Do you practice these eight social niceties?

We’ve all heard the saying “You don’t know what you don’t know.” I’m reminded of this quote often when people share with me their etiquette annoyances or faux pas stories. So often a person’s misstep is simply due to not knowing that their behavior is inappropriate. Or they aren’t aware of the proper way to do something. For instance, when I was talking to a client she asked me to share in the training that people should not pass in front of others. Apparently, this is something she has experienced when out and about at her work and it annoys her.  So, for everyone out there who doesn’t know what they don’t know, here are some social niceties that will make your social and business encounters a little, well, nicer.

Don’t pass in front of others

This simple tip can apply to many situations. When at a museum, don’t walk between the art and the person viewing it. This also applies to the grocery store when someone is looking at the items on the shelves; walk behind the person to pass. If someone is having a conversation with another person, don’t walk between them. When a person is walking and you’re trying to cross his path don’t pass in front of him, pass behind him.

Hold the door open for others

Manners and etiquette evolves with the times and one rule that has changed is that anyone can hold the door open for anyone. It used to be that women didn’t hold the door open for others. But today, women and even children can hold doors open and should. When someone holds the door open for you don’t forget to say thank you.

Remove sunglasses and earbuds

If you are wearing sunglasses, remove them when you talk with someone. If you have prescription sunglasses and can only see with them on, lift them to greet someone then put them back on. Apologize for keeping them on but state you need them to see.

If you’re wearing earbuds remove both buds when you talk to someone. Keeping one in looks like you’re giving the other person half of your attention.

Let women get on elevators first

Socially, a few chivalrous acts are still practiced and appreciated. However, in a business setting chivalry is typically not appropriate because it treats women differently than men. The one exception is letting women on and off elevators first. That is still expected and polite behavior socially and in the workplace. That said, if letting a women exit the elevator first means creating a log jam, then go ahead and depart first. Otherwise, it’s an “After you” kind of polite act.

Don’t touch or push people

If someone is in your way never touch or push them out of the way. I’ve been told that in China it is acceptable to physically move someone if they are in your way at the grocery store or other place where you’re trying to reach something. Not so in the United States. If a person is in your way say “Excuse me.”

Don’t ask personal questions

Never ask someone how much money they make, how much they paid for something, if they are vegan/gluten free, if they are married, etc. In some instances it’s even rude to ask where someone lives. Asking this question could make a person feel uncomfortable if her neighborhood is not suggesting of a similar income bracket to others. If you have to start the inquiry by saying, “I probably shouldn’t ask this but…” or “Would you mind if I asked…?” You definitely shouldn’t ask the question.

Make introductions

Always make a point to introduce someone you’re accompanying or interacting with to others you know. This important act makes people feel included and important. Simply say both people’s names one at a time while looking at the person whose name you’re stating. And, try to share something about both people – such as where they work, their job, how you met or hobbies or trips they are taking/took. This helps people have something to talk about with the stranger they just met.

Say please, thank you and you’re welcome

I know, I know, you already know this. But do you use these kind words? Do you thank the barista for making your half-caf, skinny, extra foam, mocha latte? Do you say, “Yes, please” when the Taco del Mar employee asks if you’d like sour cream on your burrito? And when someone thanks you do you say “You’re welcome” rather than “No worries”? Learn why I dislike “No worries” in this post.

There are many social niceties we perform every day. Many of them are things we do without thinking because we learned from parents, bosses and mentors they are important acts. What would you add to this list? Can you think of niceties you do that you notice others don’t?


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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 >>


  1. c.f on February 28, 2022 at 11:22 am

    just a teeny nitpick – “half-calf” should be “half-caf,” as in “half caffeinated”, not “half baby cow”.

    great post!

  2. Arden on February 28, 2022 at 11:48 am

    Good catch, C.F.. I just changed it. Wouldn’t want to order half of a baby cow for your coffee drink.

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