My daughter and I were talking the other night about how fast-paced our modern society is. Due to the instantaneous nature of texts, emails, and social media, it often feels as though we need to accomplish all our day-to-day tasks RIGHT NOW. In our perpetual hurry, it’s easy to forget about social etiquette. But I’m not talking about grandma’s etiquette rules, like “no elbows on the dinner table.” We need an updated, modern sort of etiquette, one that involves purposefully slowing down and making time for personal relationships, letting people know you care, and being a good neighbor. I would argue that we need this kind of etiquette now more than ever!
After an unspeakable tragedy like the mass shooting in Orlando a few days ago, it’s easy to feel like the world is full of hatred, evil, and misery. But rather than dwelling on negativity in times like these, I always return to the eloquent and moving words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
I think we all need to take it upon ourselves to put more light and love into the world, in whatever ways we can. The “modern etiquette rules” I’m sharing today are simple things you can do every day to make the people in your life (whether they are family, friends, or just members of your community) feel valued and loved.
By spreading your light and love around when you can, you’re helping to create a better, safer world for all of us.
10 Etiquette Tips for the Modern World
1. Put down your cell phone! Plan an evening with friends or family where everyone puts their cell phone into a basket upon arriving. Talk to each other and enjoy each other’s company! (If you want to put a competitive spin on it, eat out with a group and have everyone put their phones in the center of the table. The first person uses their phone has to pick up the check!)
2. Writing things by hand is becoming more and more rare as technology becomes more accessible and more widely used. If you’re giving someone a card for their birthday or a wedding, make sure to include a handwritten sentiment inside the card. Or better yet, make your own greeting cards!
3. Take a step further than a greeting card and write a handwritten letter. You don’t need to wait for a special occasion, you can always write a letter “just because.” You never know how much someone may appreciate it!
4. One last tip about writing; if you haven’t been writing things by hand very often, chances are your handwriting could use some work (I know mine could!) The more you write, the better your handwriting will become, so practice as much as you can!
5. Carry around a few blank cards so you can leave thank-you notes throughout the day. Use them to thank clients, bosses, coworkers, teachers, or the employees at the stores and cafes you go to.
6. Spend time with your parents and grandparents. They have so much to teach you! Ask them questions about their lives, ask them to show you how to make their favorite recipe, or even just help them with email or Facebook. Make the most of the time you have with them. (Conducting a life interview with your parents or grandparents can be extremely rewarding and make a priceless memory. Learn how to conduct a great life story interview.)
7. Take care of the sick. If you hear of someone in your family or in your neighborhood who’s struggling with their health, take the time to drop by with a simple get-well gift. Social support not only reduced stress, but it has been shown to actually improve physical health.
8. Welcome newcomers in your neighborhood with a simple, useful gift. A great welcome-to-the-neighborhood gift might include a treat from a local business, a map of the area with your favorite spots highlighted, or a folder with menus from your favorite take-out places.
9. Take time out of your day to sit down and make a phone call. I know it can be tempting to squeeze those phone calls into your commute home from work, or during your grocery shopping, but try setting aside some dedicated time to talk, where you can focus solely on listening and talking.
10. Send postcards when you’re on a trip! It’s a fun and affordable way to let someone know you’re thinking about them, plus it makes a great keepsake.
11. If you hosts guests frequently in your house, consider investing in a guest book to leave in your guest room (or your living room, or wherever your guests stay). You’ll love going through it in the years to come!