Modern Rules of Etiquette

Modern Rules of Etiquette

After reading an article in Inc. Magazine on business etiquette — ignore your phone during face-to-face meetings, send a thank you note, observe the 'elevator rule' of not speaking about the people you met with until you reach the bottom floor — I realized there are other rules of everyday etiquette most of us fail to follow on a regular basis.

For those of us who have forgotten what our moms told us, here are a few basic rules of etiquette we should all follow, whether in the office, out in public, or even in the privacy of our own homes.

1. Don't race to take the biggest cookie/piece of cake/piece of pizza. It makes you look like a pig, and shows everyone you care more about yourself than anyone else. Instead, let other people go first, stand nearby, and glare menacingly at anyone who reaches for what's yours. Not everyone will notice, and you'll look like you're showing restraint. If you can't manage the evil eye, then whisper to the offending grabber, "I already licked that one."

2. Don't play video games at full volume. Be considerate of the people around you, as they probably aren't as interested in your marathon game of Halo 3 or World of Warcraft. Similarly, don't whoop, trash talk your opponents, or shout loudly whenever your character gets killed. Other people are trying to work, and your boss' office is 30 feet away.

3. Don't photocopy your butt on the office photocopier. Today's photocopiers are not built as strongly as photocopiers from 30 years ago. And as Americans have gotten bigger, most copiers are not built to support our bare-bottomed bulk. So, use your cell phone instead. But if you are small enough to successfully pull it off without cracking the frame, remember to wipe down the glass with a disinfecting wipe for the next person to use.

4. Don't spend hours in a coffee shop, journaling through your feelings. For one thing, journaling is not a verb. And you look pretentious writing in your little notebook. (Unless it's a Moleskine. Those are cool, and totally make you look like a real writer.) Instead, you should be using a laptop. They're faster and more efficient.

5. Don't spend those hours screwing around on Facebook either. Facebook is not considered real work. If all you're doing is taking up space and sending out sappy inspirational quotes about angels and unicorns, do that at home. Some of us need to send important motivational business quotes on Twitter.

6. Do end cell phone calls before you get on an elevator. No one wants to hear you shouting, "I THINK I'M LOSING YOU. CAN YOU HEAR ME? CAN YOU HEAR ME? I SAID, CAN YOU HEAR ME?" You're inside a metal box that's inside a giant tube of concrete and steel. Nothing, including your cell phone call or everyone else's prayers for your slow, painful death, is going to get through.

7. Create a clear separation between work and personal life. While a lot of companies are trying to infringe on their employee's lives by making them work more hours for the same amount of pay, it's important to set boundaries and expectations. After all, you're working to support your family, not living to support your employer. To help establish those boundaries, rather than having a mature discussion with your boss, do small things to send a loud message. Invite your family to lunch in the company board room. Call your boss at home on the weekend with a work-related question. Show up to work in your pajamas. Eventually your boss will get the message and let you spend as much time with your family as you want.

8. Communicate clearly and loudly to people who assist you. They may look disgusted, and you may draw disapproving looks from everyone around you, but feel free to speak down to people in service positions, especially those people who assign your airplane seats, serve your food, or clean your hotel room. They love their jobs serving ungrateful mouth-breathers, so your comments are just one more in a big slop bucket of happiness and sunshine. And don't think about the fact that they're alone with your airline reservation, your food, or your toothbrush.

Those are just a few basic etiquette rules that everyone should follow in order to make the world a better place, or at least to follow around me. I'm trying to watch Netflix on my laptop at my favorite coffee shop, and you're distracting me.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My NEW book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook.


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