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10 Things People Don't Say or Do Anymore — And Should

Words and actions do matter so where did all the polite ones go?


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Call them pet peeves. Call them the decline of civilization as we know it. But whatever you call these bruises to our rules of etiquette, please just don’t call them an improvement.

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1. People don’t say, “No, thank you.”

This is the correct response to turning down something you are offered. Instead, some have taken to responding with “I’m good.” I’m glad you are well – or maybe you mean you excel at something, but all I’m asking is if you’d like another helping of spinach. (For those who care, “good” is an adjective and “well” is an adverb.)

2. They also don’t thank you properly. `

Some people don’t bother letting you know that your gift arrived or that they appreciate the help you gave them setting up for a party or the ride to the airport you provided at 6 a.m. when their Lyft didn’t show. No, sending a thank-you text and heart emoji is not the correct response. While nobody enjoys wasting paper or likes having to buy a postage stamp, a handwritten note requires a greater effort and, thereby, reflects a higher degree of your appreciation. Heck, I’d even settle for a phone call or a small gift from wherever that plane took you.

3. People don’t say, “You’re welcome.”

When someone thanks you, “no problem” is not the appropriate response. If “you’re welcome” can’t roll off your tongue, try “it was my pleasure” or “I was happy to help.” Assuring me that you were not the least bit inconvenienced or pained by doing something nice for me doesn’t cut it.

4. Where oh where has “I’m sorry” gone?

This wonderful catchall apology phrase has been misused and abandoned of late.  It’s been replaced with “my bad” when someone does you wrong.

At least the “my bad” crowd is owning their mistakes. That’s way better than “I’m sorry you feel that way,” where the offender is apologizing for how you reacted to his actions, not the actions themselves. Thanks, but there’s no need for you to apologize for my feelings. I own them. What you own is what you said or did.

And then there are the people who say, “I’m sorry, but …” This is a first cousin to “yes, but.” “Yes, but” means no. And “I’m sorry, but” means you are not sorry at all.

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5. “Kids should be seen but not heard.”

While this phrase has been justifiably canceled from modern culture, the message behind it is an evergreen that speaks to how we raise our children. Children don’t innately know how to behave. They must be taught. We want them all to feel cherished and loved and learn to be respectful, helpful little humans. While they may be the center of their parents’ universe, that universe doesn’t always include other adults. Kids need to learn the rules of behavior in restaurants, at other people’s homes, on public transportation. Manners matter.

And I would like to use this space to apologize to the entire Economy cabin on Hawaiian Airlines for the time we took our toddler son to Maui. He is now in his mid-20s, but if you were on that flight, you likely remember him. I’m sorry.

6. You should show up on time.

We all know someone who is perpetually late to everything. They admit they are “always late” as a way of apologizing for it. Here’s the reality: If you are always late, you most definitely are not sorry about it. If you are always late, you are OK with disrespecting the people you have kept waiting for you in the restaurant or on the street corner. You are messaging that your time is valuable but theirs is not. Sure, every so often things happen that cause someone to be late. That’s not who we are talking about. Don’t be the perpetual latecomer.  

7. Stop ignoring RSVPs.

When you get an invitation, check the calendar and determine if you can and want to attend the event. Then tell the host your decision. Period. To do otherwise creates the impression that you are waiting for a better offer to come along. And even if that isn’t your intention, your host wants to know they have enough food and drink and chairs for those who are able to come.

And while you’re looking at the RVSP, please take note of who has been invited. Bring along a plus-one only if it says you can.

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8. Don’t be a phone zombie.

I have to admit, it can be amusing to watch those videos where the guy with his nose in his phone walks down the street and straight into the open manhole. In person, though, such phone zombies are pretty annoying in public places talking to themselves in loud voices for everyone to hear. Must you really have your phone with you 24/7? I see people walking their dogs while they talk on the phone. They check their phones during a 20-second elevator ride for fear of missing something. They put their groceries on the check-out conveyor belt with one hand so they can text, “Whatcha doin’?”

I get it. I really do. Our phones play a ubiquitous role in our lives. They have replaced our landlines, our cameras, our alarm clocks, our music collections, our fitness trackers, our shopping trips to the mall, our board games and puzzles, our books, and our community town centers. But for all the good and ease they’ve brought to our lives they have also stolen something from us: Our time spent being present and engaged.

9. Quit interrupting.

There really is a very simple rule to follow here: The middle of my sentence is not the start of yours. Got it? Don’t talk over someone. Don’t think volume makes your point stronger. The loudest one in the room is rarely the rightest one.

10. Provide good customer service.

It is not good customer service to leave a customer on hold for 40 minutes, assuring them that your call is important to them. It obviously isn’t or they would have hired more people to answer the phone.

Share Your Experience: What expressions or actions would you add to this list? Leave your etiquette peeves or long-lost courtesies in the comments.

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