By: Maralee McKee, Manners Mentor
It seems like it should be simple enough to know when it’s polite for us to stand to welcome or say goodbye to someone. But that’s not the case. At least not anymore. It was fairly straightforward fifty years ago, but etiquette evolves to meet the sensibilities of each generation. And this is one of the places you’ll find etiquette has done somersaults for us to keep up with our changing social norms.
With the changing roles of women in the workplace, and workplace etiquette becoming more the norm in social situations (especially in the US), this area of etiquette has undergone almost a total revision from what it was 25 or 30 years ago.
If you haven’t checked out the etiquette of when to stand and why since you were taught it by your mom or grandmother, you’ll want to incorporate these modern manners into your everyday encounters so that your interactions are in sync with today’s best practices.
The manners are easy to learn. And with these skills at hand, you’ll be able to rise to the occasion (literally and figuratively!) to interact with ease and graciousness as you greet and interact with colleagues, new friends and old, and family members!
Here’s What We’ll Discover!
What are best practices for when a man should stand?
Should a woman stand to greet a man?
Do you need to stand each time someone at your table gets up or just the first time?
Should you stand up if it’s going to make those near you who’ve remained seated look bad?
When to Stand and Why It’s Polite — The Most Up-to-Date Manners
Why does it matter? What does it show?
Standing up sends a signal from across the room that you’re willing and eager to greet and welcome the other person into your here-and-now. It speaks well of you even before you’ve had an opportunity to say your first word because it shows by your action that you’re a welcoming person.
Whether it’s a social conversation, a business meeting, or a meal, it sends the message that you’ve noticed the person(s) and they’re worth your effort to rise from your comfortable sitting position to meet and welcome them. When you stand, you literally rise to the occasion of showing respect to them. Here are additional skills for gracious greetings that will set you apart. And here’s what to do when you’re getting ready to introduce or greet someone and you realize you’ve forgotten the person’s name!
What Are the Current Best Practices for When a Man Should Stand?
1.) The first time a man or woman joins your group at a business event. This could be at a dining table, at a boardroom table, near you at a reception or party, or even when someone joins your conversation in a public area like the lobby of a hotel or convention hall.
2.) In a social setting, each time a woman joins or leaves your group. Yes, this does mean that if she goes to the bathroom four times, you have to stand eight times! This applies to more than dining tables; it also applies to when a lady is in your small group. An example would include six or eight people talking together in the living room of someone’s home.
Grace Note: This doesn’t apply in workplace situations where you would stand just twice: first to initially greet her, and once when she departs at the end of the meeting, meal, etc. In business settings you rise just twice; you rise the first time to greet the person, male or female, and the second time to say goodbye.
3.) Socially and professionally, each time someone enters your office, or you’re introducing yourself or being introduced, or someone approaches you to talk. You certainly don’t need to stand each time an associate enters your office, although you can if you want. In some formal corporate cultures (these are rare in the US these days), associates will stand when a supervisor enters or leaves. Normally, that’s even reserved for high-ranking members of the corporation: CEO, CFO, board members, etc. In these instances, know your corporate culture and follow it. And when in doubt, err on the side of being polite to everyone, since none will mind that you were kind enough to rise to greet them!
4.) Every time you shake hands. You never want to shake hands while sitting. Because shaking hands is the only acceptable form of touch between people who aren’t intimate, you want to be at your best when shaking hands, and part of that includes standing.
5.) Anytime you’re saying hello or goodbye. Since we want to shake hands when we say hello and goodbye, we’ll want to be standing. (See number four above.)
What Are the Current Best Practices for When a Woman Should Stand?
This is where etiquette has really evolved! Our grandmothers and perhaps even our moms would not have stood to greet others (except guests in their homes). No longer. In fact, ladies, look above at the five manners listed for men; except where noted, they apply equally to us! Here you’ll find the simple formula for making a great first impression every time.
So, yes, a lady does stand to greet a gentleman.
And that’s good because the physical and symbolic act of rising to greet or say goodbye to someone speaks volumes, and they’re volumes that shouldn’t be off limits to ladies!
The one exception is that women don’t need to stand each time another woman comes or goes from our table or group; stand only to greet her initially and then again when she leaves.
Gentlemen, Should You Stand Up When Women Come and Go from the Table If It’s Going to Make the Men Near You Who’ve Remained Seated Look Bad?
This is a question I’m asked by men in almost every professional etiquette seminar I present. It shows a consideration on their part for the feelings of the men around them who don’t stand when their own wives or dates leave or return to the table.
The best thing to do is to stand whenever a woman leaves the table the first time. If her husband or date made no attempt to stand, then I wouldn’t recommend standing to greet her after that.
Standing the first time makes you chivalrous. Twice or more makes you seem preachy, but not in a good way! For your own wife or date, you can, of course, continue to stand.
Ladies, Should You Have All the Men at the Table Getting Up and Down Every Time You Leave or Return?
It’s always kind of a man to stand when you enter or exit the table or a small group setting. But I feel bad having them get up and down every time I need to go to the bathroom, check on one of my children, or for any other reason that I leave the table or excuse myself from the conversation for a few minutes. Let them stand the first time you leave. When you return, as you approach, say to no one in particular very nicely, “Please, don’t get up.”
If someone does stand, say a quiet and kind “Thank you!”, and don’t insist he not do it again, because your request would be distracting to the dinner and/or the conversation.
Gentlemen, once a lady requests you not to stand, it’s kinder to honor her wishes than to stand on tradition.
Because in the End…
Manners are all about making people feel comfortable and nothing about putting on a show of “properness.” It’s not true kindness unless it’s authentic kindness. And while we should, man or woman, rise to the occasion of being the best version of ourselves, there’s a line between doing it for the attention it brings to ourselves and honoring the wishes of others. And manners are ALL about others first. It’s just that when we use them, they have the added benefit of making us look and feel good, too!
Make sure to click on the links to the other articles in this post because you won’t have the full picture until you’ve read those.
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Until next time…
Hugs and blessings, (And, please picture me standing as I say goodbye!) 🙂