The world has sped up significantly. Technology and social media have contributed to an inter-connected landscape where so much is possible, so quickly — the world is literally at our fingertips. And yet, a pervasive sense of disconnectedness has started to seep through so much of it—there’s never enough time, always so much to do, and, still, so much miscommunication. Perhaps navigating this new tech-maddening world means adopting new social graces, new etiquette, a guide that can help us chart these new waters. We’ve already explored textiquette, Instagra
Just because you congratulated your 835th Facebook friend on the birth of their new child, doesn’t mean that it’s okay to do that with your real-time friends, or even your colleagues for that mater. Take the time to write a handwritten note. Both socially and professionally, this tiny gesture will make you stand out (mostly, because no one else is doing it). Your friend, the post office, and your decaying handwriting skills will be so grateful that they might decide to write you a thank you note, too.
PICK UP THE PHONE
We know… it’s awkward. But not so long ago, when people needed to communicate to each other, they picked up the phone and began speaking, actual dialogue, out loud. In personal relationships this can fortify real connections and contribute to building intimacy. Professionally, it signals our willingness and our availability to work through any challenges, often saving us from all those pesky back-and-forth emails. Go ahead. Break the ice, pick up the phone, and say what you mean.
Although we love our athleisure, there may be a reason we devotedly tuned into the glamour of Madmen for so many seasons (beyond the glimpse of what it’s like to drink whisky in the office)… the clothes! Just because it’s okay to go anywhere in your sweats and flip-flops, doesn’t mean you should. Dressing up is not only for you, but it’s a sign of outward respect towards the company you keep. Studies have proven that proper grooming is one of the most attractive qualities in the opposite sex— just in case you need more incentive.
The best ice-breaker for combating the growing atmosphere of social anxiety (i.e. people standing around in social situations pretending to be doing something on their phone) is a proper introduction. If you’re the host, this is your job. A proper introduction includes a person’s first and last name, and a little about the person’s profession, interests, and/or something that might connect them to the other people in the group. Finding just a tiny bit in common with the people around you can spark a world of dynamic conversation that can change the course of the entire evening.
The Victorian Guide to Etiquette states that one “should enter the house of your hostess from a quarter to half-an-hour earlier than the time appointed.” This is one Victorian rule worth keeping. It’s not only polite, but it speaks volumes about your character. Showing up a bit early signals to others that you respect their time. In today’s world, consciously or unconsciously, our behavior can take on a sort of a callousness as we show up “fashionably late” either because we want to seem important or because we’ve crossed into the questionable territory of feeling we may actually be more important (yikes!). Honor your appointments, and the people in your life, by showing up early.
CANCEL IN ADVANCE
There was a time not so long ago that we had to call and make plans days in advance and actually stick to them. The added convenience of a non-confrontational text has allowed us to turn into a society of flakes. Many of us are guilty of finding the next best thing and canceling our plans at the very last minute. We dare you to become the last reliable person in the world. A good rule of thumb is if it’s past 24 hours, you should probably stick to the plan.
PLEASE, THANK YOU, and EXCUSE ME
Referred to in traditional etiquette circles as the magic words, these phrases were encouraged as ways to “sweeten” the environment. Well, it’s safe to say the world could use a bit more sugar. These seemingly tiny exchanges between individuals add up to the total quality of your day. It’s the utmost sign of respect and consideration for the presence of another person—that’s important. Don’t override it while you’re too busy chatting on your iPhone at Starbucks. There is another human on the other end of that transaction, and they’ll appreciate it. Thank you very much.
ASK PEOPLE HOW THEY ARE AND MEAN IT
“How are you?” has turned into such a throw-away phrase, that most of the time it’s used as a buffer to politely get to your first point. But beyond it being an obligatory social grace, it really is an opportunity to connect and have a quality moment with another fellow human. Don’t miss it. Next time you’re in the presence of someone, even a stranger, ask him or her how they are and mean it, and watch as your world opens up.