How to be a polite adult in 2017
Etiquette experts share manners must-haves to get you through any situation.
HOW TO HANDLE POLITICS AT THE DINNER TABLE
Sharing your opinion on foreign policy isn’t as gauche as it used to be. What is gauche is going off on the date your BFF brought to your birthday. “If people you don’t know very well start talking about politics and have a viewpoint opposite to yours, gently change the subject,” says Wendy Mencel, an etiquette consultant at the Canadian School of Protocol and Etiquette in London, Ont. If you know the person and are up for some verbal sparring, by all means pull your best Situation Room. But if the debate veers into argument territory, shut it down.
HOW TO DISCREETLY CHECK YOUR PHONE
Proper etiquette is to leave your phone in your purse and excuse yourself and go to the bathroom if you need to check it. But we’re not monsters — we’re okay with you putting it on the table, but flip it over so the notifications don’t distract you. Also, don’t interrupt your convo to check the number of likes you have on your #ootd Insta shot.
HOW TO BAIL LIKE A CHAMP
We all know someone who calls off hangouts at the last minute. (We’ve done it ourselves— we love our couch as much as you do.) Only bail if you have a good reason, and give as much notice as possible—the day before at the latest. If you cancel on someone who bought you tix to Frank Ocean or that Basquiat exhibition, it’s on you to pay them back.
HOW TO AVOID THE AWKWARD “WHO’S PICKING UP THE CHEQUE?” MOMENT
Instead of fake fumbling in your Prada tote for your wallet while your date grabs the bill, follow this golden rule from William Hanson, a U.K.-based etiquette expert. The person who did the inviting should pay — regardless of gender. Split the tab only if the night hasn’t gone well; that way you won’t feel like you owe them anything.
HOW TO DEAL WHEN YOU COME ACROSS A COLLEAGUE ON TINDER
This is dicey. Swipe left and they may feel snubbed; swipe right and you may match with them. Our experts advise being upfront if you’re tight enough: If the subject comes up naturally, explain that you swiped left because you’d prefer to keep your work life and social life separate. If you are interested, proceed with caution: There are no hard-and-fast etiquette rules on pulling a Pam and Jim, but if the person’s your superior (or vice versa), that’s a hard no.
HOW TO DEAL WITH A MANSPREADER
Resist the temptation to lecture him on male entitlement — it may be satisfying, but it’s so not polite. A simple “I know that it’s really cramped here, but I need a little space for my legs” will do.
HOW TO SEND A PROPER THANK YOU
Here’s the Emily Post Institute’s take: If your friend gives you a bottle of Moët at your birthday party, an in- person thanks is fine. (Also, can we be friends with your friends?) Email is best for low-key thank yous. (“That Big Little Lies marathon party was the best ever!”) Finally, written thank yous should be sent after celebratory events (weddings, baby showers, etc.) or for the notes and gifts you received when you were sick or in mourning. These should be handwritten and mailed within a year.
HOW TO SEND A PROPER WORK EMAIL
You need a subject line, a salutation and a sign-off (“Sincerely” or “Best regards” are the most profesh), and keep it brief. Skip the “read” receipt — it comes off as patronizing. And always avoid emojis, which scream unprofessional — not to mention they don’t always show up in Outlook.
HOW TO GHOST PROPERLY
Even if your date felt like you were the audience at a (terrible) one-man show, you should reach out within a day to say thanks but no thanks. “Ignoring the person is really poor etiquette,” says Mencel. Simply send a text wishing them well (unless they were rude or made you feel uncomfortable; then feel free to go dark). If you’re ignored, send one (yes, just one) touch-base text. If you don’t hear back, restrain yourself from calling them out — their silence is not personal. “A lot of people don’t know how to let others down nicely,” says Mencel. “They don’t like confrontation.” Finally, if your night went really well (like, “Good morning” well) and you want to hang out more, just ask. If not, a simple “It was wonderful; thank you” in person or via text will suffice.
HOW MUCH TO TIP IF YOU HATE YOUR HAIRCUT, MASSAGE OR DINNER
If you asked for an Alexa Chung lob and got “the Rachel” instead, you don’t have to tip the standard 15 percent — or anything at all. “Explain what went wrong and how it could be improved,” says Mencel. “If the stylist doesn’t agree, speak to the owner of the salon or ask for a discount.” Bad service when you’re dining out doesn’t merit a tip. Bad food, however, is not your server’s fault. If your steak is overcooked but your server is nice, let them know that you didn’t like the meal but still give 20 percent, which is the standard tip for dining.
HOW TO MAKE IT SEEM LIKE YOU REMEMBER SOMEONE EVEN IF YOU ARE BLANKING HARD
The key is to act fast: Confidently reintroduce yourself with a friendly “Nice to see you again,” and shake hands if it feels right. Most times, they will reply with their name. If that fails, fess up with a genuine “I’m terrible with names” or “I know I know you, but I’ve forgotten your name.”