17 Common Social Etiquette Mistakes You Didn’t Know Were Bad

Group of Friends High Five as Social Etiquette

Even though we do much of our communication online now, good manners are still necessary. Social etiquette shows you respect those around you. This respect helps us maintain friendships and establish professional working relationships with colleagues. Yet, for some reason, many people forget these common courtesies, and it shows throughout daily interactions.

If you’re a little rusty on proper etiquette (like most of us are), here’s a little refresher. Here are 17 common social etiquette mistakes you may be making without even realizing it.

1. Not Writing “Thank You” Notes

If you haven’t written a “thank you” note since second grade, that needs to change. “Thank you” notes are still alive and well.

Social Etiquette Mistakes Thank You Card
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Although you might think that thanking someone right after they give you a gift is enough, it’s not. Taking the time to express your gratitude in writing shows the gift-giver that you truly appreciate their present.

2. Waiting Too Long to RSVP

You received an invitation to a party and completely forgot to reply by the RSVP date. While the host is likely to let your tardy response slide, it’s still not polite to give such a late reply.

When you get an invitation, whether by mail or online, it’s best to reply within a few days. Without a solid response, the host will struggle to determine how many guests are coming. This creates tons of issues when it comes to buying food, drinks, and party favors. Just make your host’s life easier and reply promptly.

3. Bringing Extra Guests

Social gatherings come with their own set of etiquette guidelines that sometimes vary based on the specific situation. However, you never want to bring extra, uninvited guests to any event, whether it’s a party hosted by your friends, a work event, or a family gathering.

Typically, invitations will specify if you can bring a plus one. If it isn’t listed, then it’s safe to say your basketball buddy or the person you’ve been on two dates with isn’t invited. Bringing extra guests can create tension at events, not to mention it throws off the numbers in terms of food and place settings.

4. Gossiping About Others

Gossiping speaks for itself. When you start bad-mouthing someone else, the people around you feel uncomfortable, especially if they like the person. It’s a massive conversational turnoff that deems you untrustworthy and makes the person you’re talking about look bad. Just don’t do it.

Social Etiquette Mistakes Gossip
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5. Flagging Down Your Waiter

Your waiter isn’t your butler. Don’t wave, whistle, or yell to get their attention. A waiter’s job is to serve people, and they’ll get around to your table soon enough. Have some patience, and wait for them to come to you.

6. Showing Up Late to Meetings or Events

Punctuality is always a great characteristic to have. When you arrive on time or slightly early, you show others you care about them and respect their time. It also demonstrates your time-management skills and ability to follow a schedule.

Inversely, showing up to meetings or events late indicates that you don’t care about the other people involved. It wastes time, delays other meetings or events occurring afterward, and just makes people angry. So, always arrive on time, especially for a job interview.

7. Avoiding Eye Contact

When you chat with others, do you find your eyes wandering? You look at what’s going on in the background rather than looking at your conversation partner’s face.

Social Etiquette Mistakes Eye Contact
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Even if you’re listening to what they say, not making eye contact gives the impression that you’re not. You don’t need to stare into the person’s eyes creepily; intermittent glances make for a more comfortable conversation.

8. Assuming Someone Else is Footing the Bill

Going out for drinks with coworkers or grabbing dinner with a friend are fairly standard things adults do. However, you should never assume the person who invited you is also treating you. In fact, you shouldn’t even assume a date is paying for your meal these days, because that’s not always the case. If you’re going out with someone, always bring money to cover your meal or drinks.

9. Not Cleaning Up After Dinner

When someone else cooks for you, it’s only polite to help clean the table and put away the dishes. Not offering your help makes you look like you’re treating the host as a chef and a maid. The host might not want your help cleaning up, but the least you can do is offer.

10. Refusing to Use Coasters

You might not use coasters in your own home, but that doesn’t mean other people don’t use them, either. If you’re at someone’s home and you notice that they have a stack of coasters on the table, take one and place your drink on top of it. And if you don’t see coasters, that isn’t a freebie not to use one. Always ask before putting your drink down. Otherwise, your drink could stain or burn the surface of your host’s lovely table.

Social Etiquette Mistakes Coaster
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11. Leaving Your Napkin on the Table

Have you seen those cloth napkins at restaurants wrapped around silverware? Well, they’re not just some fancy silverware holder. The proper etiquette is to unfold the napkin and place it on your lap before eating.

12. Talking About Hot-Button Issues

We all have opinions about politics, religion, and other hot-button issues. However, this makes these topics a landmine, especially if you don’t know where everyone stands on specific aspects of the topic. Usually, it’s best to avoid these topics so you don’t hurt others’ feelings or start an argument.

13. Not Covering When You Cough and Sneeze

Sure, when you’re at home alone, you may not feel the need to place your hand in front of your nose or mouth every time you experience a tickle in your nose or throat. However, germs spread when we don’t adequately cover them. Therefore, it’s always proper social etiquette to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.

14. Talking on the Phone While Interacting With Service Workers

Having a phone conversation while ordering food or checking out at a cash register is a huge smartphone etiquette mistake. It’s the cashier or waiter’s job to communicate with you, and you’re making that much harder. Always hang up the phone before you make any transaction.

Social Etiquette Mistakes On Phone
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15. Placing Your Phone on the Dinner Table

In this age of technology, it’s hard not to get distracted by your phone. Leaving your phone on top of the dinner table shows that you aren’t interested in chatting with any of the guests. Texting at the table is even more taboo. so avoid it at all costs.

16. Pointing at People

Sometimes it is hard to identify people using descriptors. However, pointing at people can be a severe social faux pas. Pointing singles people out. They may think you are talking about them negatively and may become anxious. Some people may even feel angry. It’s best not to point, period.

17. Forgetting to Use Manner Words

Your parents probably taught you to use words like “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” as a child. Do you still use them, or have you forgotten? Believe it or not, these simple words mean a lot to people, so you should always use them.

Become Your Best Self

If you’ve made any of the above etiquette mistakes, don’t fret. We’re all guilty of at least one of these social blunders. If you know your mistakes and work to improve them, you can become a politer and more respectable person.

The next time you’re invited to a party, make sure you know how to drink appropriately. These social drinking rules will help you stay classy while sipping a wine.

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Megan Glosson

Megan Glosson is a passionate writer based in Nashville, TN. She enjoys writing about topics related to health, wellness, and everyday life, especially when the topic has a personal connection to her own life. Megan is currently published on over a dozen websites, including YourTango, Feel & Thrive, Moms.com, and The Mighty. Megan also serves as a content editor for Unwritten, a digital publication focused on millennial lifestyles.