7 Etiquette Rules You’re Probably Breaking Without Knowing It

There are common etiquette rules most of us break without knowing it. Here are 7 often-overlooked manners to know and use so that you’re in control of the impression you’re making. Put these manners to work for you, and your best will shine through every day!

By: Maralee McKee, Manners Mentor

Watching the news pop up on my cellphone with one startling and often fear-producing and heartbreaking story after another, I almost get the feeling that the world is spinning faster and faster — and in the wrong direction. You might think that with such important problems in our world to solve, there’s little positive difference in our lives that we can get from etiquette rules (best practices for daily situations).

None of the manners you’ll find below will solve world problems. That’s a given.

Yet that doesn’t mean they’re not of value.

While we work towards and wait on the world to be more civil (in the largest sense of the word), we can heighten our sensitivity to others by practicing daily civility — putting into practice other-centered, sincere kindnesses that show we know our own value, and that we value others just as generously. What happens when we do this is that we begin to make our corner of the world a little kinder and less stressful for us and the people our lives intersect with.

No, the etiquette rules below aren’t world changers. They’re us changers. And therein lies their special value. Our own actions are one thing we’re in control of when it comes to positive changes.

And don’t allow yourselves to be weary or disheartened in planting good seeds, for the season of reaping the wonderful harvest you’ve planted is coming! Take advantage of every opportunity to be a blessing to others…

Galatians 6:9-10a (TPT)

The list below could be endless, yet the seven etiquette rules you’ll find are the perfect way to begin to make our corner of the world more civil, and the best part is that we can start right now!

7 Etiquette Rules You’re Probably Breaking Without Knowing It

1) Don’t hold people hostage to one-sided phone conversations.

Cellphones are a common part of our lives. Most of us have our phone on us or near at all times. We wouldn’t think of leaving the house without it, because it’s our lifeline to breaking news, social networks, and conversations with our friends, family, and business associates.

People are much more tolerant of cellphone conversations in public than they were just five years ago. That’s because we’ve had five additional years of exposure to the conversations making it easier for us to tune them out when they don’t involve us.

However, it’s still considered inconsiderate to talk on our cellphone any place where persons nearby are forced to hear a one-sided conversation. These places include waiting rooms of any kind (especially doctors’ offices!), checkout lanes, public transportation, elevators, public restrooms, and any place where others don’t have the option of getting up and leaving the area.

Why? Our brains literally can’t tune out one-sided conversations in the way that they can tune out hearing two or more people engaged with each other in conversation. It’s been shown that since we can’t tune out the incoming signals, our brain doesn’t know exactly what to do with them, so it places them in the same spot it places anxious (scary) thoughts. We literally become stressed!

Let’s not be part of that stress. Taking our cellphone conversation out of the ear-range of others is not only nice, it’s necessary to not add stress to the people around us.



2) Keep your right hand free when you’re meeting and greeting other people.

85 to 90 percent of people in the U.S. are right-handed.

That means that almost all of us naturally hold anything we pick up in our right hand or over our right shoulder. Yet that hand should be left free whenever possible in order to be able to shake hands without hesitation.

Why? The impression we make on others that stays with them after we’ve met has a lot to do with our handshake. Having our right hand free and ready to extend for a handshake is the way we extend our personal olive branch to others. They may well notice our effort, causing them to extend their own olive branch to others.

3) Change your mode of communication after three back-to-back exchanges on the same subject.

Information and your “written voice” can get misinterpreted after three back-to-back exchanges on the same subject using the same form of communication unless you’re talking in person or on the phone. For non-voice forms of communication, try to go up one notch on the communication ladder.

Why? It brings fresh air to the conversation and may call attention to any miscommunication. So for instance, if you’re talking to someone on Facebook and you know their email address, send them an email or at least a Facebook message. If you’ve been texting, go ahead and call the person. Even if you end up leaving a voice mail, that still allows you to state things the way you understand them and to bolster the conversation with your tone of voice. Five out of every six phone calls go to voice mail, so be prepared in advance with the messages you’ll leave, and know how to do so in such a way that the recipients will take action. They’ll pick up on your communication style and likely will improve their own as a result.

4) RSVP within 24 hours!

RSVP loosely translates from French as “Please Respond.” It’s an easy request. It just means that the hosts are asking us to let them know whether we’re coming to their party or event so that they can plan seating, food, and anything else they need to arrange for our needs and comfort. Knowing that, we always want to RSVP within 24 hours.

Why? A fast response signals that you’re honored to be included in the event! Even if it’s an event you don’t care to attend and you’re declining, when you respond quickly, you’re acknowledging that you were included, and you’re giving the host time to plan for you or to extend the invitation to someone else.

Think of it like this. If I held up a $100 bill and asked whether you wanted it, I doubt you’d wait for two weeks (or forget entirely!) to let me know you accept my invitation to take the money. Instead, you’d probably very quickly say something like, “Thank you for thinking of me, Maralee!”

Our timely response is our outward expression of our inward consideration!



5) Type your name at the end of your text message unless you’re positive the other person has added you as a contact.

Have you ever received a text message and thought to yourself, “Who is this from?” We all have, and it’s frustrating because, until we know who we’re talking to, it’s hard to know the best thing to text back to the person. This is especially true in the dreaded group text!

Why? There are etiquette rules for graciously sending and responding to texts. Letting people know who just sent them a message is near the top of the list. Following texting etiquette rules will set you apart as someone who cares about the impression you make and the way you interact with others.

6) Acknowledge gifts the same day you receive them.

When you receive a gift, always let the sender(s) know the same day it arrives, even if you’re not going to open it until some other day. Preferably, call them. Even if you end up having to leave a voice mail, they’ll still be able to hear the appreciation in your tone of voice!

Why? They need to hear from you that their gift arrived safely. A UPS tracking notification isn’t nearly as personal! Your own voice also expresses that you appreciate them and their kindness. Everyone likes feeling appreciated! It’s the core of gratitude and the best kind of thank you!

7) At work, treat everyone’s cubicle as if it has a door.

When you approach someone’s cubicle, stand at the entrance and knock gently on the side wall, even if your “knock” is you saying, “Excuse the interruption, Chris. Do you have a moment for me to ask you about…?”

Why? It’s not only the person in the corner office who deserves the privacy of a door. Everyone should have that privacy, even if their “door” is an imaginary one. Knocking will show you’re not the type of person who assumes that someone who is visible must be available. Your coworkers will pick up on your respect for their privacy and likely will pay it forward by respecting the privacy of others.



7 Etiquette Rules You’re Probably Breaking Without Knowing It…But Now You Know!

Being kind and civil to others shines a flattering spotlight on them, and it increases our own happiness and confidence. It lowers our anxiety levels and the levels of those around us; and it causes others to perceive us as more competent and trustworthy. We won’t change the world, but we will positively affect ourselves, thereby impacting others, and that’s a great start!

Blessings and hugs,

my signature






Maralee McKee

About Maralee McKee

Maralee McKee is the founder of Manners Mentor. With her best-friend style, sense of humor, and knack for updating etiquette to meet our modern sensibilities, she has been referred to as "Sandra Bullock meets Emily Post!" Maralee shows you how to become the best version of yourself. No fluff. No pretense. Just you at your authentic best! The person you were always meant to be! To learn more about Maralee click on the "Meet Maralee" or "New? Start Here" links at the top of this page.

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