Social Etiquette Tips

What are some tips on social etiquette?
Social etiquette seems to be a lost art in this age of drive-through windows and big screen TV's, but it doesn't have to be. With these tips on social etiquette, you can be the belle of the ball without having to be brazen or bold.

Cathleen Hanson, who is one of the owners and founders of the International School of Protocol, which teaches proper etiquette to children, adults, educators, and businesses, offers these tips for socializing, "General manners require hats to be off inside. This applies to women as well as men. If it is a part of women's clothing ensemble, then it is fine to have a hat on, as long as it is not a baseball hat. When hors d'oeuvres are served, you should take this time to really mingle with people; don't just stick with the people you came with. Try to meet everyone in the room. When moving from person to person, put your drink or hors d'oeuvres in your left hand. This way you have the right hand available to shake."

She adds, "It is so important to shake hands…a lot of people don't know the right way to shake hands. Look at the flesh between your thumb and your pointer finger. Look at the webbing there. You want to make sure that the webbing, the flesh between your index finger and your thumb, touches the other person. Lots of people just shake fingertips." Cathleen also says that the one thing that has changed in handshaking etiquette is that it used to be that a man did not shake hands with a woman unless she extended her hand first. Now, men can initiate a handshake with a woman. Also, if you are sitting when approached by someone you need to stand up when you shake hands, make eye contact, and really listen to the other person."

Social etiquette requires good conversation. Cathleen offers these tips: "You want to be able to talk about a variety of things. You don't want to talk about politics or religion. You should avoid discussion of politics unless the party is centered around something political. Also, health is not always the best subject to bring up. After asking someone how they are feeling, you could be drowned in all their health troubles. Ask general questions. You should be interested and interesting. I think of good conversation as a volley, tennis volley. You say something, and they will say something, back and forth. Neither of you should hog the conversation."

How long a guest should stay after dinner depends on quite a few factors including how late the meal was served and what is planned for afterwards. In this situation you should follow the general rule of taking your cue from the host and/or hostess. Staying for an hour minimum, after dinner is finished, is required by social etiquette. You do not want to seem like you just came for the food. Usually the host and/or hostess will signify the end of the evening by stating something like "Anyone care for one more nightcap or cup of coffee before they go?" If the party seems to be dragging on and you have stayed long enough so as not seem like you are trying to "eat and run", make your exit gracefully, acknowledging all the remaining guests and thanking your hosts one more time before leaving.

When it comes to social etiquette the simplest tip is to remember the Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated and in turn, they will do the same.