14 Social Gathering Etiquette Mistakes That Reflect Poorly on You

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Adulthood comes with many new experiences. Some of these experiences, like paying bills and doing laundry, aren’t very fun. Others, like company parties and dinner soirees, can be fun. However, many people in their 20s and early 30s don’t know how to act at social gatherings like this because they were never taught.

Obviously, the term “social etiquette” is a very broad term that can encompass many aspects of adult interactions. Most of the time, it’s not the day-to-day interactions that get people in trouble but manners at dinner parties and other social gatherings. Many people in their 20s and 30s confuse these adult events with the college parties they’re used to, and these issues can quickly cause trouble.

So, before you go over to your supervisor’s house for dinner or head to the company holiday party, review these social gathering etiquette mistakes that will reflect poorly on you if you make them.

1. Ignoring or Forgetting RSVPs

Hosting a party or event is not easy, and one reason it’s so difficult is that people don’t respect the importance of RSVPs. If you receive an invitation to an event, the host has done you a favor by locking in a date and letting you know what it is ahead of time. Therefore, the least you can do is let them know whether you’re attending or not. It’s a small gesture on your part, but it can make a big difference for the one organizing the gathering.

Social Gathering Rsvp
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2. Keeping People on Read for Too Long

Text messages don’t have read receipts, but most messenger apps do. Telegram, WhatsApp, iMessage, Facebook Messenger, and similar apps all have indications for when a message has been seen. It isn’t polite smartphone etiquette when you see a message and don’t reply promptly. This is called “leaving someone on read,” and they’ll hate you for it.

This only applies when the last thing they say carries an expectation of a reply. It’s OK to leave a “Good night!” or “All right, see you soon!” on read; it’s not OK to read a question and not answer it or disappear in the middle of an ongoing conversation without a quick “I’ll let you know in a bit.” Nobody likes being ignored.

3. No Heads-Up When You’re Running Late

Even people who are always punctual show up late at times when the unexpected crosses paths with them. But whether the cause of your lateness is beyond your control or your own mistake, you should always let other parties know that you will be late.

Social Gathering Running Late
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Going to pick someone up but run into heavy traffic? Shoot them a message when it’s safe to do so. Heading to a dinner party but had to wait for your babysitter? Let someone know. Even if you’re only going to be there in 5 or 10 minutes, it’s the polite thing to do.

4. Bringing Extra Guests Unannounced

If you’ve been invited to someone’s home, never bring unannounced guests unless the host explicitly clarifies that you are welcome to bring others. Even in more casual settings, like meeting up with friends for lunch or coffee at a local cafe, you should at least ask before bringing someone along. Some people don’t like to be surprised by unexpected guests, and depending on the situation, it could mess up the host’s plans.

5. Abandoning the Guests You Brought

If you bring guests anywhere, you have an unspoken social obligation to ensure they’re having a good time. That means you should stick by them during the event and make sure they have all the information they need to make acquaintances with others. “Friends” who bring guests and leave them to fend for themselves aren’t friends.

6. Showing Up Empty-Handed

If you’ve been invited to a dinner party or visiting someone’s home for the first time, it’s a good idea to gift the host something. Even if it’s small and insignificant, the gesture says more about your character than the gift itself.

Social Gathering Greeting Empty Handed
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You’ll know what to bring in some situations, like a potluck. Other times, like housewarming parties, people often bring items to make the house feel more “homey.” If you aren’t sure what to bring, many people consider a bottle of wine (or other alcoholic beverage the person likes) or a dessert to be acceptable items.

7. Not Introducing People to Each Other

Some social gatherings bring together acquaintances from multiple walks of life. Therefore, you may have guests you brought along who don’t know everyone there, or you may know two people at the event who don’t know each other. Either way, making formal introductions is proper social etiquette.

This doesn’t require much effort. A simple, “Oh, have you two met?” and a quick rundown of names goes a long way. In some cases, it may also help to share small details about the person, like how you know them, to help the two make connections.

8. Staying Glued to Your Phone

A social gathering is meant to be a social occasion. You’re all there in person, and the interactions are meant to be face-to-face. One of the rudest things you can do is play on your phone while a conversation is ongoing around you. Doesn’t matter if you’re checking email, Facebook, Instagram, or texting with your mom. People will find cell phone use offensive.

Social Gathering Glued To Phone
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If whatever is happening on your phone is urgent, excuse yourself to handle it. This is much better than burying your face in your phone as two people try to converse with you.

9. Pressuring Others to Do Anything

Here’s the thing: not only is peer pressure very real, but most people also don’t even realize they’re participating. It’s often hard to catch in the moment because it happens as part of everyday conversation. However, that doesn’t make it right.

Whether you pressure a fellow guest into “big things” like drinking or smoking weed or simply convince someone to participate in a game they didn’t want to play, it’s harmful. Nobody likes being coerced into anything. If you ask someone and they say no, take it at face value. End of conversation.

10. Talking Over Others

Doesn’t matter if you’re a guy or girl: no one has the right to speak over anyone else during a conversation. Whether in a serious one-on-one chat or an informal group shooting the breeze together, let people finish their thoughts!

Social Gathering Talking Over Others
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If you’re faced with someone who drones on and on and leaves no space for anyone else to speak, you can still be polite. Once the person completes a thought, interrupt with a question for someone else. This will encourage others to talk.

11. Asking Prying Questions

Most social gatherings are opportunities to mingle and connect. However, it isn’t the time or place to ask someone about a rumor you heard, nor is it the right occasion to demand someone tell you their entire life story. Don’t ask people questions about the intimate details of their life without establishing a solid foundation of friendship first. Also, don’t ask personal questions in large groups. All of this is poor social etiquette for gatherings.

12. Gossiping About Others

Gossiping is poor social etiquette in general. However, it’s especially poor etiquette at social gatherings. You never know who will overhear you, and the news could quickly get back to the person you’re gossiping about and cause conflicts.

When you gossip, others see you as untrustworthy, rude, and immature. This can strain both personal and professional relationships. What’s worse, gossiping at social gatherings related to work could hurt your chances of promotion down the line.

13. Cursing Excessively

Although the average American says 80 or more curse words per day, there are times when this colorful language is considered less acceptable. It should be common sense, but a coworker’s dinner party or an after-hours event with a networking group isn’t the place for excessive cursing.

Social Gathering Cursing
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When you are spending time around people in social settings, you want to remain polite and respectful of others. Some find curse words to be offensive, and using them in every sentence can leave a sour taste in that person’s mouth. If you mess up, simply apologize with a phrase like, “Pardon my language.” Slip ups happen, but remain mindful of what you say in these situations.

14. Leaving Without Saying Bye to the Host

Hosting a party or event isn’t easy. At the very least, the host has sacrificed some of their privacy and opened their home to you. Whether they’ve been a good host or not, the polite thing to do is thank them for their hospitality and wish them well before you depart. It’s a small and effortless gesture, but an important one. Dipping out without saying anything to the host can leave a negative impression that sticks for a long time.

Social Etiquette Matters

Whether you are grabbing drinks after work with some coworkers or spending your Saturday afternoon at a golf tournament for charity, your behavior and actions matter. Social etiquette helps you respect others and put your best foot forward. It may feel a little stiff at first, but you’ll get used to it over time. Just try to enjoy yourself and be courteous to those around you, because that is what’s most important.

And, if you’re looking for more great tips like these, read about how you can maintain adult friendships.

Frequently Asked Questions

What types of events are considered social gatherings?

A social gathering is an event, outing, or meeting involving more than two people. These events can include coworkers, friends, members of a professional organization, or other types of groups.

What rules should I follow when hosting a social gathering?

If you are hosting a social gathering, provide adequate information to your guests about the event. Also, make sure everyone feels welcome and you respect any dietary restrictions your guests may have.

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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.