It is 2023 and much has changed in the past few years – with many of us working from home and relying on technology more than ever.
And according to etiquette expert William Hanson, some may have forgotten how best to behave while in public, particularly with regard social settings.
He told FEMAIL there needs to be a refocus on the manners that best reflect the age in which we live.
William explained: ‘Society may have changed, but good manners are timeless, ageless, class less and priceless.
While William doesn’t have a problem with people using earpods, he suggests you should take them out when in conversation with someone
‘They will always be with us and needed.
‘However relaxed we are as a society, there will always be a code of acceptable behaviour.’
Here he brings the dos and don’ts of etiquette which will see us through 2023…
1. DO HOLD THE DOOR OPEN – TO EVERYONE
Good manners: He says it is always polite to hold a door open for someone, regardless of their sex
Traditionally, men often held open the door to ladies. This was often for practical reasons as women’s skirts were big and voluminous and they often needed both hands to get through a door. Today, you should hold a door open to people of all sexes. It is simply polite.
2. DO USE CORRECT PRONOUNS
While some people get het up about pronouns and think they are woke and left-wing, I think they are a good idea. When you work across the globe, often you don’t know if the person you are writing to is male or female.
So I personally think it’s better when you sign your email with he / she, especially when you have a name like Alex or Sam which could be either or. It is much better than addressing someone by the wrong sex.
3. DO WRITE THANK-YOU LETTERS
We definitely need to bring these back. Recently, I sent a few Christmas presents and I heard nothing back. I was wondering, what with all the Royal Mail strikes, if the recipients had even got them?
4. DO USE MRS AND MR
Why should we always use the phase Mr and Mrs? What is wrong with Mrs and Mr if a couple prefers that. It’s a personal choice and I think society should be open to things like this. Only a chauvinist would argue against it.
It takes hardly any time to write and send a quick thank-you note. And of course, letters and posted notes have more clout now as they don’t come very often. Even if you don’t have time to write a letter – which you do – you should definitely send a thank-you text. Gratitude will never go out of fashion – and it makes you feel good too.
5. DO IMPROVE COMMUNICATION SKILLS
Today, people rely so much on tech that communication skills can suffer in real life. Emails and texts can be edited. But people need to work on how to behave in social situations.
Especially after the pandemic, we fell out of the practise of reading body language, making small talk and eye contact. We’ve also lost the art of spontaneous conversation.
The key thing is to show interest in the other person. If they tell you about their day, don’t talk about your day. Instead ask a follow-up question and show some interest in them. I believe social media has made people fixated on themselves. But good manners are all about the other person.
6. DO STICK TO TRADITIONAL DRESS CODES
It used to be that there were five formal categories of clothing – white tie, black tie, morning dress, lounge suits and smart casual. But now on invitations, people often write ‘dress smart’ or ‘dress casual’.
Personally I find this too vague. People don’t know what to wear. So I would stick to traditional categories. People prefer going to events where everyone looks roughly the same. It makes people feel comfortable, so this will help with conversations. No one wants to look different or stand out.
7. DO DRESS SMART AT WORK
The pandemic means people now work at home a lot more. But on the days you go into the office, you should still dress up smart. Don’t think of this as a drag. Instead, understand that you have to do it less each week than you used to, so it is less of a chore.
Also, if you are going for an interview, you should still dress smart. Or if you really don’t know what to wear, stand outside the office as people leave and see what they are wearing. You should always make an effort with your appearance at work.
William Hanson is one of the UK’s leading etiquette experts offering classes in London and worldwide
AND THE DON’TS
8. DON’T GET DISTRACTED
Let’s face it – people are distracted and have short attention spans. But it is very hard to have a conversation of any substance with a person if they are constantly checking their phone, watch or emails.
9. DON’T TALK WITH EARPODS IN
I don’t have any objection to people walking down the street wearing ear pods. And I understand that they often have a listening mode so they can still hear conversations.
But I do think that if you are talking to someone you should remove them as a sign of respect. The same with sunglasses. It shows you are paying that person your full attention.
I don’t blame people for being like this – we are drawn to this technology. But we should still try and manage it and keep good etiquette.
Hopefully, the generations who are born now will be so used to it as they grow up, they will know how to manage it better.
When the phone was first invented, it took a long time for people to realise they didn’t need to shout down it. So hopefully, modern tech will go this way, and people will realise they don’t need to be on it constantly.
10. DON’T EXPECT PEOPLE TO LISTEN TO LONG VOICE NOTES
Personally, I like sending voice notes, although I don’t send them to people I don’t know very well. But obviously you can’t always listen to a voice note if you are in a busy place or a meeting.
When I send a voice note, I always tag it with a message saying something like, ‘About lunch tomorrow’ or ‘not urgent’. And I don’t expect an immediate reply.
I don’t approve of long voice notes, however, and wasting someone’s time. Thankfully, the tech has adapted so you can now fast forward them.
11. DON’T DO A SOCIAL KISS
While I think handshakes are still acceptable, I think post-pandemic people are thinking more about doing the social kiss.
People are now – rightly – much more aware about having their own personal space and not being around other people’s germs. So I think it is fine to not do social kisses as a greeting.
12. DON’T LEAVE A MEAL BEFORE EVERYONE HAS FINISHED
Yes, society is relaxed. But it is still polite to remain at the table until everyone is finished. If you urgently need the loo, this should be done after the main meal and before pudding. But ideally, both adults and children should stay at the table until everyone is done.
William suggests that you shouldn’t leave a dinner event once you have sat down. And if you have to use the loo, you should do it just before pudding