When I was in my twenties, I moved from Atlanta to New York City for my career.
Every day, I’d take the bus from my brownstone on the Upper West Side to my office in midtown Manhattan. Every day, the bus was jam-packed with people, and you were lucky if you were able to snag a seat.
Most of the time, I held on to a pole or the back of a seat, swinging around like a monkey (wearing high heels) every time the bus lurched to a stop. On one lucky day, I did get a seat near the front of the bus.
Within a few minutes, the bus stopped again, the doors opened, and a hugely pregnant woman climbed on. The bus was packed as usual, and there were no available seats. I looked around at the dozen or so men seated nearby, and I swear to you, not one of them got up and offered their seat. Ultimately I offered mine.
Now maybe that’s sexist of me to have expected the men to get up, but the truth is, no one made a move to offer their seat. I remember how appalled I felt at the time and wondered if an elderly man, or a person on crutches, or a woman with an armload of grocery bags had gotten on the bus — would everyone have stayed firmly in their seats and stared out the window? Didn’t anyone think it unkind or ill-mannered to allow a pregnant women to stumble around on a moving bus?
Having been raised in the South, I was indoctrinated at an early age on the importance of good manners. One of my mother’s proudest moments was getting a compliment from a stranger at a nice restaurant on how well-mannered my sister and I were. She beamed liked she’d won the Nobel Peace Prize.
We were taught that good manners were a sign of integrity, self-respect, and concern for others. But good manners also play a huge role in the function of society. According to a 2011 article in Psychology Today, manners and “other socially enforced rules of politeness not only help train us, unconsciously, to be better members of society and its institutions, but also ‘rewire and strengthen networks in the brain.'”
Manners didn’t follow us from Victorian England or evolve just as a way to keep children in line. They’ve developed over tens of thousands of years as a vital component of human society. In fact, they have helped the species survive, as we need to operate within a cooperative social group to stay alive.
In a world that is rapidly neglecting manners, they are actually more important than ever. Manners may have changed over time, but people haven’t. Being respected and appreciated will never become outdated.
When you use good manners, you stand out from the crowd and reveal a level of maturity, awareness, and care that many others don’t exhibit. Good manners create great first impressions, and they suggest an attitude of gratitude rather than entitlement, which is extremely appealing and attractive.
If you need a brush-up, here’s a list of 97 manners:
1. Say “please” and “thank you.” It’s amazing how these simple words can make a difference in how you come across to others.
2. Greet people politely when you enter their home, and be sure to say “goodbye” and “thank you” before you leave.
3. Wait your turn before you speak — don’t interrupt or talk over someone.
4. When you’re introduced to someone new, shake their hand and say, “It’s nice to meet you.” When you leave, say, “It was a pleasure meeting you.”
5. Apologize if you accidentally bump into someone.
6. When you receive a gift from someone, write a thank you note or give them a call to thank them.
7. If you need someone’s attention or need them to move out of your way, say “Excuse me,” rather than pushing past them.
8. Clean up after yourself, especially if you are in another person’s home.
9. When you are indoors, use an indoor voice. Be aware of how loud you are speaking.
10. Cover your mouth and turn away when you’re about to cough or sneeze, and then say “Excuse me.”
11. Avoid making rude noises (burping for example), but if it happens, say “Excuse me.”
12. If you are eating something in front of another person, offer to share it.
13. Hold the door for other people.
14. Always flush the toilet after you use it, and put the seat down.
15. Avoid bad language in front of other people you don’t know or those you think it might offend.
16. Return things you’ve borrowed.
17. Be on time.
18. Pay attention to your hygiene. Bad hygiene is offensive.
19. Refrain from talking in presentations, movies, and other places where people are trying to listen and pay attention.
20. Offer your seat to someone who is elderly, disabled, or otherwise physically compromised if there isn’t another seat available.
21. Don’t chew gum while talking to others or in more formal settings like work, school, or religious services.
22. Knock on closed doors before entering a room.
23. Even if an event is boring, sit through it quietly and show interest. The performers and presenters are doing their best.
24. When you see someone struggling with something, give them a hand.
25. When someone asks for your help, do it graciously without complaint or grumbling.
26. Always chew with your mouth closed.
27. Don’t talk with food in your mouth.
28. Put your napkin in your lap as soon as you are seated.
29. Wait until everyone has been served before you begin eating.
30. If you are eating a family style meal, pass bowls of food to the right.
31. Don’t make complaints or comments about food you don’t like. Try to eat some of it.
32. Try to avoid making noises (slurping, burping) while you eat.
33. Don’t reach across someone to get more food. Ask them to pass it to you.
34. If you need to leave the table, say “Please excuse me for a moment.”
35. Participate in table conversation. Be sociable and don’t rush to eat and leave the table.
36. Keep your elbows off the table and sit up straight.
37. Don’t pick your teeth at the table.
38. When you are finished eating, compliment the host or the person who prepared the food and thank them.
39. Make eye contact with the person or people you are talking to.
40. If you are meeting someone for the first time, shake their hand and introduce yourself, looking them in the eye when you do.
41. Don’t monopolize a conversation. Allow others to respond or participate in the subject and listen with an air of interest and attention.
42. Don’t change the subject unless it’s clear the conversation has ended.
43. Participate actively in conversation — don’t give monosyllabic responses to questions.
44. Offer a differing opinion kindly rather than arguing or putting someone down.
45. Don’t interrupt someone who is talking.
46. Pay attention to the body language and non-verbal signals of those you are talking with.
47. Avoid looking at your phone or other distractions when involved in a conversation.
48. Don’t gossip or say unkind things about others.
49. Always introduce others who join the conversation.
50. Yield gracefully and avoid further conversation when disagreements occur.
51. Avoid long diatribes or tedious stories.
52. Don’t swear or make off-color jokes unless you know the other person is OK with that.
53. Be generally modest when you talk.
54. Be prepared with interesting conversation topics.
55. In general, avoid political or religious discussions unless you know the person well and know it won’t be divisive.
56. Never raise your voice or speak in a dictatorial manner.
57. Don’t talk about yourself too much. Show interest in the other person or people.
58. Think before you speak.
Cell Phone and Texting Manners
59. When talking on your phone in public, speak softly and be mindful of those around you.
60. Turn your phone off in public settings like the theater or movies. Turn it off or silence it when you are engaged in conversation with someone.
61. Don’t make calls from a table in a restaurant.
62. When talking on your phone, don’t make noise in the background or multitask (like typing on your computer).
63. Answer your phone politely and with energy. You never know who might be on the other end, even when you recognize the number.
64. Don’t put the call on speaker without asking the other person first.
65. If you must take a call in a restaurant or other social setting, excuse yourself and go to a different room to take it.
66. Avoid talking to fast (or too slow).
67. Always be courteous and polite on the phone, even to a salesperson.
68. Don’t use texts as a substitute for real conversation. Never share important or sensitive information by text when you could call or speak in person.
69. Try to keep your texts short and to the point.
70. Never text while you are talking with others or at the dinner table.
71. Never text anything you don’t want the world to see.
72. Don’t use text shorthand and lingo unless you know the other person understands and never in a business or professional situation.
73. When you text someone who doesn’t know you and have your name stored in their phone, be sure to let them know who’s texting.
74. Texts can be easily misunderstood or misinterpreted. Be straightforward in your texts.
75. Don’t text after bedtime, as you never know if it might wake the person you’re texting.
76. Be careful when hitting the send button. Make sure your message is going to the correct recipient.
77. Text messaging is the most informal kind of communication. Choose who you text carefully, and always call or email when in doubt.
78. Never, ever text or read texts while you are driving. You are endangering yourself and others.
79. Show appropriate respect and deference to clients and those in your workplace who rank above you.
80. Always be a few minutes early for meetings or business lunches or dinners.
81. Be fully prepared for meetings and presentations.
82. Dress appropriately for your business. Women should not wear revealing clothing.
83. Be careful with your emails. Make sure you use appropriate language and grammar, and always check your spelling. Don’t email controversial or sensitive information.
84. Don’t use technology as a substitute for real interaction when it’s possible to have a face-to-face meeting.
85. Behave appropriately at after-hours business functions. Don’t drink too much or lose your professional demeanor.
86. If you work with international clients or business partners, be sure you know the expected manners and etiquette for their particular country.
87. Always avoid losing your temper, cursing, and other bad behavior in the office.
88. If you are sick, stay home and avoid infecting others in your office.
89. Keep meetings to the allotted time. Be respectful of other people’s time by sticking to the schedule.
90. Don’t overdo perfume or cologne in the workplace.
91. Never gossip or speak badly to those in your work environment about other people in the office or any of your clients or customers.
92. Don’t discuss your personal problems in the workplace, unless you need to share information with your boss that might affect your work.
93. Speak professionally and kindly to all people in your office, even those in a lower position.
94. Pay attention during meetings. Don’t look at your phone, computer, or other distractions.
95. Avoid eating smelly food at your desk that can offend those around you.
96. Never blame someone else for your mistake or take credit for something that you didn’t do.
97. When in doubt, always show courtesy, integrity, and kindness.
Good manners give us a framework for our behavior so we can be at ease in any situation. They make us more attractive and likable and serve as a universal measure of quality, character, and concern for others.
As manner’s expert Emily Post reminds, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”
What other good manners would you include in my list? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.