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  • Writer's pictureKim Purscell

12 Rules of Modern Etiquette

Updated: Apr 3, 2020

In a world where outrageous behavior makes headlines, self-expression and individual freedoms often seem more important than following rules of common courtesy.

But consider this: Your behavior is your personal brand. Are you the kind of person people admire, respect and want to be around?

Some things change and others continue to stay the same. Start with these 12 timeless modern etiquette tips.

1. Use Your Filter: Just because something pops into your head doesn’t mean it should come out of your mouth. Before you speak, make sure what you are saying is productive, fair, helpful and kind. It is not necessary to offer your opinion at all times.

2. Show Your Teeth More Often: A pleasant smile goes a long way toward making others feel good. People leave a more positive and friendly impression on others when they smile. People who smile during exchanges with others appear more approachable and likable and leave the recipients feeling more positive than before. Smiling also plays a significant role in reducing stress and improving your mood and overall outlook. A recent study shows children smile 400 times a day while adults smile only an average of 20 times.

3. Prioritize People Over Phones: The average American checks their phone 80 times each day or once every 12 minutes. As captivating as technology can be, remember that face-to-face interaction with the person in front of you is more important. Put your cell phone away during conversations with others, during meals and at meetings. Give others the gift of your full attention and enjoy the present moment.

4. Set Your Own Standards for Behavior: When someone is rude to you, it can be tempting to be rude right back. Resist the temptation to respond in a particular manner just because someone else did first. Instead, hold yourself accountable to your own rules on how you treat other people. Make an effort to do the right thing, regardless of other people’s behavior.

5. Post with Discretion: Think before sharing something on social media. Never post anything that could embarrass those involved. If you post pictures from a party, be aware that your friends who weren’t invited will see them and it could lead to hurt feelings. Use social media to support others, not to bring others down.

6. Engage with the World Around You: Asking questions and showing genuine interest in others is the first step. Cultivate your curiosity in a variety of ways – study a subject you’ve always wanted to learn or try a hobby you’ve always thought looked fun. Challenge yourself and make it a goal to keep growing personally and professionally.

7. Avoid “Dropping In” on People: There was a time when a surprise visit from a friend may have been a welcomed interlude in the day. However, the world moves a lot faster and it’s impolite to assume that someone has the time to entertain you when you show up unannounced. By all means, visit friends in person – but make plans in advance in order to be respectful of their time.

8. Be on Time: This is a real struggle for some people, but certainly worth the effort. On the job, this is a relatively easy way to build a reputation of professionalism and competence. Personally, it shows thoughtfulness and enthusiasm for those you are meeting. If you are the type who’s normally 5 minutes late, do whatever it takes to arrive 5 minutes early instead.

9. Use the Magic Words: “Please” and “thank you” are still three of the most powerful words in your vocabulary. Along with a smile, the use of “please” and “thank you” can help foster a respectful relationship. Remember to use them at the office, at home and everywhere in between.

10. Respond to RSVPs Promptly: Responding within 48 hours is ideal; any longer and it will look like you’re waiting for a better offer. And if in fact, you do have a scheduling conflict, keep in mind the host has deadlines to meet for final headcounts and other planning details—don’t ever make them wait until the final minute. Of course, when you say you’ll be there, honor the commitment, even if you’d rather stay home in your pajamas when the event rolls around.

11. Use Your Best Dining Skills: Good table manners never go out of style. As with other forms of etiquette, the rules of dining are all about making others comfortable, so be ready to enjoy business or social meals with a solid understanding of decorum.

12. Surround Yourself with Positive People: Quality friends are sometimes few and far between. Aim to build connections with people that exude positivity and are supportive, especially when times get tough. Invest your time and energy on people who inspire you to be the best version of yourself. Good friends make your life better.

Kim Purscell is a licensed etiquette instructor and protocol consultant, an accomplished speaker, and experienced business executive. Ms. Purscell’s passion is to help people move upward in the workplace by improving their professional image, behavior and communication skills; and empower clients to present themselves with power, confidence, and credibility anywhere in the world. Ms. Purscell can be reached at

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