“Society is getting ruder.” Every now and then, I hear someone say those words, and it always makes me sad. Clearly, there is some truth in that statement. I see people texting and talking on cell phones in all kinds of inappropriate places; handwritten thank you notes are becoming almost as rare as letters; and it is just amazing how many people don’t RSVP. But, what I dislike about the statement “society is getting ruder” is that it just sounds so inevitable—so absolute. When, of course, we have the power to buck the rude trends of the 21st Century and be models of modern politeness.
Here are some common etiquette mistakes and how to avoid them:
Talking on cell phones in inappropriate places: If at all possible, avoid talking on cell phones in enclosed spaces where it may disturb people around you, such as public transportation, restaurants or coffee shops. Silence your phone during meetings, appointments and meals. The rudest cell phone behavior I’ve seen lately was a woman who continued her conversation while ordering a Subway sandwich.
Inappropriate texting: People are texting just about everywhere these days. Avoid texting in any setting where your attention should be directed elsewhere. This not only goes for driving but also during meals, performances and in classrooms.
Not RSVPing: When invited to an event that requires an RSVP, respond as soon as you can. If you don’t know whether you can attend, discuss it with the host. Sometimes a “maybe” response is okay for a birthday party, but usually not for a wedding.
Dressing inappropriately: Clothing DOES make a statement and can certainly make the wrong statement. When in doubt about what to wear to an event, ask the host or someone else attending. If you don’t know, etiquette experts suggest dressing up rather than down.
Not sending a thank you: While emailed thank you messages have become acceptable in some situations, a handwritten note is still the most sincere way to tell someone you appreciate her/ his kindness.
Not introducing people: Introducing people used to be considered an important social skill. Taking the initiative to introduce people who do not know each other can help alleviate awkwardness and is just a nice thing to do.
For contemporary etiquette tips and suggestions for nearly every scenario, visit www.emilypost.com.
### Erika lives in Milwaukie and teaches writing at the University of Portland.