, cab drivers, business clients and your own family, friends and neighbors, remember to be courteous and polite. Adding to this would be saying the words 'You're Welcome' when someone has thanked you for something. While the words 'uh, huh', 'no problem', 'yup' or 'okay' are prevalent, especially here in America, it is not proper or polite.

2. Eye Contact & A Smile-Whether you are meeting up with an old friend, meeting new people at a party or interviewing for your dream job, be sure to make eye contact and give a warm smile. Not only does this put people at ease, but you will appear more confident even if you are in an uncomfortable setting. In some cases such, such as meeting someone for the first time, it is appropriate to entend your hand for an assertive handshake.

3. Use Discretion & Judgement- If you ever find yourself asking, "Is it alright to do, wear, say, 'x'?" then the answer is probably NO.  Whether it pertains to attire, gifts, greeting someone, leaving a party, etc., if you are unsure of how to handle a situation, do the most polite thing you feel possible and always consider anyone that might be affected or on the receiving end of a choice you make. Afterwards, be sure to consult an etiquette book on how to handle a similar situation in future.

4. Hold the Door - This is not reserved for chilvarous men, whether male or female, hold a door that you have just passed through for someone else. I am amazed at the amount of clueless passers-by that watch a woman struggle with a stroller and don't even make a move to help her, or those that are less gracious with the elderly.

5. The 'Right' Side- When you are on a sidewalk, walking up a set of stairs, on an escalator or riding a bike on the road, always keep to the right to avoid 'traffic jams' and bumping into others.

6. Turn the Cell Off- Cell phones have become quite a nuisance and have only gotten worse as all of the new applications launch.  Be sure to turn your cell phone completely off during a business meeting, social function, or while traveling via public transportation where others are enclosed in a space and forced to listen to your call. In other environments like the grocery store or the office, the 'vibrate' mode is most preferable.

7. Hostess Gifts & Thank You Cards- Always bring a gift for the hostess upon being invited to a party or event. It's best to bring something that won't cause her to stop and fuss with it, such as cutting and setting flowers in a vase. If it is a potluck event or you are asked to bring food or other items, the hostess gift if not a necessity as you've already contributed. As a guest, thank your host with a formal card. Hostesses should also thank anyone that has attended their event or gathering with a formal note card. In extremely casual settings, an e-card or an e-mail is acceptable.

8. Mingle- When being invited to a social event such as a wedding or even a business function, it's easier to chat with those you know, but well-mannered guests and hosts alike always make a point to circulate and speak to those they do not know. After all, it is the people, not the food or drink, that should be your main focus. How many times have you seen people flock to a dessert station or the bar only to linger for far longer than they should?

9. Be Kind- Treat others as you would like to be treated. Period. Even if you don't feel someone deserves the respect you will give them, be gracious and show respect and kindness at ALL times. There is nothing to be gained by being rude, cruel or speaking unkindly to another person.

10. Fork, Knife & Spoon- Whenever possible, even finger foods, should be eaten in the most polite way possible, especially while dining out with others. In very casual settings, using your fingers is acceptable for pizza, wings and the like. When eating meat, fish or vegetables, pieces should be cut as they are eaten, not sliced up ahead of time as one would prepare for a toddler. Sawing through food and stabbing a piece of meat as though using a pitchfork is not elegant dining behavior. Forks are also not replacements for knives, turning them on their side to push through a piece of food is not necessary unless it is a dessert, in which case using a spoon or fork to do so is expected. It shouldn't have to be mentioned here, but it still happens: no speaking while chewing and always push your chair in upon leaving the table.

There are literally thousands of tips that I could have listed here, but this post would have been huge! These are some of the most general essentials as it pertains to being well mannered.

Speaking of manners 101, I thought it would be cute to show you the very first book I ever read on good manners as a child. Thanks Mom and Dad!

Feel free to leave a comment and share a basic 'Manners' or 'Etiquette' tip that you have found many still do not embrace. Are there any on the list here that you feel you sometimes overlook. I look forward to hearing from you!


  1. Karla, I love this post! Whay in the world do people even have to be told or reminded about these things? I have three sons and their entire lives I swear they were still in diapers I told them to act like gentlemen. Open doors, please and thank you - on and on I could go . I was constantly complimented on how well behaved they were when they were little and now that they are young men they are complimented themselves because of their manners. Yes, I am very proud.
    Thank you so much for your comment today on my weight loss proclamation. I know losing it slowly is important as well as healthy. I just need to keep moving in the right direction. I will check out the video's you suggested , Thank you!
    Considering you were a personal trainer I think you know what you are talking about! ( :
    Have a pretty night,

  2. Love this post Karla! I'm trying to raise three little boys with manners. Always making sure I tell them to let the girls go first, open the door, say thank you......I know they will make amazing sand their wives will love me for it :)

  3. I love this post, too! Thanks for sharing it. It's amazing to me that children are not being taught simple manners anymore. I always tell my boys, "Treat your sisters like ladies, even when they don't act like one" and to be a gentleman always.
    I love that you reminded people how important a smile is. I have found you can even tell someone "no" in a situation with a smile and it's not so bad.

  4. You are the winner of the J'Adore Dior Image!!! Email me your email address to forward to the owner of the image.

  5. Thanks for your comments ladies, you all sound like fabulous mommies! I love that you all have boys and are encouraging such great manners at a young age. I think it's the greatest compliment as a parent to be told that your children are well mannered and well behaved. :)

    Thanks Amanda (M.O.T.B)-So exciting! :)


  6. Manners are something that can get you far in life. My son was quite a handful, extremely active, during his elementary school years but his teachers always remarked that he was so kind to his classmates and had wonderful manners. To me, that was more important that grades.

  7. Oh wow! You have a WEALTH of information here. This is my first time here and I'm in instant love, lol. I'm a happy new follower. <3

  8. Great article Karla!
    As a Mom, I take pride in raising my kids to be polite and am always over-joyed when someone comments on how well behaved and polite my children are-it's one of the best compliments you can receive as a parent!
    Have a wonderful day!

  9. I think everyone needs to read this post - it's a good reminder of the little things we sometimes forget.

    Working in a retail atmosphere is a constant struggle with manners. I'm amazed at how many clients answer their phones when I'm showing them around my I stand there and wait, or do I walk away? I'm left feeling like I'm the inconsiderate one.

    It's also disappointing when I greet clients as the enter the store, and they don't look at me, or they talk as they are walking away from me. Working retail has opened my eyes and taught me to be extra nice when I encounter those in the service industry and treat them how I'd like to be treated.

  10. Excellent! I am so glad someone is out there teaching those who have lost the art of so many things like saying THANK YOU. I hate sending a gift to someone who never even lets me know it arrived. I can't wait to dig into other postings on your site.

  11. Oh I read that book growing up! :)

    I can't say enough in the encouragement of No. 4. I have a relative in a wheelchair and I cannot count the number of times I have struggled to hold the door open while pushing the chair through and there are people nearby who not only do not make a move to help me, but they stop and stare as if we're in some sort of freak show! It is extremely ill-mannered, inconsiderate, and hurtful.

  12. Hi Karla,

    I have just stumbled upon your blog and I love it! It's extremely helpful to me (being a 15 year old girl). I think all kids should read this blog. People these days can be so rude!

  13. Hello Karla,
    I'm glad that I too stumbled upon your block like many others and needless to say,it was very helpful.I'm usually a kind of a quite person when alone or with my family.But, when my cousins visit my place , I tend to speak out and listen to everything they say for I don't want them to feel bored and ignored. I want them to feel at home and ease.

    They might even hate me and their mothers are going to speak behind my back, they are going to dislike me if i stop talking and responding to every single word they say. The only reason why I'm my aunty's favorite is all because I listen to everything their children says and they find me so naive, which I'm not. Just because I'm not saying no doesn't mean that they can go on insulting me so baldy and later on claiming that it was just a joke.

    How can a harsh insult be joke? I tend to joke but I never go on to such an extend that's going to hurt someone. Sometimes I feel they're taking advantage of me and though they are younger than me , they treat me as if I'm of their same age and speak so rudely. I feel I deserve some respect for being their elder ,caring for them and listening to everything they say but it's the total opposite.

    They don't even consider me as their elder sister and when I speak with someone else even a stranger, they would laugh and mock. Sometimes I just can't seem to understand why I'm treated this way. Is something wrong with me? I need some help. Sometimes I just feel this life always punishes those good ones and are in favor of those bad ones.

  14. Hello Karla,
    I'm 21 years old and I'm a guy and I loved your post. Thank you.


Thanks for stopping by, your comments make my day! I read every single one and will answer any questions you have. I hope you'll visit again soon! :)


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