Negotiating the modern minefield of manners can be a tricky business. Is it ok to air kiss your boss? Is tucking into your lunch on the bus offensive? And, does anyone send birthday cards these days? Fear not; Debrett’s, the British authority on social skills and etiquette, has unveiled their “What to do” guide to help you think before you faux pas. Here are their top 10 dos and don’ts:
1. Makeup on the Move
If your morning routine usually involves applying your makeup while sat on the bus or train during your journey to work, then you may want to think again. You never know who could be sat next to you. From a prospective client or a future boss to a potential admirer, applying you make up in public could jeopardise that all important first impression, making you appear disorganised and scatty.
2. Meals on Wheels
Busy schedules and hectic lifestyles mean that lunch can sometimes take a back seat. But is it acceptable to eat on public transport? The answer is an extremely cautious ‘yes’. According to the etiquette experts “It’s inconsiderate to eat smelly food in a confined environment”. So, as long as you keep your meals on wheels; odourless, simple (not sloppy!) and silent, you’ll keep your fellow passengers happy.
3. Mobile Manners
When it comes to using your phone, Debrett’s stress that there is one golden rule to remember: ‘it’s always rude to pay more attention to a mobile than a person in the flesh’. Texting, answering phone calls, surfing the net or continuously glancing at the screen when in the company of others is never acceptable.
4. Best not to Text
Texting is now one the most popular forms of communication but sticking to some basic rules could help avoid awkward situations. If you have to cancel an appointment, send a friend condolences or need to tell your boss you’re sick or going to be late, ALWAYS make a phone call; apologies will be seen as more sincere and better received this way.
5. Air Kiss Darling!
For women, kissing has taken over from the traditional handshake. However, in professional situations it may not be appropriate, especially on first meetings. If in doubt, air kiss. Debrett’s assures us that ‘an air kiss, with no contact at all, may seem rude or impersonal, but at least it is not intrusive – it is simply a social kiss, not a sign of affection to a loved one. A very slight contact is best, and no sound effects are needed’.
6. Healthy Handshakes
A simple handshake is the best type of greeting for all business situations and when meeting people for the first time. However, to avoid embarrassing errors there are some key things to remember; always use your right hand, ensure a firm but not bone-crushing grip, your hand should be relaxed not ‘limp’, ‘pump’ the hand two or three times before you let it go. It’s important to check that your palms are not sweaty or clammy before shaking hands. Lastly, always make eye contact when shaking a person’s hand.
7. Social Nettiquette
Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook have made keeping in touch with our friends and family easier than ever, but it’s important not to let go of our traditional methods of communication. Important news, especially births, deaths and marriages should be announced in person to friends and family before posting it for the whole world to see. When it comes to birthdays, a message on a networking site will never be as meaningful as a card, or better still a phone call.
8. Email Don’ts
Debrett’s reminds us that there is no such thing as confidentiality in cyberspace! So when sending an email, especially at work, there are a few things to keep in mind before hitting the ‘send’ button. Never write emails in haste or if emotions are running high; it’s better to take time to respond to difficult or tricky situations. Sarcasm and humour can often be misinterpreted; to avoid offending your recipient, especially if you don’t know them, err towards the polite and formal. Save smiley faces and ‘kisses’ for those you know well.
9. No Good with Names?
Remembering the names of people you’re being introduced to can be difficult and potentially embarrassing. When someone tells you their name, try to use it once or twice in conversation (but don’t overdo it), hopefully saying it out loud will help it to stick. If you do forget, don’t panic, a charming “I’m so sorry, I’m terrible at remembering names. . .” should do the trick.
10. Keep it quiet
If you like listening to music on your MP3 player or phone, don’t be a nuisance to those around you. Keep the volume low so only you can hear it, or, invest in a pair of sound-proof headphones. Avoid drumming your fingers or feet in time to the music at all costs and definitely do not sing or hum along, the general public may not take too kindly to your musical prowess.
[Photography credits: www.alamy.com]