Modern Day Manners and Nicieties of Life for Teens (and everyone else too)
It seems to me that these days, we've forgotten a few basic rules of etiquette.
Nothing major, just little things that make life tick over smoothly and seamlessly and leave everyone feeling appreciated, or at least, acknowledged.
I have tried hard to instil some old fashioned manners into my children, most recently my daughter as she is the youngest and the one most removed from the days of the hand written thankyou and reciprocated invitations.
For example, we keep a stash of these embellished luxury chocolates on hand to use as impromptu gifts or thankyous. No special moment goes unacknowledged, no celebration ignored, no hostess forgotten. It makes both us and the recipients, feel special.
It's nice to be nice....really.
Here's a list of ten simple little rules of etiquette that are largely forgotten these days that I have made an effort to teach my teen.
1. Do not have telephone conversations when you are with guests. We didn't do it when we only had landlines, why do we do it now that we have mobile phones? It's just rude to answer the phone mid conversation with a face to face friend that you've made a specific arrangement to see, and carry on a conversation with someone who is calling on the spur of the moment. That's what message bank is for. If you simply must answer the phone, excuse yourself, leave the room, and if it's not an emergency, tell the caller you'll speak to them later. If you are expecting a call whilst with your face to face friend, do them the courtesy of warning them that you may need to excuse yourself.
2. Acknowledge gifts and invitations with a handwritten note. A text is nice, a thoughtfully worded email is better, a hand written note on a beautiful card or lovely paper is best of all. Facebook? I'm not even going there. Great for some situations, no doubt, but not for thankyous.
3. Be kind and sensitive to others. Don't talk about the great time you had with Friend A, to Friend B and C. It's just not the done thing, unless Friends B and C were there to share the fun.
4. Learn to give and accept compliments with grace and generosity. A simple 'thankyou' is enough when paid a compliment, and paying a compliment without gushing is an art in itself. 'You look lovely' or 'I'm so pleased to see you' makes the other person feel good.
5. When an invitation is extended, don't ever ask 'who else will be there'. The host or hostess shouldn't have to explain their guest list to you, nor give you opportunity to veto other guests. You either accept the invitation because you enjoy the company of the person inviting you, or you don't. Accept or decline on that basis.
6. Along similar lines, when someone invites you, it's rude to say 'I'll check my diary and get back to you' and then not 'get back to'. Everyone is busy these days, and assuming that someone else has time to chase you, because you can't be bothered responding, is poor form. It takes no more than a few seconds to either check your dates on your hand held device immediately, or to enter a reminder to do so when convenient, thus also reminding you that you need to respond appropriately.
7. If you must say 'no', then do so graciously. Phrases like 'thanks, I wish I could, but I have another invitation that day' or 'thanks for thinking of me and I'd love to, however I'm required elsewhere at that time' or even 'It's lovely of you to include me, but I have something that requires my attention then, unfortunately' is all that's required. A monologue about where your have to be and with whom and why is completely unnecessary.
8. When you're invited to someone's home, it's polite to take a small something to acknowledge your appreciation of the invitation. A few exquisite chocolates from a good chocolatier, a small posy of beautiful blooms, a good bottle of wine, a bundle of notecards tied with satin ribbon, a bunch of greenery from your own garden tied with twine and finished with a hand written card, or even home made jam, cookies or beautiful soap are all good choices. A box of supermarket chocolates is okay, but trying to tailor your gift to the home involved, is a lovely touch. Home made is great so long as you present your gift beautifully as well. Line a box or small basket with shredded tissue or cellophane and nestle your gift inside. Finish with a lavish ribbon and handwritten note.
9. Reciprocate invitations. It doesn't matter if your home is not grand or your furniture not new. What matters is that you make an effort. Some of the most fun times I've had have been in humble homes with good company and cheap cuisine. 'I can't cook' is never good enough. Anyone can heat a deli purchased quiche or buy a ready cooked chicken or some cold seafood, and tip a ready made salad on a plate. Make an effort to invite those who made the effort to invite you.
10. If you can't say something nice about someone, don't speak. Don't get involved in gossip. It will always come back to haunt you. And don't talk about one friends failings to another friend, even if you think they don't know each other. It's a small world.
None of these are hard to do. But they do enrich your life and the lives of those around you. I promise.