Some rules of etiquette have changed. What may have once been relevant may no longer apply as society advances. For example, cell phone etiquette was not a conversation until 1973 when the first cell phone call was made. Facebook etiquette wasn’t an issue until 2004. Today we pin, post, share, hashtag and swipe on a regular basis. Brides and grooms did not have to worry about having their entire ceremony recorded on a cell phone or plastered all over social media before having time to review and share their own pictures first.
The main premise of etiquette is to show respect for others. But things do change as noted below.
Addressing a married woman as “Mrs. Smith” in a social setting is still perfectly proper. Professionally, it’s more appropriate to use the honorific “Ms.” when speaking to a female businesswoman. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one in three women participated in the labor force in 1950. By 1998, nearly three of every five women of working age were employed. As more women entered the workforce, “Ms.” evolved as the most applicable, universal and respectful term. However, if someone addresses a married woman as Mrs., please take it as a gesture of respect and do not get offended.
Years ago, men stood up for introductions while women remained seated. Today, as a gesture of respect for yourself and the other person, both a man and a woman should stand up for all introductions. Common sense will always prevail and this rule does not apply when someone is unable to stand due to a physical disability or infirmity.
In earlier times, boys and men were taught to wait for the girl or woman to extend her hand for a handshake. In today's society, in the United States, a man or a woman should strive to extend their hand first. The person who enthusiastically extends their hand demonstrates the highest degree of confidence. Make sure to include a genuine smile with your greeting. Note: cultural differences will vary so it’s important to do your homework before traveling abroad.
In a business setting, there are no gender preferences. When a man or woman arrives at a door they simply open it and walk through. When arriving at the table and taking a seat, they reach for their own chair and sit down without hesitation. Socially, a man should open the door for a woman be it a spouse, friend, parent, daughter or female neighbor. However, it’s also a courtesy to hold open the door for anyone you are with - male or female - when carrying heavy boxes or when an extra hand is needed. Kindness and consideration never go out of style. When someone offers a polite gesture, accept it graciously and acknowledge the courtesy by saying “thank you.”
Here are a few behaviors that are not acceptable when it comes to modern etiquette:
- Rude behavior
- Petty remarks
- Unkind comments
- Whispers (unless you are at church or a theater performance)
- Social media taunts
- Name calling
- Calling someone out publicly without speaking privately first
- Mean spirited banter
There will always be room for kindness and courtesy in our ever-changing world.