Whistling while you work and other etiquette faux pas

Do you have an etiquette pet peeve – something that others do that drives you crazy? I was talking to a friend on the phone when I heard her shout “no whistling!!!” I didn’t catch who was doing the whistling, but she said she finds it very annoying when people whistle in public and suggested I write a blog post about it. I decided to add a few other random etiquette irritants that you might find grating as well or that perhaps you do and had no idea it is something that others find annoying.

Whistling at work and other public places

It seems that people who whistle are often cheerful people who are deep in thought. However, you happy whistlers may not know that your incessant whistling is driving your coworkers crazy. One might even say it’s noise pollution; akin to listening to music in ones cubicle without headphones. If you are a whistler, do so with abandon in the shower, the quiet of your empty house and while in your yard gardening. But please unpurse those lips at work and other public places to avoid annoying those around you who aren’t uplifted by your happy tune.

Not pulling up to the front pump at the gas station

While traveling to Vancouver, WA for a client training I pulled into a gas station to fill up my tank. The car in front of me stopped at the first pump rather than pulling forward to the second pump. There was no room to go around him to back into the pump space in front of him. Thankfully I was able to catch him as he exited the car to go shopping in the mini mart and asked him to please pull up. He happily obliged me. But, it reminded me that not everyone knows this gas station protocol. If you drive up to two empty pumps, pull forward to the one in front so that if someone drives up behind you they can access the other one. Also, if you will be doing a shop-a-thon, as this man was, in the gas station store before pumping and especially if you aren’t getting gas, do not park next to the pumps. Instead, pull into a spot away from the pumps.

Taking someone’s parking space

As I pulled into the crowded restaurant parking lot I was happy to see a car pull out so I took the spot. But, I was yelled at by someone who had been waiting for the space. I did see someone waiting, but they made no move to take the spot, so I assumed they were waiting for something else. Oops, very bad etiquette on my part! I should have gestured to her to inquire by sign language if she was waiting for the spot. Of course I apologized and was going to back out and give her the spot, but she took off after telling me I was rude. I deserved that, I was lacking manners. The moral of the story is if someone seems to be waiting for a parking spot, assume they really are and move on.

Not offering to get something for someone when you get it for yourself

Years ago, a roommate taught me, mostly by expressing her irritation with me, that when you do something for yourself, such as get a cup of tea, always ask the person you are with if they would like a cup of tea as well. This is being other focused.

Grooming in public

Clipping your nails, combing your hair, putting on makeup (with the one exception of a very quick swipe of lipstick without a mirror), flossing your teeth (I’ve seen it!), shaving, etc in public are big no nos. Save the grooming for the bathroom or a private place. It’s just too personal to do in a communal space, especially a restaurant!!

Disregarding RSVPs

If you get an invitation that says “RSVP” or “Please Respond” do so. When you don’t respond, you’re probably not the only one and the poor host ends up having no idea how many people are coming and therefore how much food and drink to prepare. It’s not that hard. Email, text or call and say yay or nay. Not maybe, not I’ll get back to you if I don’t get a better offer. Respond now, yes or no! And then do what you said. If you replied no, don’t show up anyway. If your response was yes, show up!!!

Not using your napkin

There is a reason napkins are typically on the table. They are meant to be used to wipe your mouth, your fingers and to protect your lap. When you sit down, put your napkin on your lap to protect your clothes from spills. Don’t leave it on the table. No one wants to see your soiled napkin on the table. Use your napkin to wipe your mouth a few times during the meal – especially before you take a sip from your glass to keep from getting grease and crumbs on your glass. Wipe your fingers on your napkin, don’t lick them. Your napkin is your friend. Don’t ignore it!

Letting your dog off leash in a leashed area

A Facebook friend mentioned he has been bitten twice by unleashed, so called “friendly” dogs at parks that aren’t off leash. That’s terrible! My husband and I have a dog aggressive pup and several times while walking him on a leash in a leash required park owners have let their unleashed dogs run up to him with nary a care. Even when I state loudly to the owner to call their dog because my dog is not friendly they have done nothing. So far we’ve managed to pick our little dog up before things get ugly, but I can’t tell you how stressful it is for us and our dog. There is a reason leashes are required in all but off leash parks. PLEASE USE THEM!

Those are just a few of the recent etiquette pet peeves people have shared with me or that I have noticed. What would you add to the list? Anything that really gets your goat?


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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. Connie Hyde on July 29, 2019 at 9:29 am

    So many of your topics are about common courtesies that we should all be aware of….. but sadly aren’t.

    A few of my pet peeves …. saying “yeah” instead of “yes”, not saying “please” and “thank you”, not looking at the person speaking to.

  2. Arden on July 29, 2019 at 3:58 pm

    Those are some annoying habits. Sadly, I am guilty of saying “yeah” instead of “yes” at times. Something I need to work on. Thanks for the reminder and for sharing your thoughts Connie.

  3. Elizabeth on February 21, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    Whistling in public places. Especially one lady at work whistles really loudly, you can hear her in a room with the door shut while she’s walking down the corridor. I work in a dental clinic.

  4. Schmepple Blingbam on March 3, 2020 at 12:00 pm

    Your article is more general whining. Who are YOU to lord over the decision of what people should or should not do. How about incessant chattering of women talking about etiquette? I’d love for you to shut up.

  5. Jay on September 20, 2020 at 6:44 pm

    That whistling in the house GETS ON MY NERVES!!!

  6. Karen (haha!) on August 3, 2022 at 7:39 am

    Oy vey@Schmepple.
    Common courtesies is more of a Christian thing so you may not understand it. Do unto others as you would have do unto you?
    We don’t worship ourselves as Gods and demand that others do the same and accommodate our annoying habits if we can refine ourselves to be pleasing to others. Being genteel is close to being a gentile.
    The coarseness of the world now — of F everyone and I am the only person who matters — has torn apart the fabric of the country. Now people assault each other in public, shove in line in front of others, chew with their mouths open, burp and scratch private areas in public, blast music going down the street, scream in libraries.
    Common courtesy is, alas, not very common any more.
    You don’t WHISTLE in public because it annoys others. Some people have audio sensory issues with it — where they can experience a harsh physiological reaction to high pitched whistling sounds that interfere with their concentration, happiness, peace, of mind.
    Why must you WHISTLE to annoy and harass others?
    Your rights stop where other’s begin. Just like you don’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater or blast your music at midnight when others are trying to sleep.
    A psychopath (mentally ill, mentally unstable, sick in the head) person only thinks of himself. If that is who/what you are, I pity the people around you and can assume other self-serving traits, like theft, deception, boorishness, physical/emotional aggression — because in your mind It’s all about YOU. Nobody else matters.
    I am sure these words are lost on deaf ears as someone with your mindset cannot possibly understand any perspective beyond his own. As long as you are making money, happy, indulging yourself and your whims, who cares what happens to your country, society, family, friends, etc? It’s all about you. Narcissistic much?

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