Little niceties that make a big difference

holding-door-openEtiquette has some specific rules that help you know what to do and not do, such as which fork to use on a crowded table or that it’s not okay to cut in line when a queue has formed. But, there are a lot of little niceties that fall under manners that are sometimes less known and are more subtle.

I was thinking about that recently when my husband and I went out with friends who had invited us to a play. They purchased the tickets and picked us up. We also went out to dinner before the play. There were several things we both did that fell under showing good manners.

Use clear language

When our friends invited us, they used language that made it clear they weren’t treating us to the play but rather inviting us. My friend wrote; “Would you and Eric be interested in seeing such and so play on x date with us? Tickets are $35 each.” That signaled to me that we would pay for our own tickets. If they happened to be treating us to the play they could say something like, “We would love for you and Eric to be our guests for the xyz play on such and so date. Can you join us?”

Make it easy on people

I thanked my friend for the invitation and stated we would love to attend the play with them. My friend said she would purchase the tickets. Since she made the invitation offering to purchase the tickets made it easier on us. It’s somewhat expected that if you suggest an outing for something that has tickets you will purchase them whether you’re paying for the tickets or splitting the cost. This is especially important if the event has assigned seating. If you’re making arrangements with a close friend, it would be okay for both parties to get their own tickets, especially if you’re younger and would be burdened by having to pay for the tickets for everyone even if you’re getting reimbursed.

My friend then asked if we wanted to meet for dinner before the play. I agreed that would be fun and gave a suggestion for a restaurant in the area that I had read about. I didn’t want her to have to also find a restaurant. Ideally, I should have suggested two different restaurants so that they could choose one that most appealed to them. But because this one restaurant had had such a great review and I had a feeling my friends would enjoy it, I just suggested the one restaurant. I also included a link to it in the email so my friend could look at the menu and prices. And, I stated we would be happy to go to a different restaurant if they had one in mind. I did this so that if she and her husband weren’t interested in the restaurant I suggested they would be comfortable suggesting another place.

Contribute to the cause

Typically when one party does the inviting and ticket purchasing, the other party should offer to pay for the extras such as parking and drinks or dessert at the event. It’s your way of saying thank you for the invitation and pulling your fair share. Unfortunately neither happened with our friends because my husband wasn’t fast enough with the parking. When purchasing the drinks, my husband was ready to pay for them but the cash register he was in front of closed suddenly and the one our friend was in front of took his money. So the lesson there was be sure to get to the pay station or have money out for the garage attendant before your friends and position yourself so that you’re able to pay for the drinks before your friend can. Or just make it clear that you’re paying for them.

Say thank you

Be sure to thank your friends for inviting you to the event both in person and later by email or a handwritten thank you note. Let people know how much you appreciated the invitation and the event. Even if you didn’t enjoy the performance, find something positive that you did like – such as your friends’ company.

Practicing these little niceties will ensure you’re invited to other events with your friends.  Are there other mannerly behaviors that you would add to this list? What are things people have done for you that made you want to invite them out again?


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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>

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