Etiquette Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Reputation

Arriving late. Answering a call on your cell phone while talking to someone. Refusing to slow down for another driver to change lanes.

All of these behaviors exhibit bad manners and send the message, “’I only care about me, not you,’” says Peter Post of the Emily Post Institute. It isn’t intentional; people are rude without realizing it.

In our country, the second most casual in the world (Australia is first), manners are a differentiator, says Pamela Eyring, president of The Protocol School of Washington. Set yourself apart from everyone else with these etiquette tips and earn a reputation for being polite.

Don’t use your cell phone when you’re with people. Eyring says it’s not polite. If you must, alert them that you’re expecting an important call, text or email, and go somewhere private to answer it.

Be gracious on social media. An unflattering picture or post on Facebook can ruin your reputation. Tell friends to ask for your permission before posting pictures of you.

Anna Post (the great, great granddaughter of America’s etiquette expert, the late Emily Post) has seen her share of etiquette mistakes on Facebook. She says to avoid the following social media faux pas:

  • Saying anything negative. “It comes out snarky.”
  • “Liking” sad news. Write a comment instead.
  • Holding private conversations. Address your entire audience.
  • Complaining about work. Your boss or clients could be reading.

Be a good party guest (and host). First and foremost, don’t get drunk, Eyring says. It’s embarrassing. Also, don’t drink when someone is toasting you. It’s like saying, “Hooray for me.”

  • Dress for the occasion. Women should dress their age and avoid showing cleavage. Men should wear clean shoes — no worn-out heels — and socks without holes.
  • Keep pets away from guests. Not everyone is a fan of animals.
  • Don’t hold your fork and knife like a dagger.
  • Send a thank you note.

Follow these other basic etiquette guidelines in all situations.

“Etiquette is not about making you look good, it’s about making other people feel comfortable,” says Ellen Clayton, co-owner of the Etiquette School of Chicago. Here’s how she says to do it:

  • Introduce people. It matters more that you do it than how it’s done.
  • Respond to invitations. Don’t renege once you’ve accepted or it looks like you took a better offer.
  • Return phone calls, text messages and emails.
  • Don’t interrupt people.
  • Don’t smell.

If it seems too much to remember, follow this timeless advice from Emily Post, and you’ll always appear polite: “Manners are a sensitive awareness to the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, it doesn’t matter what fork you use.”

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