The Lost Art of Good Manners

Amanda Harper


If you feel like good manners have gone the way of the dodo, you’re not wrong; in today’s increasingly connected world, doing what’s polite often takes a back seat to what’s most expedient. The rules for what’s okay feel lax, but that doesn’t mean we have to abandon all social graces in favor of a quick text!

RSVP:  Whenever you have been asked to RSVP, please do so if you plan to attend. If you end up being unable to go, a text or email stating your regrets is a good practice. (This isn’t necessary for networking or mingling events where attendees tend to come and go and the guest list isn’t a tight number.) But one thing you shouldn’t do is “B-list” their event; if you’re not sure whether you will still want to attend when the time nears, don’t simply wait past the deadline to RSVP. Send your regrets right away and make other plans. Again, this is less important for events where the headcount doesn’t really matter, but it’s still good practice.

Zoom, Zoom: Virtual meetings are – as far as we can tell – a permanent part of whatever “the new normal” 
is. While it’s easy to treat Zoom meetings and appointments as more informal than their in-person counterparts, it’s important to treat the time with the respect it deserves. Be prepared for the meeting a little early to iron out any technical difficulties before it starts. Participate in active listening and give the speaker your full attention. Dress professionally – head to toe! – and ensure that your surroundings are as quiet and tidy as possible. Don’t attempt to multitask.

Thank you card: If you’re wondering whether you should send a thank you card, the answer is yes. There’s nothing wrong with sending someone an immediate text to express your gratitude – and if someone sends you flowers, for instance, snapping and sending a pic right away will be much appreciated. Still follow up with a handwritten note in a thank you card. Whether you’re thanking them for a gift, dinner, a place to stay on vacation, a job interview or a favor, a card will make an impression with the giver.

Phone down: We know that we live in a world of 24/7/365 communication. Family, friends, coworkers and intrepid spammers are continually trying to reach us. Putting your phone down for even an hour during the day can feel like being disconnected from the entire world! We’re here to lovingly suggest that, actually, that’s a good thing. Put your phone on silent and put it away in any situation where you should be experiencing the moment; at dinner, during a movie, when your friend is telling you about their latest escapade, during meetings, at weddings… the list goes on and on. Be present in the moment. This is not only polite but will subtly improve your mood in ways you won’t even expect.

Do lunch: “Let’s get together and have lunch sometime.” It’s easy to agree in the moment but hard to fi rm up actual plans. Do lunch! Get drinks! Have coffee! Get together with friends, family and acquaintances that you’re seemingly always putting off. If this is hard for you, mindfully set aside one lunch hour a week–say, Tuesdays–for spur-of-the-moment lunches, coffees or walks. If someone throws out a vague offer to get together, you’ll be able to respond with, “How about next Tuesday?” While we’re not suggesting you have to fi ll every Tuesday lunch, you’ll be surprised how much you enjoy these little outings.

Be kind: While there are dozens of little social rules we could list here, the easiest, simplest guideline for you to follow seems to be this: be kind. In any situation, if you choose kindness, your manners will be beyond reproach. While this doesn’t cover passing the rolls in the wrong direction, in most situations, being mindful, respectful and friendly with others will be more than enough.